The prominent mining firm Savannah Resources announced that its latest estimates place northern Portugal’s Mina do Barroso lithium ore reserves at around 14 million tonnes of hard rock lithium — a figure around 52% larger than that provided by earlier estimates of the reserves located there.
In relation to that news, the company also stated that the project could thus end up being the first Western European lithium mining project to come online in recent times — a statement that boosted the company’s shares by 13%.
That all noted, the company’s plans are now to make a definite development decision on the project by early 2019 or so, company execs have revealed.
“We believe that Mina do Barroso has the potential to be a key piece of Europe’s emerging lithium value chain,” explained Savannah Resources CEO David Archer. “Spodumene concentrate (from hard rock lithium) is the dominant lithium product that is traded internationally, and with no current European producer we believe that Portugal could be the first European supplier.”
Reuters provides more information: “Other projects in Europe include Rio Tinto’s lithium project in Serbia, which is not expected to start production until the next decade. Rio Tinto and Savannah also have a joint venture in Mozambique.
“Meanwhile, Germany has the Zinnwald project in which Bacanora Minerals has a 50% interest. In Britain, the government has leant support to work to develop lithium from brine springs.”
Elsewhere, of course, it’s the case that much interest centers around Chile’s lithium resources — which are already the source of a large portion of the world’s total lithium supplies.
With the expected exponential growth of the electric car market, there’s expected to be exponential growth in certain key minerals for electric car batteries. A lot of hype has been poured into “limited” supplies of lithium and cobalt, for example. The appropriate response is simple yet apparently has to be repeated over and over again: as demand grows, money for exploration and mining will pour in. Lithium supplies don’t worry that many people since there are vast lithium resources on the planet. The news above is basically the kind of thing you expect to happen.
In the case of cobalt, the story is perhaps a bit more interesting. It is harder to find, mine, and prep for EV batteries. But the answer is similar. Michael Liebreich, founder of what is now Bloomberg New Energy Finance, gave this presentation at The Mobility Conference, co-organized by CleanTechnica, in January:
Additionally, in the case of cobalt, there’s a move to batteries that rely on cobalt much less. Logan Goldie-Scot, Head of Energy Storage Analysis at BNEF, told CleanTechnica: “Alternatively, and unlike lithium, there will be greater substitution. We’re already seeing a push away from NMC 111 to chemistries with higher nickel content (and lower cobalt) such as NMC 811. If there really is a deficit in the market, this change will be accelerated.”
Tesla told us that its NCA batteries relied much less on cobalt than normal EV batteries and that the trend in the material development world is towards higher-energy, lower-cobalt chemistries. Tesla CEO Elon Musk went a step further on the company’s quarterly conference call last night and said that they think they can get cobalt to “almost nothing.”