Photos from the Facebook site of 'Unidos em Defesa de Covas de Barroso', one of the groups desperate to save Boticas' World Agricultural Heritage status
Photos from the Facebook site of 'Unidos em Defesa de Covas de Barroso', one of the groups desperate to save Boticas' World Agricultural Heritage status

Mining company continues with lithium prospection in spite of Operation Influencer

Savannah Resources “contracts external audit to prove innocence of Influencer suspicions”

British mining company Savannah Resources is continuing with lithium prospecting in Boticas in spite of the suspicions hanging over the project as a result of Operation Influencer.

According to Jornal de Negocios, the company contracted an external audit to prove its innocence with regard to the suspicions raised by Influencer, the conclusions of which “point to the absence of irregularities in the dealings over lithium”.

The audit was performed by lawyers Rui Pena, Arnaut e Associados, and it went right back to 2017, looking at  all Savannah activities in Portugal through to 2023 (when Operation Influencer ‘broke’, sending the country to the early elections next month).

The law office had access to “privileged information” including “contacts with external entities, financial transactions, email databases and other records”, said Jornal de Negócios.

The audit concluded that “there were no financial irregularities, nor undue offers or payments, or interactions with national entities in the process of environmental impact assessment.”

Savannah equally does not have “any relationship with any of the other businesses or projects mentioned in Operation Influencer, assured those responsible for the company at a presentation of investors in London”, the paper adds.

On this basis, mining for lithium in Savannah’s Barroso mine should begin in 2025.

The company’s relatively new CEO, Emanuel Proença, said in a statement: “Savannah’s legal position is strong.”

Proença is “certain that the investigation will not affect the lithium business”, although it will affect the company’s image in terms of “external validation”.

Savannah’s ability to deliver the Barroso mine project and generate profits in the future will not be affected by the conclusions of the investigation,” the audit quoted by Negócios emphasises.

Thus, “Savannah’s project continues at full speed in Boticas, with boreholes being drilled and plots being bought from local landowners”, says the text.

“Meanwhile, the British company continues to look for ‘strategic partners’ among “a group of companies that are part of the battery value chain“.

The company plans to start the Barroso mine project in 2025, with the prospect of being able to start extracting lithium as early as 2026.

This is all information provided to Jornal de Negócios by Savannah Resources. It does not take into account the moves on the ground by local people/ the local municipality to scupper the project, on the basis that it threatens to destroy the environment and many people’s livelihoods.

A number of legal actions are currently underway, the most recent through mayor of Boticas Fernando Queiroga.

Queiroga was cited in Jornal de Notícias last month as saying: “We’re finalising a popular action. The legal part is closed. In the meantime, new data has come to light and we’re supplementing it with the technical part. I’m hoping that by February at the latest I’ll be able to submit this action so that the mine doesn’t go ahead”.

The social democrat mayor explains that a popular action, according to the Boticas council’s legal experts, “is more objective and produces quicker effects” than, for example, a petition.

He also told the paper he “will turn to European bodies if a way in Portugal cannot be found to halt the advance of lithium mining in the municipality”.

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