Lithium is the New Gold

Europe is fired up about boosting its own production of vital raw materials like lithium, cobalt, and rare earths. These materials are crucial for supporting Europe’s green and digital transitions. But here’s the catch: some folks in local communities aren’t too thrilled about mining, fearing it might harm the environment and their way of life.

Lithium is like gold these days because it’s a key ingredient in electric vehicle (EV) batteries, and EVs are about to take over the streets. The European Commission predicts we’ll need a whole bunch more lithium – 18 times more by 2030 and a whopping 60 times more by 2050 compared to what we use now.

Portugal is already a big shot in the lithium production game, making about 10% of the world’s lithium supply. And guess what? Portugal’s got loads of the stuff hiding underground, just waiting to be scooped up. But here’s where things get tricky – some mining projects in Portugal are getting a thumbs-down from locals, environmental groups, and local governments. They’re worried about what open-pit mining might do to the water, wildlife, scenery, and tourism.

One of these projects is led by a company called Savannah Resources, based in London. They plan to grab lithium from a big 1,018-hectare plot in northern Portugal. Savannah says they’re going to use this “dry stacking” method to handle the waste material. This way, they won’t guzzle up tons of water, and there won’t be any risk of dam disasters. They also promise to create loads of jobs and give a boost to the local economy.

But, hold on a minute – these promises aren’t enough to sway the project’s opponents. They’re standing strong with protests, petitions, and lawsuits, all aimed at putting the brakes on this project. Their argument? They think this mining gig will wreck a one-of-a-kind natural and cultural treasure, and they don’t believe the benefits will outweigh the costs for the local folks.

This opposition might throw a wrench into the works for the EU, which is trying to reduce its reliance on China for these essential materials. The EU is rolling out some plans to support a circular battery economy, like setting rules, funding research, and making it easier for mining companies to get cash.

So, the future of Europe’s mining journey is showing promise once they get past these hurdles. Through new tech, government support, and getting people on board, the region can see a new surge of economic development never seen before. They just need to keep the people happy!