Belgrade, 21 January 2022 (dpa/MIA) – Environmentalist groups claimed victory on Friday after the Serbian government’s decision to withdraw a law providing the legal basis for a lithium mining project in western Serbia planned by the British-Australian company Rio Tinto.
But the same environmentalists said on Friday that they suspected the move might be a tactical concession ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections on April 3.
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Ana Brnabic revoked the land development plan for the Loznica region at its last meeting on Thursday.
“The story of Rio Tinto in Serbia is thus closed,” Brnabic declared after the government meeting.
The British-Australian company wants to mine around 2.3 million tons of lithium carbonate in the western Serbian Jadar Valley from 2027.
Lithium is an important component of batteries such as those installed in electric cars. The mining company has been pushing the project in Serbia for years and concluded corresponding agreements with various governments in Belgrade.
The about-turn by the current Cabinet came after weeks of protests and roadblocks by environmentalists who see the natural landscapes of the Jadar Valley endangered by mining.
The environmentalists pointed out that the revocation of the spatial development plan did not mean a fundamental end to lithium mining in Serbia.
Opposition politician Nebojsa Zelenovic, who comes from the Jadar region, told the news portal danas.rs on Friday: “The withdrawal of Rio Tinto can only be guaranteed by a legal ban on lithium mining.”