We like the lithium, but that dig on another site

In the sierra de Arga there are lakes and waterfalls of waters, unique forests, unique flora, the path of the wolf atlantic and other ways wild that they test t

We like the lithium, but that dig on another site

In the sierra de Arga there are lakes and waterfalls of waters, unique forests, unique flora, the path of the wolf atlantic and other ways wild that they test the fans to extreme sports. In this area of Portugal there is also lithium, which is essential to the future of the electric car and for a greener future, although, paradoxically, its extraction is highly contested by the affected populations.

Portugal is the sixth world power, and the first european in reserves of this mineral. Thirty companies, mostly australian, have applied for licenses for prospecting and exploitation of lithium. All the petitions and surveys have already been authorized are found in the north of the country, mainly in the sierra of Arga —belonging to the municipalities of Caminha, Ponte de Lima and Viana do Castelo—, Covas do Barroso (Shops), Barca d Alva (Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo), Guarda, Mangualde and Segura (Idanha-a-Nova), and Montalegre, the interior of the country, less populated and in greater need of economic development.

The gold rush liquid has faced the Government, local and central. “Our mine is called biodiversity”, says the mayor of Caminha, Miguel Alves. “Geological resources are all Portuguese, but we recognize that there are affected populations, and therefore that 50% of the revenue will be spent to improve the local populations”, says the secretary of State for Energy, João Galamba. Alves, a socialist like the Government, wants neither a miner in the sierra of Arga. “My position is very rational, nothing emotional. The city Council is absolutely unfavorable to prospecting in any protected area. The maximum value that we have is not the battery, is the biodiversity. In no circumstance we are going to pass. We also say no to any prospecting in other places that indirectly they will contaminate protected areas, as would be the case of the basins of the rivers”.

While in the sierra of Arga have not entered the machines, in Shops not there are some who stop, although the mayor, Fernando Quiroga (PSD), he still believes that he can reverse the situation: “they have Not done the environmental study. We are part of the agricultural heritage and scenic world, which is incompatible with the extraction of lithium”. Quiroga recalls that the case of Iberdrola, who stopped the construction of a dam in the river Támega because it was found to be a species in danger of extinction. “Because that river would go to stop the water that has washed the ore.”

Investment and employment

The promises of investment and jobs try to win adherents among the inhabitants affected. The australian Savannah announces in Covas de Barroso 500 million euros of investment; Lusorecursos, 400 million and 250 jobs in Portalegre; another australian, Dakota Minerals, promises to 370 million in Carvalhais. “It is a unique opportunity to combat the depopulation,” said Orlando Alves (PS), mayor of Montalegre, which denounces “the extremes of people who do not waive their mobile, to your car or to the electric power”.

Criticised by The Greens for allowing the exploitation before the environmental study, the Environment minister, Matos Fernandes, answered in a parliamentary session this month: “people need to marry before you get a divorce.” To the minister, the decarbonisation and the green economy are not possible without the mineralization of the lithium. It also rejects that it is an inevitable contamination of soils. Yours is the comparison of a mine and lithium with a quarry either. “What is the difference between the exploitation of lithium from the feldspar? In nothing, are quarries where the removal of the stone and a part of that stone is lithium.”

According to a detailed study of the association Quercus, each mine lithium emits 1.790 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which will prevent to Portugal to meet with the neutrality carbon in 2050. Savannah promises that the collection will be with sustainable materials and has requested it for mine Shops the certificate WAX, which ensures its green mining in the machinery and processes employed.

The maximum of the Government is to not give up on having knowledge of the riches of the country, whether it be lithium-in After Os Montes or oil in the Algarve; but at the same time ensures that nothing will be done without an environmental impact assessment.

however, the bet of the Executive by the lithium does not have reverse. Be granted the status of Potential National Interest, projects that add to mining the value chain of the refining industry of the lithium. In that sense, Savannah built the first refinery of lithium of Europe, near Oporto, to facilitate maritime transport. Your goal is the annual production of 200,000 tons of concentrate of spodumene and lithium the creation of 300 direct jobs and 600 direct.

The protests of environmentalists and local Councils have only served, for the moment, to speed up environmental impact studies. Before the end of the year, the Government will contest eight more licenses for the exploitation of lithium.

Key for the electric car

Identified in 1817 by the Swedish chemist Johan August Arfwedson, lithium is the metal most mild of the periodic table. In 1821, the English William Brande and Humphrey Davy managed to isolate lithium in pure state through electrolysis, a method still in force.

Applied in principle to the ceramic and to the medicine, after the Second World War, the lithium began to be used in the manufacture of weapons and in the nuclear industry. Today its main target are the batteries ionic to electric cars and mobile phones. If a decade ago the price of a kilo of lithium reached $ 95, today's round is between 10-12 dollars, after a collapse of 50% in the last year by an excess of supply. The united States Geological survey estimated in 2008, a world's reserves of the ore to 13 million tonnes, currently only the Uyuni Salt flat in Chile, has 5,400 million tons.

South America is the region with the largest reserves of the mineral, primarily Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, which account for almost 80% of the reserves. Although far away from them, Portugal is the sixth world power, and the first european with about 60,000 tons.

The lithium does not exist in a pure state. It is extracted in deposits of open pit ore as the petalita or the lepidolita. By the washing of the minerals and their chemical treatment is achieved by the lithium hydroxide.

Date Of Update: 26 December 2019, 11:00