Tuesday, January 18

Lithium mining: environmentalists block roads in Serbia

Hundreds of environmental demonstrators blocked roads on Saturday in several cities in Serbia, including Belgrade, to protest against a project by Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto which wants to exploit lithium in this Balkan country.

Significant deposits of lithium, essential for the manufacture of batteries for electric cars, are found in eastern Serbia, around the town of Loznica, where the company has started buying land, but is still waiting for the green light from the State to open the mines.

In Belgrade, protesters blocked the capital’s main bridge, Gazela, and a large intersection for an hour after clashes with forces that ultimately let them take possession, an AFP journalist reported.

“I’m here because I don’t want them to sell the land of my ancestors. Serbia is not for sale,” protester Milan Milosavljevic, 31, told AFP.

Protesters blocked roads in several other cities across the country, including Novi Sad (north), Kragujevac (center), Sabac (northwest) and Valjevo (east), according to N1 television.

Environmental organizations, which denounce the Rio Tinto project, decided to demonstrate after the adoption this week by the Serbian Parliament of amendments to the laws on the referendum and on expropriation.

These organizations claim that the legislation has been changed to accommodate the investor, which the government has denied.

Rio Tinto discovered in 2006 the lithium reserves in the Loznica region.

The company intends to invest 2.4 billion dollars (2.12 billion euros) in this project, declared at the end of October Vesna Prodanovic, director of Rio Sava, sister company of Rio Tinto in Serbia.

According to a financial plan presented recently by the company, the exploitation of lithium could bring to Serbia an annual “direct” profit of 627 million dollars (553 million euros) and generate in addition 885 million dollars (781 million euros). ‘euros) of profits in connected sectors.

“Nothing will happen without the people’s decision,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday, assuring that the Serbian government should first analyze the project before holding a referendum.

The new legislation no longer provides for the necessary participation of 50% of voters for the validity of the result of a referendum.

Reference-www.rtl.be

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