November 15, 2019
Portugal is already Europe’s biggest lithium producer.
Portugal produces about 11% of the global lithium market, but its output is entirely used to make ceramics and glassware.
Portugal is finalising plans for an international licensing tender for lithium exploration to take place this year, part of a government push to make the country Europe’s top supplier of the metal for electric car batteries. The tender will be launched in 2019 in a guaranteed fashion.
Preparations such as a final decision on the areas to be offered are yet to be concluded, according to the Environment and Energy Transition Ministry. The ministry is also updating regulations on “green mining” to mitigate any environmental impact from lithium exploration.
The majority of lithium imported into Europe hails from China, Chile, and Australia. It is significantly cheaper to refine and import lithium from these countries than to extract it from Portugal’s granite. However, with the opening of new mines, as well as the expanded production in existing mines, Portugal is looking to reduce Europe’s dependency on imports in two ways: increasing extraction, and making refinement and production processes more economically viable. The country’s shift on lithium production comes at a crucial time of increased demand for the metal due to the growing appetite for electric cars.
Simon Moores, the managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a company that collects and analyses data on minerals used in batteries, predicts that within one decade Europe will contribute one-fifth of the global electric vehicle lithium ion battery production –compared to China’s current 54 per cent and the EU’s current reliance on foreign imports.
It’s expected that the market for lithium will be worth 250 billion euros annually by 2025.
Portugal sees its potential to expand Europe’s lithium market as just one step towards the diversification of multiple domestic industrial sectors linked to the mineral, including auto production, battery production, and renewable energy. In fact, lithium production is only one part of the country’s drive to expand its vast wealth of renewable resources. Green energy accounted for 103 per cent of electricity produced in Portugal this past March, much of it from hydroelectric and wind power, as the country continues to wean itself off of imported fossil fuels.