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LISBON – Portugal’s Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for a massive lithium mine that could become the largest in Western Europe and boost the continent’s growing electric vehicle industry.

The southern European country is believed to have the continent’s largest reserves of lithium, a key raw material for making the batteries that power electric vehicles.

Lithium is mined primarily in Australia and South America, and with China dominating the supply chain, the environmental regulator’s decision could bolster Europe’s efforts to ensure safety. Independent supply of coveted resources.

The agency said the Barroso project in northern Portugal, owned by British group Savanna Resources, had obtained “subject to certain conditions, a positive declaration of environmental impact”.

In a statement, the agency said the original proposal had been “substantially revised” to protect waterways and biodiversity.

Savannah Resources said the approval was a “key decision” that allowed the project to move on to the next phase of the environmental licensing process.

“This is a very important step forward not only in the development of the project, but also in the development of the lithium raw materials industry in Portugal,” said Dale Ferguson, CEO of Savannah.

Environmental activists and locals opposed to projects in rural areas criticized the agency’s decision.

Francisco Ferreira, president of the environmental group Zero, said the location chosen was “not good” given its proximity to residential areas and the “risk of pollution”.

Environment Minister Duarte Cordeiro said the agency’s decision would “minimize its impact on the environment”, alleviating concerns.

In addition to the Savannah project near the town of Boticas, Portuguese company Lusole Crusos has its own plans in the neighboring town of Montalegre, and the government has launched international tenders for lithium mining in six regions of Portugal.

The European Union has set a 2035 deadline to phase out the sale of new fossil-fueled vehicles, so it will need its own supplies to produce electric vehicles, from mining raw materials to building battery factories. We are rushing to build a chain. AFP Significant go-ahead for giant lithium mine in Portugal gives boost to Europe

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