Portugal, Savannah Resources updates on decarbonization at Barroso lithium project
Savannah Resources, a company aiming to build the largest lithium mine in western Europe in Portugal, has announced it has found a way to eliminate the project’s direct emissions (Scope 1) by using battery electric mining equipment.
The company also stated that indirect emissions (Scope 2) could be lowered by 54% due to a potential reduction in the plant’s power requirement. The updated strategy followed the completion of a study by Portuguese environmental consultant ECOPROGRESSO, which aimed to reduce emissions and create a decarbonization strategy.
“A number of viable options are available to secure 100% renewable energy supply to the Project including regional solar and wind generation, on market purchase, via direct Power Purchase Agreements, or a combination of these,” the company said. “Use of 100% renewable energy would reduce the Project’s Scope 2 emissions to zero.”
The company plans to continue detailed analysis as part of the definitive feasibility study and to determine a site-specific solution for a battery-operated mining fleet and charging infrastructure.
The Barroso project holds 27 million tonnes of lithium and will also yield feldspar and quartz, which will be sold locally and in Spain.
Portugal is already Europe’s top lithium producer, but its output is entirely used for ceramics and glassware, Energy and Mines reports.
Battle for Lithium
In the hunt for lithium and other crucial minerals for the electric car supply chain, the United States must compete not just with Chinese competitiveness and manufacturing capability, but also with internal Western limits.
While the US does not appear willing to significantly change their Inflation Reduction Act, which will guarantee nearly $400 billion in “green” subsidies to companies operating in the US over ten years, and while the EU is preparing a response that could include a mix of further easing of state aid and the creation of a “sovereign” fund made up of the residues of the Recovery Plan and little else, but without the coveted (by the Italians) Eurobonds, Consider the case of lithium.
The price of this essential mineral for electric vehicles has more than quadrupled to $75,000 per ton by the end of 2022. It is required to seek for new sources and build refineries to process them. All of this, in accordance with Washington’s approach, without relying on supplies from Beijing or any other “hostile” country. According to the Financial Times, the Biden administration has given the Australians of Ioneer a 700 million dollar conditional loan to establish a mine and processing complex in Nevada. Mining might begin in 2026, but supply contracts with Ford and Toyota have already been struck. Production may support roughly 400,000 electric automobiles per year.
The Inflation Reduction Act’s public financial support for the supply chain is based, above all, but not exclusively, on benefits of up to $7,500 for buyers of electric vehicles produced by companies that procure components and raw materials in the United States or in countries with which Washington trades under a free trade regime, defined not as a formal treaty but rather as “friendship” and partnership.
The administration then invoked the Defense Production Act, a law enacted during the Korean War to direct domestic production toward the war effort, and has so far distributed 2.8 billion to approximately twenty companies involved in the electric vehicle supply chain, as well as activated agreements with Canada, the EU, the United Kingdom, and Australia to invest in critical extractive projects.
In the hunt for lithium and other crucial minerals for the electric car supply chain, the United States must compete not just with Chinese competitiveness and manufacturing capability, but also with internal Western limits. Beijing is aggressively forging partnerships in Africa and Latin America to get minerals in less demanding regulatory environments for use in its home refineries. In reality, China owns 80% of the world’s lithium hydroxide processing capacity, a structural advantage that will be tough to overcome in a reasonable amount of time. It is also required to address the internal limits associated with the mining activity’s permission processes. This is an objective problem in the United States, relating to environmental impact assessments.
Nevada has just one operational lithium mine, and another is awaiting a court decision after a fight with conservation groups safeguarding a rare species of wildflower. A similar tragedy befell a mining project in North Carolina, which failed due to environmental limits, forcing Tesla to rely on Canadian supply. The expansion of the EV chain necessitates mining, which has an environmental effect, as well as the building of processing capacity for these minerals, which necessitates time, money, and administrative difficulties. In the battle between Americans and Chinese, the latter has an obvious edge, owing to the relatively minimal limits imposed by local territory on the establishment of extraction and processing systems.
