Portugal is set to offer licences for the exploration of lithium in the country in a bid to grab a share of the lucrative battery materials supply market for electric vehicles.
Energy secretary Jorge Seguro Sanches said in an interview with Reuters the country would launch a call for tenders for the licences “by the end of the year”.
Portugal’s government said it would look for commitments from would-be licensees to also in local refining and battery manufacturing.
“Portugal is one of the countries with the largest potential for lithium production,” Sanches said. “We’ve had contacts on all levels… we are very optimistic that there will be lots of competitors.”
Sanches indicated that the Portugese government had received more than 40 prospecting applications— and that mining firms from Australia and North America have expressed an interest.
Portugal is reportedly the world’s sixth biggest— and Europe’s biggest— producer of lithium, but the metal produced in country has to date been sold predominately to the ceramics industry.
There are currently no large-scale battery facilities in Europe; demand is met by Asian battery makers importing lithium from South America. However, the European Commission has laid out proposals for 10-20 huge battery factories by 2025.
A 2017 government study identified 2,500sq.km of likely lithium bearing territory. It identified 11 areas in central and northern Portugal and suggested potential investment in five of the most promising areas of €3.3 billion (US$3.9bn).