The enormous challenge facing Europe at the moment is its almost total dependence on imports of this raw material. At present, according to data from the US Geological Survey on Mineral Raw Materials, lithium mined in the European Union represents only 1% of the world´s lithium mining. If we take into account, for example, that Europe produces a quarter of the total volume of electric vehicles in the world, we can get an accurate idea of the scale of the challenge.
Therefore, it seems realistic and reasonable to carry out an analysis of the possibilities of obtaining lithium on European soil. Specifically in cases such as Spain, which has sufficient potential to occupy a relevant space in the field of extraction, with promising deposits, a great mining experience and tradition, and an excellent research ecosystem that guarantees access to the necessary technology. All this, however, without losing sight of a major challenge: the environmental challenge.
Spain´s strengths and opportunities
The first thing we can highlight when pointing out Spain as a potential lithium extractor is the importance of its reserves. At European level, the largest lithium reserves are found in the Czech Republic (31%), Serbia (27%) and Ukraine (15%). This is followed by Spain with 13%, and the other countries have very limited reserves (France 4% and Germany 3%, according to Blandine Gourcerol´s study). In other words, in the context of the European Union, we are talking about the second reference territory for the development of an industry of its own.
These reserves are located mainly in Castilla y León, Galicia, Extremadura and Andalusia, specifically in Cadiz, where a large lithium reserve, considered one of the largest in Europe, has been identified in the San José del Valle mine.
Another outstanding case is Extremadura, where other significant lithium deposits are found, such as San José de Valdeflores and Las Navas -both in Cáceres-; as well as Galicia, with the Alberta deposit. These deposits have not yet been fully exploited, but represent a considerable potential for lithium extraction in the future.
The mere existence of these deposits is a key factor for the positioning of Spain as a lithium extractor, but to this we must add its solid mining infrastructure and its long tradition in the extraction of minerals. The Spanish mining industry has been internationally recognized for its experience in the exploitation of various resources, such as iron, coal and precious metals. And it is precisely this mining experience that provides a solid basis for expansion into lithium mining.