An ongoing brouhaha between lithium minnow Novo Litio and the seller of a project in Portugal has taken a sinister turn with threats of violence levelled at Novo staff.

Novo staff had received ongoing threats of violence from privately-owned Portuguese exploration junior Lusorecursos, which had previously agreed to sell Novo its licences for a project called Sepeda.

Novo (ASX:NLI) was forced to withdraw all personnel from the site yesterday afternoon with only security personnel remaining to ward off vandals.

Lusorecursos staff, who have previously been caught trespassing on-site, began illegally drilling again after all staff left site.

The National Republican Guard was called to remove Lusorecursos staff — but a force from Montelegre (the Portuguese municipality in which Sepeda lies) was not willing to remove Lusorecursos.

A criminal complaint for trespassing has been lodged by Novo against Lusorecursos.

Novo has reported site contamination, unauthorised clearing, unsafe working practices and potential damage undertaken by Novo.

“We await official responses from these departments, and are working closely with our local legal counsel to maintain our rights in relation to Sepeda,” Novo said.

The brouhaha began last year when Novo, then Dakota Minerals, inked a binding deal with Lusorecursos to acquire a tenement package over the three most prospective areas for spodumene and petalite-hosted lithium in Portugal.

Novo has been trying to get its hands on a mining licence application for the project before the current exploration licence expires on December 7.

However, Lusorecursos has been playing hard ball with Novo for several months. Novo believes it has binding and enforceable legal rights and has begun legal proceedings against the vendor.

Novo expects legal proceedings will be determined next month, which would allow it to submit the Mining Licence application before December 7, which is the last date for application.

Stockhead is seeking further comment from Novo.

Shares in Novo were trading 9 per cent down at 5.4c at noon.