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Rio Tinto competitors back anti-mining protests in Serbia - Vucic

Author Radomir Ralev
Rio Tinto competitors back anti-mining protests in Serbia - Vucic Source: Serbian President's Office

BELGRADE (Serbia), December 2 (SeeNews) - Protests by Serbian environmentalists against the mining industry in the country are backed by competitors of Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto, which is developing the $2.4 billion (2.1 billion euro) Jadar lithium project, Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic said.

"European countries that send money want another company to take over the lithium, not Rio Tinto, especially when it comes to companies from Germany," Vucic said in a statement on Wednesday.

On Saturday, hundreds of people blocked major roads and bridges in Belgrade and Novi Sad to protest against new laws which they claim will facilitate the business of foreign investors in the mining industry, causing irreversible damage to the environment.

"Among the companies that produce lithium are well-known European companies, but also a large number of Chinese companies. There is a real war going on. One reason is the huge money invested in Serbia," Vucic said.

Serbia is ready to launch a local referendum for the development of Jadar project, near the western town of Loznica, as the local community's opposition to the project is growing, Vucic said earlier this year.

"Serbia has lithium, and whether it will use it is another matter. We need to talk to the people about how and when. If the Environmental Impact Study (of the Jadar project) is unfavourable, I will change my mind," Vucic said on Wednesday.

Jadar, discovered by Rio Tinto geologists in 2004 near Loznica, would be capable of delivering approximately 55,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate, as well as 160,000 tonnes of boric acid and 255,000 tonnes of sodium sulfate as by-products per year. Rio Tinto plans to complete the construction of an underground mine at the Jadar lithium borate project site in 2026.

($ = 0.88254 euro)

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