Portugal Has Lithium… And We Know It!

Author:Ms Ana Oliveira Rocha

Lithium minerals have seen a rise in demand and price since 2011, which became even greater in 2016, and the expectation is that this rise will continue along with the growing demand for electric vehicles. Lithium supply security has become a top priority for technology companies in the United States and Asia and, worldwide, lithium production increased by around 13 percent from 2016 to 2017, reaching 43,000 MT last year.

Portugal qualifies as one of the top 10 lithium producers of the world - in sixth position and there are already some concessionaires carrying out exploration and production activities, with the year 2017 registering a production of 400 MT.

The country is getting ready to exploit its lithium minerals' potential given the interest shown (in May 2017 publicly available information is that at least 30 applications for lithium prospection and research rights were made and the number has grown significantly since then) and the favourable economic climate.

After assessing the best strategy, through the creation of a working committee involving representatives of associations and public entities connected to geological resources, at the end of January 2018, the Portuguese Government passed a resolution by its Council of Ministers approving the main strategic guidelines to exploit the potential of lithium minerals. This resolution is based on the report issued by the working committee - also subject to public consultation of the relevant stakeholders - which came to confirm that:

Lithium and its compounds are used by a broad range of industries, including ceramics and glass, industrial lubricants, medical uses, Li-ion batteries, and the aluminium and steel industries, among many others; meanwhile, the market remains dynamic, with a high and sustainable demand impacting price rise; Although domestic geological potential is high, there is insufficient characterisation of the mineral occurrences and resource estimates, also as regards inferred resources, which should be developed by both the relevant state entities and private companies; There are no studies as to the benefitiation (laboratorial or industrial) to support a strategy based on the respective implementation so as to increase domestic growth; and There are no investigation or innovation initiatives in connection with the recycling of the lithium minerals from used batteries which, from a circular economy perspective, would reduce waste and the stress over lithium...

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