Europe is in the middle. Which engages in extractive project funding but risks being undermined by the appeal of American environmental subsidies? At the World Economic Forum in Davos, the White House’s special envoy for climate, John Kerry, asked the EU to move quickly on its own version of the Inflation Reduction Act, in order to shorten the development timelines of the Western approach. Because, in Kerry’s words, “money, money, money” is required. Even on our continent, attempts to build lithium mining and processing factories face stiff opposition from local residents.
Examples include the $2.4 billion Serbian Jadar mine project, which Rio Tinto’s Anglo-Australians aimed to exploit but which ended up stalled by the resistance of local communities, which led to the revocation of the initial authorizations by the Serbian government. Or the cancellation of a mining project in Portugal, by government decision.
To these obvious critical issues, which demonstrate that Green Mining is not an oxymoron, is added the European Chemical Agency’s (ECHA) request to classify lithium salts as dangerous to human health and, as a result, subject their extraction and processing to a more stringent and onerous regulatory framework. This might swing the cost balance in favor of imports rather than domestic manufacturing, with all of the associated geopolitical risks. The EU will have to give answers to these crucial operational and budgetary challenges. Keeping in mind that if the new “sovereign wealth fund” is simply a repackaging of the Recovery Fund’s unspent leftovers, individual nations with fiscal ability will act alone, posing a relative danger to the integrity of the single market, Europeans 24 writes.
The exploitation of Portugal’s mineral resources
The Swedish state-controlled mining company LKAB has announced the discovery within the Arctic Circle, in a remote northern region, of a deposit totalling more than a million tons of the 27 metals which constitute the “rare earth” group of minerals.
These are essential for the manufacture of electric vehicles, wind turbines and all manner of other equipment essential for the green technology which will transform the European energy market.
Although the extraction process will be slow at first, eventual production will enable manufacturers to obtain this valuable resource (for which prices have rocketed in recent years) and thus replace dependence on supply from China and Russia.
The early return of the global inclement weather system known as El Niño is being forecast for the late summer of 2023. With it will come higher temperatures and longer periods of drought than we experienced during 2022.
If this proves to be correct, the conditions for the storage of water and limitations on its use will become even more critical and require strict regulation so that potability and irrigation for agriculture may be sustained.
These two factors have lent clout to the renewed voices of the citizens’ protest movements which plan to stage in the seven districts where mining companies, nearly all foreign-owned, are seeking to conclude contracts before March for the exploitation of metals such as lithium and copper.
For example, the ‘Montalegre Com Vida’ Association has stated that the Environmental Impact Study for the Romano mine in its Morgade locality calculates that 10,000 m3 of water will be required daily if the projected production level is to be achieved and asks from whence will come this huge volume at a time when local reservoirs are at historic lows and wells to subterranean aquifers are showing depleted stocks.
Pressures upon the government – both by the EU and the international elitist corporations which largely decide the direction of the global economy – to sell off Portugal’s strategic resources will continue.
The best that can be hoped for is a negotiated reduction in this exploitation by at least one-half over the next five years, with an unconditional provision for suspension should the threat of calamitous environmental deterioration become a reality, Portugal Resident writes.
Portugal will not commit to setting a new date for a long-awaited auction of lithium mining licences
Portugal will not commit to setting a new date for a long-awaited auction of lithium mining licences as it awaits the conclusion of ongoing environmental impact studies at two sites, Energy Secretary Joao Galamba said on Wednesday.
The southern European nation, which has 60,000 tonnes of known lithium reserves, is central to Europe’s bid to secure more of the battery value chain and cut reliance on imports.
Concerns about the potential environmental and social impact of lithium mining from nature preservation groups and local communities have led to multiple delays to the auction, initially planned for 2018.
Galamba told a parliamentary committee that the “government understands that the international auction will benefit from the conclusion of these processes”.
“It doesn’t make much sense to launch an international public auction, when simultaneously these environmental assessment processes are underway” at the Barroso mine and the Montalegre mine, in northern Portugal, he said.
The Barroso mine is owned by London-based mining company Savannah Resources (SAVS.L) and the Montalegre mine is owned by local company Lusorecursos.
Savannah said in a statement earlier on Wednesday it had “very useful and productive” meetings with Portugal’s environmental agency APA. As a result, it has until March 17 to submit its revised plans to the regulator.
However, APA does not have a deadline to decide on the evaluation process, which could be interrupted if it asks for more data or clarification.
