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6 Jun 2023

Portugal: Government approves lithium mine despite opposition from local population and environmental activists

In 2021, Savannah obtained initial authorization for its open-pit mine; however, the Portuguese Environment Regulator (APA) demanded changes that were submitted in a revised proposal. In June 2023, the APA confirmed the environmental compatibility of the plans, but imposed conditions for approval. Environmentalists and local communities strongly oppose the largest lithium mine in Western Europe, expressing concerns about potential environmental destruction, the impact on nearby farming activities and on the health of locals. In Boticas, a town affected by the planned mining, Mayor Fernando Queiroge is considering legal action against the decision.

The CEO of Savannah, Dale Ferguson, commented, “We are delighted that APA has issued a positive DIA for the Barroso Lithium Project. This is an extremely important step forward, not only in the development of the Project, but also in the development of the lithium raw material industry in Portugal. Given Savannah’s commitment to responsible practices, minimising impact and sharing socio-economic benefits, the Company has agreed to the Conditions associated with the DIA. These Conditions include obtaining conditional approval to construct the proposed bypass road to join to the A24 motorway and limiting the removal of vegetation from the Project area to certain months of the year. Others, such as not taking water from the Covas River and backfilling or partially backfilling and re-landscaping the mining areas once ore extraction has ceased, mirror plans and commitments the Company has already made in its submissions to APA, our community engagement programme and decarbonisation targets."

In December 2023, the Prosecutor's Office asked the Administrative Court of Mirandela to annul the lithium mine's environmental permit, alleging it could endanger the heritage site and Portugal's international commitments. They also argued that mining water management needs and contamination risks were not correctly assessed. 

In January 2024, Savannah said they conducted a full legal assessment and "confidently reaffirm its solid legal standing."