A vision of process plant operations at Savannah Resources' Barroso Lithium Project. (Credit: © ABB)
Barroso Lithium Project is one of the most significant spodumene lithium discoveries in Western Europe (Credit: Dnn87/ Wikipedia)
The project is owned by UK-based lithium development company Savannah Resources. (Credit: Andrew O'Brien/ Flickr)

Barroso Lithium Project in Portugal is one of the most significant spodumene lithium discoveries in Western Europe.

The project is owned by UK-based lithium development company Savannah Resources. The company is currently progressing with the development and licencing of the property.

Once developed, Barroso Lithium Project is expected to produce enough lithium annually each year for nearly 0.5 million electric vehicle battery packs.

Ownership and Licencing

Initially, Savannah Resources took a 75% stake in the Barroso Lithium Project in May 2017. Subsequently, the company became the 100% owner and expanded the project by adding the adjacent ‘Aldeia’ Mining Lease Application to the original lease.

A scoping study for the project was completed in 2018.

In June 2020, Savannah first submitted the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the Portuguese environmental regulator Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente (APA).

APA declared the submission to be in conformity with its requirements for the content of the EIA in April 2021.

In July 2022, Savannah agreed with APA that the EIA review process would continue under Article 16 of Portuguese law regarding EIAs.

In March 2023, the company submitted the revised Environmental Report and Mine Plan for the Barroso project. APA’s Environmental Impact Statement (DIA) decision is expected by 31 May 2023.

If APA reaches a positive DIA decision and Savannah accepts the conditions set forth, environmental licencing process would continue along with work on the project’s Definitive Feasibility Study.

The Barroso Lithium Project is expected to receive Environmental Licence in 2024. The Final Investment Decision (FID) will be taken after the completion of Definitive Feasibility Study.

Barroso Lithium project location details

The Barroso Lithium Project is located in northern Portugal. The property is around 145km northeast of the City of Porto and the industrial port of Leixões.

The Mina do Barroso concession area granted by the government is around 542hectares (ha).

According to the Environmental Impact Study published in April 2021, Barroso Mine includes nine mining open pits with a total area of about 27.5ha. In the report, Savannah announced its plans to expand the mining area and reduce the number of open pits to four.

Geology and mineralisation

The lithium mineralisation in the project is hosted as spodumene-bearing pegmatites, and contained within metapelitic, mica schists and as carbonate schists of upper Ordovician to lower Devonian age.

The main Grandao pegmatite is defined as a flat-lying, tabular zone covering an area of 600m north-south and 700m east-west with thickness ranging between 10m and 60m.

Lithium is present in most pegmatite compositions with distinct lithium grade zonation occurring within the pegmatites. Weak mineralised zones are also found at the margins of the dykes.

Minor xenoliths and inliers of schist occur within the main pegmatite.

Barroso Project Resources

After acquiring initial interest in the project in May 2017, Savannah completed more than 31,000m of resource-focused drilling.

The scoping study published in June 2018 estimated that the project contained mineral resources of 14Mt containing 149,200t of Li₂O graded at 1.1% Li₂O.

As of May 2019, Barroso Lithium’s JORC Code (2012) compliant resource is 27 million tonnes (Mt) containing 285,900t of lithium oxide (Li2O) at an average grade of 1.06% Li2O (707,000t lithium carbonate equivalent). The estimate is based on data from five ore bodies.

Around 55% of the total current ore and contained Li2O resources are classified in the Measured and Indicated categories. According to the company, nearly 66% of the total resource (17.7Mt) is located in the Grandao orebody.

Barroso Lithium Project development plan

Savannah is expected to employ an open-pit mining plan minimising the impact on the natural environment as well as benefit the local community.

It will include four mining open pits- Grandao, Pinheiro, Reservatorio and NOA. A lithiniferous pegmatite processing unit will produce spodumene concentrate and quartz and feldspar as co-products.

The extraction of lithinferous pegmatite is expected to be around 1,500,000 tonnes/year.

The lithium mine will feature two to four mining waste facilities to accommodate the rejected mill material and waste material.

The project is expected to have a mine life of 12 years excluding the construction and deactivation phases.

According to the Environmental Impact Study published in April 2021, three project alternatives are considered. They are largely distinguished by the sequence of mining of the open pits and location of mill, support facilities and access roads to the outside.

The installation and construction phase will take two years and involve around 300 to 350 workers.

Mineral Extraction and Processing

The extraction of the material will be carried out via open-pit mining and then transported for processing using dumpers.

The mill will produce two products- spodumene concentrate for export, and quartz and feldspar for ceramic and glass industry. It will receive the rock with an average content of about 1% Li2O, which will be concentrated to approximately 5.5 to 6.0% Li2O.

The process will reduce the mass from about 1,500,000 tonnes/year to around 180,000 tonne/year.

Other Infrastructure

Water required for the mining operations will be captured from the bottom of the open pits, surface flows and from Covas river.

An existing 60kV airline is expected to supply most of the power requirements of the project.

Other facilities will include fuel tanks, mechanical workshop, warehouse, office, laboratory, medical and first aid facilities among others.

Contractors involved

The EIA of the expansion project of the Barroso Mine was prepared by geology and environmental engineering consultants VISA Consultores.

In March 2022, ABB and Savannah Resources signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to explore smart electrification and digital solutions for the development of the Barroso lithium project.

The Mineral Resource Estimate for the Grandao Lithium Deposit was completed by mining consultant Payne Geological Services.

Savannah engaged Hatch for engineering services in relation to Scoping Study of the Mina do Barroso Lithium Project. PayneGeo was contracted to develop the geological model and complete the resource estimations utilised in the Scoping Study.

Minesure was responsible for completing the analysis and definition of the scoping level mining inventory and contractor costs model for the same study.