The Race for Rare Mineral Exploitation Shakes Up Europe: Portuguese Environmental Agency Approves Second Lithium Mine

As the world undergoes a major shift in power dynamics and territorial disputes, one question remains at the forefront: who will control the post-oil economy and have access to rare mineral deposits? The Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA) announced on Thursday that it has given the green light, with certain conditions, to a second lithium mining project in the country. Lithium, a metal essential to the energy transition and battery production, is in high demand.

Portugal, already the main producer of lithium in Europe, holds the largest reserves of the mineral. However, its current production is solely used for ceramics and glass.

“In line with similar projects, the assessment took into account the strategic importance of lithium for carbon neutrality and the energy transition goals,” explained the APA in a statement.

The first lithium mine project, led by British company Savannah in the municipality of Boticas in the northern part of the country, received conditional approval from the APA last May.

The newly approved project, developed by Portuguese company #Lusorecursos in the nearby municipality of Montalegre, also includes plans for a metal refining plant.

With an estimated investment of 650 million euros, Lusorecursos aims to produce between 15 and 30 million tonnes of lithium hydroxide starting in 2027.

These two mining projects are facing opposition from environmental NGOs and local residents in this rural region known for its beef production and as a habitat for the Iberian wolf.

Alongside cobalt and nickel, lithium is one of the crucial metals needed for the production of electric vehicle batteries, which will replace traditional combustion engines.

To reduce its dependence on imports, particularly from China, the European Union is looking to open mines and refineries for lithium processing.

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