Lithium: has Portugal struck gold?
Portugal is the world's fifth-largest producer of lithium. Its reserves in Europe's biggest mine in Guarda are among the ten largest in the world. The opening of new mines is under discussion and there are rumours that the government has already signed the relevant contracts. The plans are controversial for environmental reasons, as a look at the discussion in the country's press shows.
A key to the car industry
The lithium deposits could open up a completely new industry for the small country, Jornal Económico finds:
“Portugal has the natural resources, the know-how and the technology to cover the entire production cycle - from lithium production to the manufacture of these energy storage devices - in particular for batteries for the automotive industry. Our country could indeed become a cluster and be competitive in this sector, particularly because of its proximity to European markets compared to competitors such as China, Chile, Australia and Argentina. ... If it can be guaranteed that environmental standards will be met, the lithium industry should be considered strategic for Portugal.”
Don't sell off our country
The extraction of lithium is not worthwhile and would be a serious assault on Portugal's natural heritage, warns Filipe Anacoreta Correia of the conservative party CDS-PP in Observador:
“Despite all the warnings, the socialist government is keeping this proposal in its programme. ... At a time when technology is developing rapidly and hydrogen energy, for example, can increasingly be seen as a viable alternative, it is more than a little strange to insist on a project that would expose our Portugal to being sold off irreversibly. And all this at a time when the parties are increasingly presenting themselves as environmentalists in their programmes.”