The environment ministry, to which Galamba’s department belongs, has said the assessment conducted by the energy and geology agency analysed eight lithium-rich areas in central and northern Portugal, concluding “there were conditions to move forward in six of them”.
Portugal is Europe’s biggest lithium producer but its miners sell almost exclusively to the ceramics industry and are only now preparing to produce the higher-grade lithium that is in demand globally for use in electric cars and electronic devices, Reuters writes.
Lithium project caught in Portugal’s red tape
Savannah Resources (AIM: SAV), the company building western Europe’s largest lithium mine, said on Wednesday it shared its shareholders’ frustration regarding the time it has taken Portugal to review its application, but noted it was a political process over which the company had little control.
Savannah Resources said it has been two years since it submitted the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for an open-pit mine to Portuguese regulator Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente (APA).
The company filed the study in May 2020 and it was requested to provide additional information a few months later, which granted it a preliminary stamp of approval in April last year.
APA then launched a public consultation on the project, which has faced local opposition, but the watchdog is yet to announce its final decision.
“We passed the second anniversary of lodging the EIA,” King said. “This time last year, we had expectations that the decision would have been received by now but the finalization of the EIA is a political process over which Savannah has little control.”
The company acquired a 75% interest in Mina do Barroso in May 2017, maintaining a fast paced development approach since. January’s snap parliamentary election in Portugal, King said, had impacted the timing of the assessment as meetings with government officials were postponed.
Mina do Barroso open pit lithium mine would be Europe’s first significant producer of spodumene, a hard-rock form of the battery metal.
The project holds a resource estimate of 27 million tonnes of lithium with over 285,900 tonnes contained Li2O, at an average grade of 1.06% Li2O, which the company believes to be enough to supply a “material proportion” of Europe’s lithium demand over the coming decades.
The mine will also yield a feldspar and quartz co-product used in the ceramics industry, which will be sold to customers locally and in neighbouring Spain.
Recent results from the latest phase of metallurgical test work program at the mine highlights the potential for lower capital and operating costs than those originally estimated.
Portugal, already Europe’s top lithium producer, accounts for about 11% of the global market, but its output is entirely used to make ceramics and glassware. That’s why Europe relies on lithium imports from Latin America’s “Lithium Triangle,” as well from Australia and China, Mining writes.
Petition against mining in Pombal
A total of 1,003 people have signed two petitions against “any type of prospecting, research or extraction of tripoli deposits and other minerals” in the localities of Casal da Rola and Casais do Porto, in the municipality of Pombal, district of Leiria.
In two information leaflets distributed among the population of the two villages and sent to Lusa agency, it is read that the Directorate-General for Energy and Geology (DGEG), on February 15, published a public notice that “aims at prospecting and researching deposits of tripoly minerals and other associated minerals by the company Clariant Ibérica Producción S.A.”.
According to the leaflets, when prospecting and research is allowed, the “peace that reigns” in the villages of Casal da Rola and Casais do Porto, in the parish of Louriçal, “will have its days numbered”.
“The impact of a mineral exploration is harmful for any population and the return is illusory when compared to the harmful consequences that result from this type of exploration (earth movement, high traffic of machines and trucks, water pollution, environmental noise, pollution of the environment, air, destruction of the fauna and flora of our village and devaluation of the real estate heritage of the land adjacent to the quarry)”, adds the leaflet.
The documents appeal to land owners not to allow a company to access them and carry out “any type of collection/analysis”.
One of the signatories of the initiative, Catarina Soares, explained to Lusa that the petitions were sent to various entities, including the DGEG, the Attorney General’s Office and the Portuguese Environment Agency, with the knowledge of the Chamber and the Louriçal Council.
According to Catarina Soares, what worries her the most is “the fact that it is a multinational and that it has great power over the different institutions”.
“From the moment of authorisation of the requests, the company can proceed with the exploration request and then we automatically lose control of the situation”, considered Catarina Soares, Portugal News writes.
Lithium could help end the EU’s oil addiction
Europe’s desire to wean itself off fossil fuels and end its reliance on Russian energy is not only going to involve a sea change in consumer habits, but it is also going to require a lot of lithium.
Given that the Old Continent barely produces any of the metal: is it just swapping one dependency for another?
