21st July 2024

Protestors rally towards Serbian lithium mine

By Mina PEJAKOVIC

Loznica, Serbia (AFP) June 28, 2024

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in western Serbia to protest the opening of a controversial lithium mining mission that has been halted for years by protests over environmental fears.

The rally comes after President Aleksandar Vucic advised The Monetary Occasions this month that Serbia might start mining lithium as early as 2028 following new ensures from Anglo-Australian mining large Rio Tinto.

The way forward for the huge mineral deposits, to be mined by Rio Tinto close to Loznica, stays a perennial political fault line within the Balkan nation.

It pits festering mistrust within the Serbian authorities towards Europe’s plans for a greener future.

Opposition politicians have been amongst these attending the protest, which was organised by an alliance of environmental teams.

“We’ve come to free ourselves,” mentioned one protester, 44-year-old mechanic Petar Cergic.

“I imagine that the groundwater shall be contaminated. I needn’t take heed to anybody, no scientist: not one of the mining right here is ecological, so this can’t be both.”

One other protester, 70-year-old Ljubinka Spasic denounced the mining mission as a “deprivation of the suitable to life and existence.

“This has crossed each boundary of destruction and endangerment of Serbia and the Serbian individuals.”

– Public well being fears –

Billions of euros are at stake, with Rio Tinto saying it could present 1000’s of jobs and safe Serbia’s place in rising power markets.

The corporate mentioned the world holds certainly one of Europe’s largest reserves of lithium, a strategically worthwhile steel essential for electrical automobile battery manufacturing.

The deposits have been found in 2004 however the Serbian authorities halted the mining mission in 2022 after weeks of protests sparked by fears over the surroundings and public well being.

“We demand {that a} remaining determination be made and that the mission be terminated,” one activist, Zlatko Kokanovic, advised AFP as protestors started massing within the space close to Loznica for the night rally.

The mission “would depart us actually with out high quality ingesting water, result in air air pollution, and naturally, soil contamination”, he added.

Vucic mentioned the mine was anticipated to supply 58,000 tonnes of lithium a yr, sufficient to provide 1.1 million autos or 17 % of Europe’s electrical automobile manufacturing.

Opponents have accused each Vucic and Rio Tinto of not being clear concerning the course of.

The mining large lately revealed an environmental influence report aimed toward assuaging considerations, saying the enterprise would depend on “secure, dependable, and confirmed expertise”.

Among the many demonstrators have been round thirty activists who had arrived on foot from Belgrade, greater than 100 kilometres (62 miles) away.

“We needed to indicate them our dedication by coming to the protest in Loznica on foot from Belgrade,” mentioned Ivan Bjelic, an activist from the Mars sa Drine motion.

That he mentioned, each the corporate and Serbia would “think twice about what they may do — and what we are going to do in the event that they plan to carry machines to Loznica… or any surrounding village”, he added.

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