The latter is already called white gold, when compared to the importance of oil, the black gold that sparked an unbridled race in the last century. And Portugal is already considered one of the largest producers in Europe of the essential raw material for the manufacture of batteries, whether for electric cars, smartphones or power banks, for example. The areas of Covilh, Guarda and Minho are the richest, and are already being explored by mining companies.
Portugal is highlighted in Reuters for the way machines and drills are causing panic in the villages in the interior. There is a "confrontation" between the "hoes in hand" people who want to defend their lands from the invasion of machines. According to the advance, it is estimated that there are about 60 thousand tons of known lithium reserves, which makes Portugal one of the main European countries to collect raw material, which ironically is practically used by the entire population.
The situation has left the government at an impasse. On the one hand, there is pressure from the local people, from the landowners who have to be compensated for expropriation in favor of the exploitation of the ore. And as you would expect, people do not want to lose their land. On the other hand, Europe's external pressure, which sees Portugal as a closer source of raw material for its needs, instead of importing from Australia and Chile, the world leaders in mining, says Reuters.
The pressure on Portugal may increase, since the current production of lithium, about 1,200 tons extracted in the previous year, was destined for the ceramics industry. This scenario may change in view of the need for raw materials for the growing market for electric cars. This is because Europe currently has 3% of the global battery production, due to weak sources of lithium.
And more than a hundred licenses have already been submitted to explore the Portuguese last, among them the Australian Fortescue, the Savannah Resources of the United Kingdom and the Portuguese Lusorecursos that is exploring Montalegre. The companies are even waiting for approval from the Ministry of the Environment to refine the lithium and increase their production in the country. According to advanced, it is estimated that five of the main nine areas of the mineral are estimated at 3.3 billion euros.
Municipalities have opposed mining operations and several groups have even signed manifestos against the government's strategy for licensing. The companies and the Government argue that this race for white gold will open jobs in an aging region.
According to the Minister of Economy, Pedro Siza Vieira, Reuters, the higher the environmental standards are observed, the more responsible social practices will be made, and it is also a matter of security of supply. The Minister believes that the last issue is critical for a future green economy, stressing that it is better to extract in Portugal than in countries that are not as strict as to environmental standards. The local people do not agree, and in the words of the mayor of Boticas, in Vila Real, there is a risk that one of the mountains will disappear, being cut in half due to the exploitation of the ore.
This impasse, sustained by the minority socialist government, is forcing companies to plan B, which is to negotiate directly with local governments and landowners by signing trade agreements. On the other hand, activist groups have been demanding transparency in mining laws