RIO TINTO SUSPENDS PROPOSED LITHIUM MINE IN SERBIA AFTER PROTESTS
Rio Tinto suspends proposed lithium mine in Serbia after protests
By Zachary Skidmore, Mining Technology | 17 December 2021
Image above: Thousands of protesters in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia blocked roads and bridges for three weekends. Photograph: Betaphoto/SIPA/Rex/Shutterstock
Rio Tinto has suspended plans to build Europe’s largest lithium mine after sustained protests across the country in opposition to the project. Local authorities in the Serbian town of Loznica voted to suspend a regional development plan that permitted the excavation of lithium, a vote which followed the suspension last week of two key laws in Serbia’s parliament that ecologists said would help the multinational firm start the project.
In response, Rio Tinto said in a statement that it worked in accordance with laws and the highest professional standards throughout its 10-year presence in Serbia to launch “the largest mining investment in this part of the world”.
Protests against the planned mine had been conducted throughout Serbia. In the capital, Belgrade, protesters set up roadblocks on a major highway and bridge that links the city centre to the suburbs. Thousands gathered on the main bridge chanting, “Rio Tinto go away from the Drina River”.
Despite the potential of the Jadar facility in providing significant amounts of lithium to the European market within Serbia, there are fears that it could have a destructive environmental impact. The Jadar Valley is one of Serbia’s main agricultural hubs, responsible for around a fifth of total agricultural production.
Given the dubious record of Rio Tinto in preventing environmental degradation on their mine sites, many within Serbia have shown outright objection to the project.
The local authority’s decision to block the regional development plan will further motivate protestors to continue the movement towards Rio Tinto pulling out of the region altogether.