“Portugal is very strong in renewable energy, namely solar and wind energy, and for this it is necessary to store energy [through lithium], not only for the automotive sector, but also for industrial batteries,” said the vice-president of the European Commission responsible for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight, Maroën Šefovi.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, presenting a new action plan for essential raw materials, including lithium, which is now part of this list, Maroën Šefovi noted that “there is a strong technological landscape in Portugal,” so “several ‘start-ups’ would benefit greatly if a modern ‘hub’ of technology were based” in the country, alluding to the Portuguese government’s plans to create a lithium ‘cluster’ and the battery industry in the north.

“But of course this is a decision that has to be taken together with local communities and national governments and we hope to be able to promote dialogue and provide the necessary support in terms of funding, notably through the European Investment Bank,” added the vice-president of the community executive.

Specifically questioned, at the time, about the opposition that the plans for lithium mining in Portugal have received from the locations of areas with identified potential and from environmental groups, Maroš Šefovi said he was “aware” of such contestation.

“We are obviously aware of these challenges and I assure you that we are in a position to negotiate with national governments, but also with local communities, because we need to assure these communities that these projects are not only of the utmost importance, but will also benefit the region and the country,” he said.

For this reason, for Maroon Šefovi, it is necessary to “look at this new way of promoting access to essential raw materials” in a “European and comprehensive way, with a social and responsible approach”.

Also present at the presentation of this new EU strategy, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, highlighted the “various potentialities” existing in Portugal in relation to these essential raw materials.

The Portuguese government wants to create, later this year, a lithium and battery industry ‘cluster’ and will launch a public tender for the attribution of prospecting rights for lithium and associated minerals in nine areas of the country, among which the areas of Serra d’Arga, Barro/Alvão, Seixo/Vieira, Almendra, Barca Dalva/Canhão, Argemela, Guarda, Segura and Maçoeira.

However, the exploitation of lithium in these potential territories is contested by several civic movements, environmental associations and cultural associations.

Accounts from Brussels indicate that Europe will need 18 times more lithium by 2030 and up to 60 times more by 2050 for electric car batteries and for energy storage.

The EU strategy launched on 3 September therefore aims to make Europe’s raw materials supply safer and more sustainable through an action plan that analyses current and future challenges and proposes measures to reduce Europe’s dependence on third countries by diversifying supply from primary and secondary sources and improving resource efficiency and circularity.

Lithium is then one of the essential raw materials covered.