Portugal’s Race for ‘white oil’

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The race for Portugal’s “white oil” (lithium) is now well and truly on with at least 46 requests from mining companies now lodged with the government, representing a global investment of €3.8 million.

True to forecasts sounded earlier this year (click here), mining companies are starting to focus attentions on Portugal, particularly in the Alto Minho and Beira Baixa districts.

According to mining.com, moves are also ratcheting up to “convince Tesla (the US electric car manufacturer) to come to Portugal”.

Success, says the site, could give the country the “decisive push” it needs to consolidate a reputation within the lithium mining sector.

A government working group is already forging ahead with plans for a countrywide survey of Portugal’s lithium reserves.

As national media has been explaining, the mineral is a key component in the production of batteries for electric cars and mobile phones.

In other words, global demand for it is set to skyrocket.

Portugal is already the world’s fifth largest exporter of this light, lilac-coloured mineral “in its basest form” (not extracted from rocks).

The working group has thus focused on “the possibility of production” in specially constructed smelters, financed under Europe’s COMPETE and Interface, reports Público – adding that nine areas so far have been identified as lithium-rich, “all of them in the north and centre of Portugal… distributed from Caminha, in the Alto Douro to Idanha-a-Nova in the Beira Baixa.

There are studies ongoing in the Alentejo as well, to try and identify whether or not lithium can be found there, but this far they have not reported back, says the paper.

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