European leaders have extolled the virtues of the New Green Deal which plans for the 27-country bloc to become the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. To achieve this, the EU aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to the 1990s level, bring emissions from new cars by 2035 down to zero and boost its share of renewables in the bloc’s energy mix to 40%.
Lithium is increasingly used for batteries in electronics from smartphones to television as well as to store energy produced by solar panels and wind turbines and in electric cars.
According to the World Bank, the production of minerals, such as graphite, lithium and cobalt, would need to increase by nearly 500% by 2050 in order to meet climate goals while EU officials estimate that to achieve climate neutrality by mid-century, the bloc will require 18 times more lithium than it currently uses by 2030 and almost 60 times more by 2050.
Yet, Europe only has one lithium mine, in Portugal, and the very vast majority of its needs is currently met by imports.
About 87% of unrefined lithium the EU sources comes from Australia — the rest from Portugal — while Chile, the US and Russia provide 78%, 8% and 4% respectively.
China is also a particularly big player. Although it has about an estimated 7% of the world’s reserves in lithium, 13% of the lithium extracted in 2019 was in China while over half of the lithium extracted that year was processed in the country.
More than 70% of the lithium-ion batteries that entered the market last year were produced in China.
Brussels is aware of this dependency and added lithium to its list of critical raw materials list in 2020.
A Commission spokesperson acknowledged to Euronews that “the production and refining of lithium are heavily concentrated in a handful of foreign countries, which raises our vulnerability to various supply risks.”
They added that “given the economic and technological relevance of this resource, as well as the external dependencies it generates, it is our responsibility to ensure that the European economy can benefit from a sustainable and resilient supply of lithium.”
“Although the EU will continue to cultivate its international partnerships, significant lithium extraction potential exists within our borders and its exploitation could create thousands of jobs. Developing local lithium mining and processing operations will not only enhance our strategic autonomy and reinforce our economy, but will also allow us to better monitor and contain the environmental impacts of mining industries, which are far more difficult to control beyond the EU’s borders,” they said.
Opposition to mines
There are currently 10 potentially viable lithium projects in the EU: three in Portugal, two in Spain and Germany each, with the remaining three in the Czech Republic, Finland and Austria respectively.
For Rene Kleijn, associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) at Leiden University, “if all these plants become operational, it would probably be enough for our own supply.”
Problem solved, then? Well, not quite.
Getting all these projects off the ground will not necessarily be easy. A €2.2 billion lithium mine project in Serbia was shelved earlier this year after strong local opposition over environmental concerns. There is also fierce opposition to lithium mining in Portugal.
The mining process for lithium is primarily done in two ways. There is the traditional open-pit approach with the metal extracted from hard rock and the second one involves pumping huge amounts of underground water to the surface to remove lithium from the briny liquid that comes up as the water evaporates.
Both are seen as disruptive to the landscape and local population with a potential risk of air and water pollution. Using water to extract lithium is also controversial as water becomes more scarce in some areas due to climate change. Large parts of Portugal and Spain, for instance, have been suffering through a winter drought resulting in near-depleted reservoirs.
But there is a third, greener, way of mining lithium, called Direct Lithium Extraction and that is being implemented for the potential project in Germany. It relies on geothermal energy to pump the brine to the surface to allow for the extraction of lithium before being pumped back into the underground geothermal reservoir.
From extraction to production
Mining however is just the tip of the iceberg. Once extracted, lithium needs to be refined, batteries made and eventually recycled.
In fact, the latter is really where lithium shines.
“One of the largest sources of pollution in Europe and CO2 emissions is road transport,” Julia Poliscanova, Vehicles & e-mobility lead at Transport & Environment, a clean transport campaign group, told Euronews,
Transport generates about a quarter of the EU’s total emissions with road transport accounting for about 70% of them.
“The best way to decarbonise one of the largest climate problems is electrification, and for that, we need batteries. And for that, we need lithium.
“However, it is indeed important to stress that any mining, any raw material extraction, oil, nickel, lithium, gas comes with an impact. When it comes to lithium, the impact per car is significantly less so. When you have a car, you would burn 17,000 litres of oil over the use of that car,” she said.
