Protests held in Serbia against large scale mining bid by Rio Tinto

Resident collectives, environment and progressive political groups intensified protests against the mining giant Rio Tinto for large scale mining of lithium-rich jadarite

July 31, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Protest in Loznica, Serbia. Photo: Ne davimo Beograd

Residents of the Serbian town of Loznica intensified protests against the proposed opening of a Lithium mine by the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto in the Jadar and Drina rivers in Serbia. On July 29, Thursday,  hundreds of residents of Loznica and several environmental rights groups including Ne davimo Beograd, Protect Jadar and Radjevina, the Coalition for Sustainable Mining in Serbia, Podrinje Anti-Corruption Team (PAKT), Ne damo Jadar and Kreni Pokreni protested in front of  the City Assembly where the implementation of the mining project was discussed. The protesters alleged that for the imagined financial benefits from the mining project, the authorities are neglecting the likely impact on the lives of the people and their right to clean water, as well as the degradation of the environment.

According to reports, Rio Tinto — the second largest metal and mining corporation in the world — had announced its intent to make investments in mining in Serbia following the discovery of jadarite ore which has high concentrations of Lithium and Boronin. The group also signed an MoU in 2017 with the Serbian government for the development of world-class lithium deposits in the villages of Jadra — Brezjak, Slatina, Stupnica and Nedeljice. Following the deal, the government issued several permits for mining across the country and bids are underway to dilute the laws on mining, water conservation, spatial plans and environmental regulation among others to ensure hassle-free mining activity. 

Various environmental rights groups, progressive political groups, academic community and residents of the towns of proposed mining sites have come together to protest and campaign against the plans. Earlier in the wake of protests, the Serbian president hinted at the possibility of a public referendum on the large-scale mining. The Ro Tinto group has maintained a defiant attitude towards the protests.

During the protest on Thursday, Radomir Lazović from the movement, Let’s Not Drown Belgrade, stated that mining in Jadar and Drina rivers will leave the investors with profit and the citizens to face the consequences, primarily diseases and ecological migration.

According to a Masina report, Podrinje Anti-Corruption Team (PAKT) accused Rio Tinto of having a  notorious track record of anti-people, anti environment activities in many places such as Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Madagascar and Western Australia.

The global pursuit of “green transport” to reduce the carbon footprint and thereby to control climate change has resulted in large-scale demand for lithium, which is essential for the production of lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars and other electric vehicles.