Lithium mining rush in Portugal brings environmental worries for local residents

Viseu District in Portugal contains the largest deposits of lithium in Europe. Sold at €25,000 per ton, this prized commodity is in high demand from a huge number of high tech industries.

Mina do Barroso Lithium Project, Northern Portugal

Savannah Resources, a British company carrying out exploration for lithium, estimates that there are reserves of 20,000 tons in just one mine that they are working on. At the moment, the drilling samples of the rock contain about 2 percent of alkaline metal, a treasure buried more than 200 meters deep. The company says that there are enough lithium deposits in these mountains to produce batteries for half of electric cars in Europe.

A revolution that isn’t that green in the eyes of residents living in northern Portugal. In this agricultural area, some locals don’t want gigantic craters to be hollowed out in the mountainside. Local farmers are particularly worried about the health of their crops and cattle.

But, the risk of pollution has been forgotten in the face of lithium’s economic potential. The ruling socialist government see it as a dream opportunity to turn the page after 10 years of economic crisis. According to Joao Galamba, Portugal’s secretary of state for energy, these mines will bring about 1,500 to 2,000 new jobs for the local community. He says that the government’s priority is to minimize the environmental impact of lithium mining.

Lithium exploration has divided people, this thorny topic was brought up for discussion at the district council in Montalegre, norther Portugal. Vania Cristina Delgado is the lawyer representing thousands of residents who are against the project. She said that the entity doing the declaration of environment is an institution that works for the government, so we can’t be sure if the declaration is impartial. In this district, explorations are taking place near UNESCO World Heritage nature reserve.

Residents living alongside lithium deposits worry that the ecosystem will be sacrificed, but they have no other choice but to await the decision of the courts.

Author: Nabeel K

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