“For a battery, an electric vehicle, you need about five or six kilogrammes of lithium that you can then recycle and reuse again and again. You just need to get it into your first batteries and then after some time, it can become a circular loop. So the impact of lithium is significantly less than the impact of oil.”
US and China move faster
But again Europe is running behind on the entire supply chain infrastructure.
The European Battery Directive of 2006 was written before lithium-ion batteries became increasingly prominent due to a more lukewarm approach towards fighting climate change then and thus did not set any targets for the recycling of lithium. Nowadays, almost no lithium is recovered in the EU, whereas recycling efficiencies are estimated at about 95 % for cobalt and nickel, and 80 % for copper.
“We could have anticipated this much earlier. For example, in the US we now have policies that basically come from Cold War times that are now being implemented by President Biden in order to secure supply chains for batteries, and electric vehicles,” Kleijn said.
Washington’s Defence Production Act allows the White House to exert control over domestic industries in times of crisis. It was used by President Trump to limit exports of medical goods at the start of the pandemic and by Biden to accelerate vaccination.
It has now once more been invoked by Biden “to secure American production of critical materials to bolster our clean energy economy by reducing our reliance on China and other countries for the minerals and materials that will power our clean energy future” including lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and manganese.
“This is really like hard core state interference in the markets to make sure that your industries are able to survive and also are not dependent on autocratic states or other states that you might not want to be dependent upon. And this is not the kind of policies that Europe is famous for,” Kleijn argued.
“And I’m not even talking about China. I mean, in China, it’s completely state-operated. Large Chinese state-owned mining companies are involved in mining all of these materials all over the world, whether it’s cobalt in Africa or lithium in Australia. The biggest miner for the biggest Australian mining of lithium, for example, is one-quarter owned by a Chinese state-owned company. So you can see how the Chinese government is also heavily involved in securing the supply chains also overseas,” he added.
2030 and beyond
Investments are being made across Europe in battery production to curb reliance from abroad.
About 24 lithium-ion battery cells giga-factories were expected to open across the EU between 2021 and 2030. Tesla, for instance, opened its gigafactory in Germany last month.
The association of European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers now forecasts that the EU battery market value will grow from €15 billion in 2019 to an estimated €35 billion in 2030 — with lithium-ion accounting for about half — while the global market value will grow from €90 billion to 150 billion.
Still, even in the best-case scenario, with all potential mines opening by 2025, “I don’t see how Europe will achieve sufficiency in this decade,” Poliscanova flagged.
“But moving after 2030, depending on how smart our policy on recycling is, Europe can become self-sufficient,” she concluded, Euronews reports.
Portugal: Lithium- White gold
Mining Lithium in Portugal is a very controversial subject, but there are some simple facts that can’t be ignored.
Sales and manufacturing of electric cars are growing. Governments want to ban petrol and diesel cars. Electric cars need batteries. Batteries need lithium. There isn’t enough lithium available to meet demand. Portugal has lithium.
The price of lithium has quadrupled in the last year. While Chile, Australia, Argentina, and China are home to the world’s highest lithium reserves, other countries also hold significant amounts. Chili holds the world’s largest reserves of lithium, but apart from any other consideration, Chili is a long way away from Europe, and transport alone adds a lot to the cost of delivery to Europe.
China holds massive reserves of lithium but mostly uses it for its own manufacturing of batteries.
Where to find lithium in Europe?
Portugal is believed to sit on some of Europe’s biggest lithium deposits and as a result has been picked for Europe’s biggest lithium mining and treatment plant.
Compare to other countries with large deposits of lithium
United States — 750,000 MT.
Canada — 530,000 MT.
Zimbabwe — 220,000 MT.
Brazil — 95,000 MT.
Portugal — 60,000 MT.
It’s obvious why Portugal holds a unique advantage for supplying Europe. A UK based mining company Savannah proposed to join forces with Galp to explore what they said will be Europe’s largest lithium mine in Mina do Barroso. This project seems now to be wholly owned by Savannah as Galp did not take up an option they had rights to.
The Mina do Barroso Lithium Project is located in northern Portugal approximately 145 km northeast of Porto and the industrial port of Leixões. Having taken an initial 75 percent stake in the Project in May 2017, Savannah has subsequently become its sole owner and expanded the Project, adding the adjacent, 3 block, ‘Aldeia’ Mining Lease Application to the original granted Mina do Barroso Mining Lease, valid until 2036, (extendable for 20 years). The Project is now well established as Western Europe’s most significant lithium project.
