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And, by the end of the year, the government will launch an international tender to award prospecting rights to a dozen other potential deposits to meet the "great appetite of investors" who have formulated a quarantine of requests since 2016, told the AFP the Secretary of State for Energy, Jorge Seguro Sanches.
But the Portuguese state no longer wants to be limited to receiving the royalties of the extraction activity. "We want to seize the opportunity to develop industrial sectors related to ore processing, battery manufacturing, the automotive sector and renewable energy," Seguro Sanches said.
In Mina do Barroso, Savannah Resources plans to produce a concentrate of lithium-rich ore for export.
The Lusorecursos project in Montalegre is more ambitious since it intends to build a plant capable of transforming this mineral before selling it to the battery industry.
Et, d'ici la fin de l'année, le gouvernement lancera un appel d'offres international pour attribuer les droits de prospection d'une dizaine d'autres gisements potentiels afin de répondre au "grand appétit des investisseurs" qui ont formulé une quarantaine de demandes depuis 2016, a indiqué à l'AFP le secrétaire d'Etat à l'Energie, Jorge Seguro Sanches.
Mais l'Etat portugais ne veut plus se limiter à recevoir les royalties de l'activité d'extraction. "Nous voulons saisir l'occasion de développer des secteurs industriels liés à la transformation du minerai, à la fabrication de batteries, au secteur automobile ou aux énergies renouvelables", a précisé M. Seguro Sanches.
A Mina do Barroso, Savannah Resources compte produire un concentré de minerai riche en lithium pour l'exporter.
Le projet de Lusorecursos à Montalegre est plus ambitieux puisqu'elle entend construire une usine capable de transformer ce minerai avant de le vendre à la filière de la batterie.
First step: reduce the dependence on components. Europe imports 86% of the lithium that it consumes, produced mainly in Chile and Australia.
Portugal is already the main European producer, with a market share of 11%, but its production is entirely used for ceramics and glassware.
"We know that Portugal has the largest deposits in Europe, and the question is whether it is economically viable to extract it because it is a very competitive global market," says Lucas Bednarski.
According to his estimates, the production of lithium extracted from Portuguese granite rock is about 2.5 times more expensive than that produced from Chilean brine deposits.
- International invitation to tender -
"We are seeing a white gold rush in many parts of the world, and for Europe and its automotive sector, the idea of a supply chain from ore to electric cars is very attractive," says Howard. Klein, from New York investment consulting firm RK Equity.
AFP / Francisco LEONG
Barroso mine in Boticas in northern Portugal, September 3, 2018
In Portugal, the race is already launched with the projects of Boticas and Montalegre, who hope to obtain in the coming months the final green light of investors and authorities.
The explosion in the battery industry has sparked a craze for lithium "and its market value has tripled in three years," says Lucas Bednarski, director of market research firm Lithium Today.
- Reducing European dependence -
This white silver metal, which is already used to make lithium-ion batteries used in phones and laptops, will be more and more sought after because of the development of the electric car, which needs much more powerful batteries.
"Lithium could be worth gold for Portugal, since we estimate that in 2025 the European battery market will be worth 250 billion euros a year", says the vice president of the European Commission in charge of Energy , Maros Sefcovic.
For almost a year now, the Slovakian Commissioner has been working on a sector project capable of building a new generation of "green", recyclable and reusable electric batteries within the EU.
"The more we dig, the more we find," said David Archer at the foot of a drilling crane that, in a deafening noise, perforated the granite rock of the mountains of northern Portugal to measure the lithium content , become a "white gold" since the demand for electric batteries explodes.
The UK mining company he runs, Savannah Resources, hopes to open in 2020 "the first major lithium mine in Europe," he told AFP on the heights of Boticas, in the region of Vila Real.
On Monday, Savannah announced that it had revised the estimate of the Mina do Barroso deposits up 44% to 20.1 million tonnes of ore with a lithium content of 1.04%.
25 kilometers away, in neighboring Montalegre, the Portuguese company Lusorecursos also claims to be seated on "the largest lithium deposit in Europe", or 30 million tonnes of ore grading 1.09% that it intends to start extracting in 2020 as well, according to its financial director Ricardo Pinheiro.
Let me see if I can get a french speaker on to it