After a large-scale protest shakes the country’s administration, local officials have put a $2.4 billion project on hold.
Following protests by environmentalists that rattled the country’s populist government, local officials in western Serbia have postponed a plan to allow the mining corporation Rio Tinto to operate a lithium mine.
The lithium mining was set to begin soon, but a town council in Loznica voted to halt a regional development plan that allowed for its excavation. According to ecologists, the vote came after two critical measures in Serbia’s parliament were suspended last week, which would have aided the international corporation in starting the project.
Thousands of protestors in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia blocked significant roads and bridges for three weekends in a row to oppose Rio Tinto’s intention to start a $2.4 billion (£1.4 billion) mining operation in the nation. The protests were the most serious challenge yet to Serbian President Aleksandar Vui’s increasingly dictatorial regime.
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“Whether there will be a mine relies on the people [in western Serbia] and the environmental effect assessment study,” Ana Brnabi, Serbia’s prime minister, stated. “These are the two prerequisites mentioned by the president.”
Rio Tinto on 16 Dec said that during its 10-year presence in Serbia, it followed the law and maintained the highest professional standards to launch “the world’s largest mining venture.”
According to the independent Beta news agency, the statement read, “We realise the interest of residents in everything that happens in connection with the project, and we will continue to offer information on all areas of the project for which we are responsible and in which we participate.”
Organizers of the weekend protests argued the lithium mining might cause long-term ecological damage to rivers and agriculture in the region, despite Rio Tinto’s assurances that it will adhere to all current environmental protection regulations.
Now that the lithium mining plans have been put on hold, Vui remarked earlier this week that “we will have to speak to Rio Tinto and others in a different way.”
As the globe transitions to more renewable energy sources, lithium, which is deployed in batteries used in electric cars, has become one of the most sought-after metals of the future.
Despite the European Union’s requests for countries to decrease CO2 emissions, Vui has committed to continuing and even expanding coal mining for power plants as Serbia faces an electricity shortfall.
Environmentalists are outraged by the Serbian government’s failure to respond to the country’s rising pollution levels