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Rio Tinto pushes back Serbia lithium mine production start date

Rio Tinto pushes back Serbia lithium mine production start date Source: Rio Tinto

BELGRADE (Serbia), January 18 (SeeNews) - Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto said on Tuesday that production at its Jadar lithium-borate mine in Serbia is likely to start in 2027, a year later than planned, as the authorities have still not issued an exploitation licence to the company.

"Based on current estimates and subject to receiving all relevant approvals, permits and licences, first saleable production is expected to be no earlier than 2027 (previously 2026)," Rio Tinto said in a statement.

Serbia's president Aleksandar Vucic said last week that the government is likely to terminate all contracts it has with the company.

Serbia would have to face international arbitration as a consequence, and probably reimburse Rio Tinto for the amount it invested in the project and the lost profit, Vucic warned.

After public protests sparked by fears that an amended expropriation law would enable foreign mining companies, including Rio Tinto, to undertake projects irrespective of their impact on the environment, the Serbian government withdrew the piece of legislation from the parliament.

Shortly after, Rio Tinto's Serbian subsidiary, Rio Sava Exploration, announced a temporary halt to the project in order to enable a comprehensive public debate about the different aspects of the project.

According to Rio Tinto's website, the project is valued at $2.4 billion (2.1 billion euro). It initially estimated that full-scale production of battery-grade lithium carbonate can be reached in 2029.

(1 euro = $1.135)

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