Portugal’s minister of environment and climate action said on Friday that the public consultation on the environmental assessment of lithium exploration was “the most transparent process” he knows. He expected to have the process completed in January.
João Pedro Matos Fernandes, who was speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a conference on energy transition at the University of Porto, said he expected that “by mid-January, more or less,” the evaluation of the environmental impact study of the Lithium Prospecting and Research Programme (Lithium PPP) would be completed.
The public consultation process, which ends this Friday, is “an absolutely clear, transparent, participated, discussed project”, considered the governor.
“Thirteen areas were identified where there is a potential for the existence of lithium in Portugal. Of these, three were mostly in protected natural areas and were excluded. Of these, in two of them – Boticas and Montalegre – there were already intentions for the land, and therefore it made no sense to include them in the tender and, of the eight that remained, we removed all areas that belonged to the Natura 2000 Network,” he said.
About the contestation to the mining of this metal, Matos Fernandes said that “there are those who do not want to do the exploration of lithium at any cost, forgetting, on purpose or unintentionally, that lithium is essential for decarbonisation, that lithium is essential for digitalisation”.
“We do not want, contrary to those who think so, to exploit lithium at any cost. We are doing this with all the technical rigour, with all the normal participation of the scientific community, of the people, of the local towns,” he said.
The environment minister said that if “the basic environmental conditions make exploration extraordinarily complex, they will stop there.
Areas that are identified as potential exploration sites “will move forward, knowing that there will never be any exploration without an environmental impact assessment of the specific project,” he noted.
For the minister, it makes no sense, “at the height of the raw materials crisis,” to turn our backs on a metal essential to the economy’s future.
“We have an industrial project for Portugal, an industrial project that wants to take advantage of some of its essential resources,” he reiterated.
Public consultation of the preliminary environmental assessment report of the lithium PPP in eight potential areas for launching a tender procedure began in September. Initially, it was due to end on November 10, but following protests from town halls, political parties and civic movements, the deadline was extended to December 10.