Serbian environmentalist groups have welcomed the Serbian government’s moves to cancel a controversial lithium mining project by Rio Tinto – but say the fight goes on against a host of other such projects.

Serbian Activists Doubt Govt’s Sincerity in Cancelling Lithium Mine

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and PM Ana Brnabic meeting Rio Tinto delegation. June 2021. Photo: Serbia’s Presidency

After Serbia’s government on Wednesday revoked a key decree greenlighting Rio Tinto’s controversial lithium mining project, activists said they did not trust government promises that the mining project is over for good, fearing what might happen after elections in April.

The Association of Environmental Organizations of Serbia, SEOS, announced that the fight would continue, noting that Prime Minister Ana Brnabic had not clarified many points.

“She did not say what we will do with the damage and with the wells that are leaking, she did not say whether she will ban research into lithium and boron. She did not tell us … who from her government persistently pushed the project,” SEOS stated on Twitter, announcing a public protest on Saturday.

Savo Manojlovic, from the NGO Kreni-Promeni, who was behind the idea of road blockades, said the repeal of the government decree on changing the spatial plan of Loznica in western Serbia for the Rio Rinto project was only one of the conditions his organisation had set for calling off protests, The second condition remains – total ban exploitation of boron and lithium for 20 years.

“Also, they need to explain why we banned Rio Tinto from digging in Jadar [near Loznica], but left Eurolitium to dig around Valjevo [in western Serbia]. They are also literally setting themselves up to pay compensation to Rio Tinto,” Manojlovic wrote on Twitter.

A representative of the NGO Environmental Uprising, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Cuta, congratulated all the citizens who fought against the lithium mine and Rio Tinto, but also announced the continuation of the fight against other environmentally problematic mining projects.

“Rio Tinto is not the only mining company; we have 50 new mines that have been included in spatial plans,” Jovanovic said.

Rio Tinto meanwhile said it was concerned about the statement of Prime Minister Brnabic, that the spatial plan for the lithium mine had been abolished, and that all administrative acts related to the project were being annulled.

“During our work on the Jadar Project, we always respected the laws of the Republic of Serbia,” the company said, adding that it was considering the legal basis for this decision, and “the implications it may have for our activities and our people in Serbia”.

Public outrage linked to fears for the environment peaked in protests and road blockages at the end of last year. President Aleksandar Vucic and the government felt forced to back down.

With elections coming in April, Vucic and his protégée, Brnabic, first announced they might stop the project, but also warned that this could cost the country if the multinational sued the country.

Previously, Vucic had supported the project and did everything to enable it. The government signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with Rio in 2017, formed a joint working group for the project, changed the essential local spatial plan by government decree, and started infrastructure works for the project – even before an exploitation permit was granted. However, the mining giant did not get a permit for exploitation, which is the last and most decisive element in the procedural chain.

Source link: