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Portuguese prosecutors halt lithium mine project

The Portuguese public prosecutor has requested that the court annul the environmental permit for a lithium mining project being developed by the London-based company Savannah Resources, warning of a potential threat to protected agricultural heritage, according to a court document. The prosecution supported a lawsuit filed by a municipality in northern Portugal that seeks to prevent the development of what could be the largest mine in Western Europe, Reuters reports.

The Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA) issued a permit to the British company last year, with certain conditions. The mine is to be built in Boticas, in the Barroso region, which was listed as a world agricultural heritage site in 2018. Boticas is known for breeding the barrosã cattle breed and a unique wine production technique that requires bottles to “rest” underground for a year to ferment.

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The prosecution is asking the administrative court in Mirandela to annul the environmental permit due to “regulatory violations,” emphasizing that the agency was well aware that the mine could endanger the protected heritage, which would mean that Portugal would violate international obligations.

They also assert that APA did not properly assess the needs for managing mining waste and the risks of water pollution, and did not consider the environmental impact of the mine in Boticas and another nearby mine in Montalegre. The Montalegre mine is being developed by the domestic mining company Lusorecursos.

The Portuguese Environmental Agency did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment on the project blockade. The British company Savannah stated that it is “ready to address concerns,” citing the opinion of lawyers that the lawsuit is “unfounded” and does not affect the project’s activities.

The contested mine is part of a broader investigation launched by Portuguese prosecutors last year to look into alleged irregularities in lithium and “green” hydrogen projects.

Portugal has over 60,000 tons of confirmed lithium reserves and is expected to play a central role in Europe’s efforts to build a supply chain for battery production and reduce dependence on imports.

Source: SEEbiz

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