Portugal intends to launch a tender of lithium exploration licenses by the end of the year under a plan to become Europe’s top supplier of the metal used in the batteries that power electric cars. In an interview with Reuters, Jorge Seguro Sanches, the secretary of state for energy, set out the plan to sharply increase prospecting and output to meet an expected surge in global demand for lithium as electric car sales grow.
He set no date for the tender but said the licenses to explore for commercially viable lithium would cover several areas of the country and that he was confident of interest from foreign bidders.
The government would look in the tender for commitments to invest in local refining and battery manufacturing, he said.
“We intend to launch the tender by the end of the year,” he said in the ministry’s elegant 18th century palace at the heart of the capital, Lisbon. “There will be various different areas on offer.”
Portugal is the world’s sixth-largest lithium producer, and Europe’s biggest. But its miners sell almost exclusively to the ceramics industry and only now are gearing up to produce the higher-grade lithium that is used in electric cars.