"Lithium is absolutely fundamental for decarbonisation. Europe has so few resources of its own, and the [Covid-19] pandemic has shown that. With Portugal having lithium, we must exploit it," said João Pedro Matos Fernandes, who was speaking to journalists in Porto on the sidelines of a conference on strategic challenges in climate action.

The environment minister said that "there are people who are committed not to exploit lithium in Portugal at all costs," guaranteeing that Portugal will not make unbridled exploitation without rules.

"We do not have the prospect of exploiting lithium in Portugal at all costs, but we want to do it. Once lithium gained such a strategic dimension, the state stopped granting licenses and we wanted to design a competition for a number of sites where there is great potential for lithium exploration," he said.

That study, he said, is being prepared by the National Laboratory of Civil Engineering (LNEC).

"There are several sites, we feel that we should make a strategic assessment. We are in a hurry to explore the lithium, but everything will be done according to the characteristics of the territories and always taking into account the environmental values", he stressed.

Jornal de Notícias reports that the government will proceed with a strategic environmental assessment before opening a tender for mining and lithium exploration in Portugal.

Matos Fernandes also said that the câmaras will have 50 percent of the 'royalties', in other words, of the financial compensation that the private sector pays to the state.

The Minister for the Environment and Climate Action, in response to the challenge over exploration of this mineral associated to batteries of vehicles and electrical equipment, and calling for "trust" in the government, said that he had not given a single authorisation for exploration, explaining that those that existed benefited from "old" licences.