Portuguese firm, Lusorecursos, has been granted the necessary approval from the country’s environment agency, APA, to begin operating Portugal’s first mine devoted to battery-grade lithium.
Total investment in the facility is expected to reach US$696M, with the company planning to commence construction at the start of 2025 and begin production of lithium hydroxide late in 2027.
The Montalegre mine is a critical component of Europe’s broader efforts to improve its access to the highly sought-after mineral and reduce its dependence on imports. With over 60,000t of known lithium reserves, Portugal has long been seen by foreign interests as a crucial contributor to Europe’s burgeoning battery industry. Nonetheless, concerns from local environmental advocacy groups and nearby communities surrounding the impact of lithium mining have repeatedly delayed key mining undertakings in the region.
In a statement for Reuters, APA said that it authorized mining in Montalegre, “with the issuance of a favourable environmental impact assessment”, despite the public consultation being “mostly negative regarding the implementation of the project,”
“Similar to what has already occurred in other projects, the assessment developed (by APA) took into account the strategic interest of lithium.” The statement said, adding that the municipality of Montalegre will receive 75% of the royalties.
Lusorecursos had been granted the necessary mining concession in March 2019, though the start of operations was made subject to approval of the environmental impact assessment. Despite the vocal and often negative public discussions related to the project, APA’s statement explained that the mining had been approved thanks to a “favourable environmental impact assessment”.
Lusorecursos’ project will include not only the mine, but also an ore refinery in the proximity, which will require a separate assessment to determine its exact location. Most of Lusorecursos’ undertaking will be underground, but there will also be a degree of open-pit mining involved.