PROVINCE OF CÁCERES – It is known that especially small places in the interior of Spain are experiencing an exodus. However, for a town in Spain that is languishing in that respect, there is a good chance that the tide can turn. All thanks to the ecological transition and the additional need for lithium.
It is the city with the largest mine full of ‘white gold’ in Spain and Europe. Cañaveral in Cáceres lost a third of its inhabitants in the past 60 years because some factories left. The unique opportunity to turn this circumstance lies six kilometres from the centre under a meadow of holm oaks. It is the largest lithium mine in all of Europe.
Lithium, the third chemical element in the periodic table, is known as “white gold” because of its strategic value for the ecological transition. It is an essential material for the production of batteries, both for cars and telephones. The element can store energy. And that with an electrical density that is much higher than any other component (that is, it can accumulate a large energy charge in a small space).
In theory, due to its value, the areas that can exploit lithium can practically replicate the momentum that the countries of the Persian Gulf have achieved thanks to oil. For Cañaveral, the new mine means a bright spot on the horizon. However, the city’s mayor, Jacinto Sánchez, has not yet made precise predictions about the economic impact.
It is clear that the mine will generate a lot of income and will give a boost to a city that has been in decline since the departure of industrial capital.
According to the mayor, Cañaveral had 3,000 inhabitants 60 years ago, now there are just over 1,000. “There was a good railway line, every day three or four buses with workers came from the Sierra de Gata. This has always been an industrial city”. Those workers came to work in the coffee, chocolate, noodle and cork factories.
The city is located north of Cáceres on the Vía de la Plata (Silver Route) connecting Mérida to Astorga. Like other towns on this route, Cañaveral has also suffered an economic blow from the construction of the A-66 highway. It has diverted traffic from the road that crosses the cities. With the lack of stops for trucks and other vehicles, a good source of income was also lost.
Waiting for all permits and authorisations
The lithium mine gives the city a new chance. At the moment, according to Sánchez, we are still waiting for the final authorizations from the Junta de Extremadura, although it does not seem that it can derail the project.
With the extraction of lithium in the mine and the transformation plant (located on an industrial estate in the same city), 430 direct are expected to be created in Cañaveral. An additional 1.20 indirect jobs will be added in the entire Extremadura region, including the jobs that will be created with the battery factory in Badajoz province.
As the mayor also agrees, the economic impact will be very positive for the restoration of the vitality of the municipality. He does acknowledge that there is a possible downside to this in terms of ecological impact. That is why measures to protect the environment are also being studied. In the hamlet of Grimaldo, which belongs to Cañaveral, there are already protests against the exploitation of the deposit.
Despite this, the municipality is already starting to prepare the staff with courses to be able to work in the mine and related activities. In addition, the necessary infrastructure must be prepared.