Fierce opposition to the mine
Opposition to the lithium mine has been very strong, but Savannah, advises that its’ wholly owned subsidiary, Savannah Lithium Lda., has been joined as the counter-interested party in litigation brought by the Parish of Covas do Barroso as plaintiff in the Mirandela Fiscal and Administrative Court against the Republic of Portugal and the Ministry of Economy as defendants. The C-100 Mining Lease which contains the Barroso Lithium Project is fully authorised, has a term of 30 years to 2036 and remains in good standing. The advice from Savannah’s lawyers is that the claim is without foundation and will be challenged by Savannah as the counter-interested party alongside exploring all potential options, including making a claim for damages against the plaintiff.
What are the objections to lithium mining in Portugal?
The idyllic landscape near the village of Covas do Barroso is the site of the new open cast lithium mines. Needless to say the local residents are up in arms, in fairness, so would I be if it was near my property. We are all ‘NIMBYS’ at heart (not in my back yard). The chairman of a local action group, Nelson Gomes, says the plan is to mine lithium here in four locations initially. “There will be huge mine dumps, and rivers will be redirected.” “The whole landscape and its ecological balance will be destroyed.” The group’s motto “Yes to life, no to the mine” is seen hanging on more and more facades and traffic signs. “We’ve been involved in sustainable farming for centuries,” Gomes said. “We’re small family-run businesses, keeping afloat without much help from the state — and we’re not going to give this up just like that; we’ll fight against the mine right until the end.”
He may well be right, but this project is too important to the Portuguese economy to be ignored. According to Nuno Forner from the environmental pressure group Zero, foreign companies are interested in mining lithium in Portugal, but less so in refining the mined metal locally. That is no longer factual.
What about the processing of lithium in Portugal?
Once mined lithium needs to be processed and this is where Galp is clearly focusing its efforts. They have formed a joint venture with the Swedish company Northvolt. It’s clear that the lithium needs to be processed in Portugal, not exported for other countries to benefit from Portugal’s ‘white gold’.
Swedish battery storage company Northvolt and Galp have agreed to set up a joint venture called Aurora with the goal to build Europe’s largest and most sustainable integrated lithium conversion plant. The facility in Portugal is set to have an initial annual output capacity of up to 35,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium hydroxide, a material needed in the production of lithium-ion batteries.
That will be sufficient for batteries in about 700,000 electric vehicles.
Galp and Northvolt are still searching for the best site for their lithium conversion plant, which they envisage to start commercial operations in 2026, pending a final investment decision. Some report suggested that Sines was the preferred location, but other locations nearer the mines are under consideration. The plant could represent an investment of about €700m and create up to 1,500 direct and indirect jobs.
It doesn’t take a financial genius to see the obvious facts. Vehicles are going electric. They need batteries, batteries need lithium. Portugal has one of the largest reserved of lithium in Europe. The Barroso Project will produce enough lithium each year for approximately 0.5 million electric vehicle battery packs. Local people will protest, I don’t blame them, but it’s going to happen.
Portugal has ‘white gold’ and Europe wants it, Portugal News writes.
“Lithium is not the answer”
Another voice has spoken out against the government plan to excavate vast swathes of heritage landscape in the rush to mine lithium.
And this voice is not simply concerned with heritage; it joins a number of ‘expert warnings’ that lithium is not the answer to Portugal’s path towards decarbonisation .
It belongs to former environmental secretary (PSD) and university professor Joaquim Poças Martins.
Mr Martins argues that the way forwards for Portugal will be in ‘green hydrogen’ – a strategy already being developed by PS Socialists.
He told Lusa: “You cannot destroy a mountain in order to extract a few kilos of lithium”.
This has always been the contention – the outrage expressed by local people in areas ‘identified’ for being ‘rich in lithium deposits’: where is the justification in destroying lives and landscapes for the sake of a few electric batteries for electric cars?
“Batteries won’t be the solution”, Mr Martins insists. “It is simply not possible: there aren’t enough materials in the earth for this effect.
