Editorial Feature

Portugal: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

Portugal is located in southwestern Europe and borders the North Atlantic Ocean. It covers an area of 92,090 km2, and its total population is 10,781,459 based on 2012 estimates. The country has a cool and rainy climate in the north and a warmer and drier climate in the south.

The national flag of Portugal.
Image Credit: CIA Factbook

The country is awash with natural resources such as salt, gypsum, marble, uranium, gold, silver, tungsten, tin, zinc, copper, and iron ore. The economy of Portugal has become diversified since joining the European Community (EU). The government has privatized many state-owned enterprises and liberalized many key areas of its economy over the last two decades.

The country's economic growth rate kept fluctuating during 2001-2009 and increased by 1.3% in 2010. In 2011, the GDP of the country decreased to $252.2 billion from $255.9 billion in 2010.

Overview of Resources

Portugal has vast reserves of zinc, tungsten, tin, silver, and copper. Other major industrial minerals in the country include rock salt, pyrites, marble, and high-quality lithium. The country has limited amounts of energy resources and depends on imports to meet its domestic energy requirements.

Globally, Portugal is:

  • The fifth largest producer of lithium and tungsten
  • The eleventh largest producer of tin.

In 2010, the total value of the country’s exports amounted to $45.5 billion, compared to $44.7 billion in 2009. The minerals and mineral products accounted for 5.7% of the country’s total exports.

The total value of the country’s imports amounted to $68.8 billion in 2010, compared to $69.8 billion in 2009. Minerals and mineral products accounted for 1.6% of the country’s total imports, oil products accounted for 12.7%, and crude oil products accounted for 16.7%.

The map of Portugal. Image Credit: CIA Factbook


In 2010, the amount of copper concentrate produced from Neves-Corvo Mine by Lundin Mining decreased to 74,426 metric tons (Mt), compared to 86,500 Mt in 2009. The mine has total reserves of 2.2 million Mt/yr of copper ores and 100,000 Mt/yr of copper concentrates.

Neves-Corvo Mine produced 6,421 Mt of zinc in 2010, compared to 501 Mt in 2009.

The Panasqueira tungsten mine has a total production capacity of 1,400 t/yr of tungsten oxide. In 2010, Sojitz mined nearly 799 t of tungsten concentrates from the mine, and 823 t in 2009.

The country extracts iron ore from Moncorvo, which is one of the largest iron ore deposits in Europe. This mine was operated by Rio Tinto, which recently announced its withdrawal from the Moncorvo iron ore project worth 1 billion euros owing to pressure from shareholders to return the invested money, falling commodity prices, and rising costs.

Industrial Minerals

According to 2011 reports, Cimentos de Portugal (CIMPOR) is the leading producer of cement in Portugal. In addition, CIMPOR also produces precast concrete products, dry mortars, and produced aggregates. In 2010, CIMPOR produced 7.2 Mt of cement, compared to 6.9 Mt in 2009.

Rock salt is one of the major industrial minerals produced in the country. In 2010, the country produced about 618,961 t of rock salt, compared to 594,578 t in 2009.

Fossil Fuels

Petróleos de Portugal (Petrogal) operates two petroleum refineries located at Porto and Sines. The Sines refinery built by Argus Resources Ltd. of the UK at a cost of about $5 billion has a production capacity of 250,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of petroleum. The combined capacity of both the refineries is 304,200 bbl/d. However, the country is highly dependant on the imports of energy resources. In 2010, the country imported 75% of petroleum, 10% of natural gas, and 5% of coal.


Portugal is a leading producer of tungsten, zinc, copper, lithium, and rock salt. Feasibility studies for gold and other base-metal projects are in progress. The Portuguese government is focusing on boosting exports and other structural reforms to reduce the debt crisis and raise GDP growth.

According to recent reports, Lundin Mining is expected to invest about 750 million euros to expand Neves Corvo zinc and copper project with a planned capacity of 52,500 to 57,000 t of copper and 30,000 to 40,000 t of zinc.

Thanks to increasing investment and high metals prices in global markets, the debt-laden country is actively offering mining concessions in an attempt to add revenue to the depleted state funds. In 2010, the foreign direct investment inflow of the country was $47 billion, with the petroleum processing industry contributing nearly 23%. The government is planning to invest $2 billion to develop the country’s refining industries during 2012.

The country’s mining industry is expected to remain strong in the coming years and will continue to create more job opportunities in the country.

Disclaimer: The author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.

Sources and Further Reading

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