There is turmoil in Portugal’s political scene, with the country’s prime minister, Antonio Costa, submitting his resignation to the country’s president amid investigation into alleged irregularities to the government’s handling of it with the lithium and hydrogen mining projects in the country.
According to the prosecutor’s office, five people were taken into custody as part of the investigation, including Vitor Escaria, Costa’s chief of staff, and a business consultant.
Earlier, as reported by Reuters, they took place over 40 raids on various government buildingsincluding the office of Escaria and the ministries of Infrastructure and Environment.
It is noted that Costa, a socialist, has been in power since 2015.
Antonio Costa at an EU meeting
Costa’s first statements
After the rapid developments, the resigned Prime Minister of Portugal states that “the dignity of the duties of the Prime Minister is not compatible with the suspicion of any criminal act. Obviously I submitted my resignation to the President of the Republic”.
“I want to say face to face that no illegal act weighs on my conscience. I have confidence in Justice” he added.
Costa explained what the next steps will be after the resignation, saying among other things how “My resignation was accepted by the President of the Republic. He may wish to consider from what date my resignation will be effective. I, of course, as provided by the Constitution, will remain in my position until I am replaced.”
Last January, prosecutors confirmed that an investigation was underway into the lithium and hydrogen programs, but did not name any suspects.
It is worth emphasizing that Portugal’s lithium mines and green hydrogen projects constitute part of the continent’s green initiative promoted by the European Union.
Investigators raided government buildings on Tuesday morning, including the prime minister’s official residence, the environment ministry and the residence of Infrastructure Minister João Galamba.
The Ministry of Environment confirmed the investigations and announced that today’s program of Minister Duarte Cordeiro has been cancelled.
The mayor of the city of Sines, Nuño Mascarenias, was taken into custody, according to Publico, as were two businessmen. There are investment plans for the construction of hydrogen plants in Sines.
The SIC Noticias network reported that Costa met Tuesday morning with President Marcelo Rebelo de Souza to explain.
Pool Photo via AP, file
The controversial lithium and hydrogen mining projects
Costa’s socialist government has enthusiastically supported numerous lithium mining projects in various regions of Portugal as part of the EU’s wider effort to secure critical raw materials, but these plans have come under fire due to the low quality of the elements to be extracted and the disproportionate environmental damage expected from the operations.
A Politico publication refers to a 2021 investigation into one of the mining systems in Montealgre highlighting these controversies, ultimately leading the Portuguese government to cancel a major project in the area.
The prime minister’s close aide, who was arrested, has also bet big on a green hydrogen production system at the port of Sines, Portugal’s largest man-made port, a project funded with billions of euros by the EU.