The Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) has approved the operations of a second lithium mine in the country. The Romano mine will be situated in Montalegre, in the northern region, near the Baroso mine, which was permitted back in May 2023. However, only part of it has been approved, so the owner still has homework.
The exploitation of the Romano mine was applied for by Lusorecursos Portugal Lithium, which has received validation for mixed operations. This means it can dig for lithium both in the open pit and underground. Expectations are that the site will reach a production capacity of 18 000 tons annually. It is also the first mine in Portugal – and only the second in Europe – featuring an integrated refinery.
According to Lusorecursos, all the elements of the Environmental Impact Study were of favorable opinion, except for the location of the infrastructure, which contains the washing plant, the administrative buildings, and the refinery. That location must be re-evaluated and moved, as a pack of Iberian wolves also inhabits the area.
The company faces a window of half a year to present a solution to the wildlife threat. Nonetheless, CEO of Lucorecursos Ricardo Pinheiro called the endorsement a monumental achievement for the company, a culmination of years of meticulous planning. If the second part gets approved, the mine could start operations as of 2027.
“Push people out”
The fact that the permit procedure performs a split between the mining activities and the refinery is precisely what’s worrying environmentalist groups. According to green activist group Zero, that separation is “absurd.” The group further points to the significant impact of the Romano mine, which “will push people out of the area.” Lusorecursos plans monetary compensation for nearby inhabitants.
Still, the partial approval is another significant step forward for the country’s ambitions as a lithium provider. In Portugal, the largest lithium deposits in Europe are found. As the European Commission wants to free its nascent battery industry from a foreign value chain, the country is set to play a crucial role in realizing its Raw Materials Act.
Today’s lithium production in Portugal serves the ceramic and glass sector. The permitted sites will predominantly mine for the automotive industry.