“I am thinking more of hydrogen. Everything is pointing more towards hydrogen as a form of storing energy than batteries”.
He simplified his argument by explaining that “in half a dozen years” the lithium deposits ‘identified in Portugal’ may well have run dry.
Then “we will have a serious problem” – not least because of the destruction the lithium mining itself will have created.
“On the other hand, so called green hydrogen can be produced, and when it burns the final product is water, not carbon dioxide”
Energy, in the final analysis, “is one of the principal problems for the future” as well as being “part of the solution.
“The world of safe, abundant, cheap energy will allow many more people to live on earth, everywhere, and live better”, he stressed. But this “does not come from current solutions”.
Even when it comes to hydrogen, “the technology is still in maturity, that is the large-scale industrial development of green hydrogen in which, for example, solar energy is used in abundance to produce hydrogen, which can be used when there is no sun”.
The specialist who has headed up Porto University’s hydraulics, water resources and environment section of the Faculty of Engineering for decades, says “everything points” to an increasing use of offshore photovoltaic (solar) and eolic (wind) energy, along the lines of the model in Viana do Castelo, with massive turbines.
“The science is there”, he explains. It is simply that technology is taking its time to catch up: a car powered by green hydrogen, a plane, everything in fact, would be “much too expensive now because the technology is not yet mature enough, but it will be in five or 10 years time.
“This is the solution, it won’t be (lithium) batteries”.
Nonetheless, he accepts that in areas where “social and environmental impacts” would be negligible, then “yes” lithium mining makes some sense.
“Destroying entire hillside ranges, displacing people, to extract a small quantity of lithium for private use, much less so”.
Joaquim Poças Martins’ comments have been widely repeated by national media today, but it is unclear how the government will receive them.
Less than two months ago, environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes – albeit a minister who may well be replaced in the new government to emerge in February – has said that “exploration of lithium (in Portugal) is an inevitable path” and that “lithium is essential for decarbonisation” and for “digitalisation”.
Mr Matos Fernandes has also said it is vitally important for Portugal to ‘exploit” (in this case mine) the raw materials that it has, as there is currently a worldwide lack of raw materials.
Environmental assessment of lithium “is insufficient” in analysing the impacts on natural values
Environmental association Zero has stated that the environmental assessment of lithium “is insufficient” in analysing the impacts on natural values
The public consultation of the preliminary environmental assessment report of the Prospecting and Exploration Program (PPP) ends today in the eight potential lithium areas to be submitted to a public tender procedure for the attribution of prospecting and research rights.
On the “participa.pt” portal, 1,168 participants were submitted to this public consultation, which began on September 28th.
Zero participated in the procedure and welcomed the Government’s initiative, “in promoting a strategic environmental assessment that allows the identification and characterisation of territorial limitations for the possible exploitation of mineral resources, such as lithium, a resource that, in light of the transition climate, could play a relevant role at this time”.
However, Zero considered that “the environmental assessment should have gone further, namely in the connection between prospecting and research and subsequent exploration”, arguing that it would “require that, at the very least, a set of guidelines for the future be presented”.
In a statement Zero says, “exploitation requires the approval of an environmental impact assessment procedure and a mining plan, but conditioned favourable decisions are, incomprehensibly, a common practice of environmental authorities, who are always more concerned with reconciling and mitigating all impacts identified, than in safeguarding the public interest”.
“It is in this context of permissiveness that very general considerations are made about the implications for biodiversity, with the presentation of numbers regarding species with importance for conservation and the indication of overlapping of the polygons with the limits of the Natura 2000 Network”, they stressed.
Zero also said that the assessment “forgets a set of existing and important strategies in territorial terms, such as the 2027 tourism strategy, according to which there are ongoing investments that could conflict with this ‘national plan’ for mining exploration.”
The association demanded, in the event that the Government proceeds with an international tender for the attribution of prospecting and research rights, “specifications that safeguard the sustainability of the areas of intervention, limiting the existence of prospecting and research situations with unacceptable results, such as those that occurred in Covas do Barroso (Boticas) should be determined and met”.
For Zero, public policy “cannot and should not have a short-term vision based only on a wasteful aspect of geological resources”, but should be “closer to a vision of respect for sustainability and for the territory in the long term”.