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Serbian govt likely to terminate all contracts with Rio Tinto - Vucic

Serbian govt likely to terminate all contracts with Rio Tinto - Vucic Source: Serbian President's Office

BELGRADE (Serbia), January 13 (SeeNews) - Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic said the government will most likely terminate all contracts with Anglo-Australian mining group Rio Tinto, which has been granted lithium exploration rights in the Jadar region.

The Jadar project has the potential to produce approximately 58,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium carbonate and position Rio Tinto as the largest lithium supplier in Europe for at least the next 15 years, the company has estimated.

Serbia, however, would face international arbitration as a consequence, Vucic said in an interview with state broadcaster RTS TV on Wednesday.

Amendments to the mining law made in 2006 would enable Rio Tinto to request compensation from Serbia, including the amount it invested in the project and the lost profit, Vucic said.

After public protests that took place in November and December, the government withdrew from parliament a bill proposing changes to the expropriation law. The protesters argued that the law would enable foreign mining companies to undertake projects regardless of their harmfulness to the environment.

In mid-December, Loznica municipality officials annulled the spatial plan under which land for the planned mine would be given to Rio Tinto.

The company's Serbian subsidiary, Rio Sava Exploration, announced shortly after a temporary halt to the project, meant to enable a comprehensive public debate about the project.

According to Rio Tinto's website, the project is valued at $2.4 billion (2.1 billion euro). Full-scale production of battery-grade lithium carbonate is expected in 2029, the company has said.

In March, 2021, Serbia's prime minister Ana Brnabic said the country plans to ban the export of lithium from the Jadar deposit in a bid to become a European hub for the production of batteries, electric cars and other products containing lithium. However, it has still not moved forth with a ban.

(1 euro = $1.146)

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