Environment

Academician Stevanović (SANU): Rio Tinto’s jadarite mine could cause irreversible damage

vladimir stevanovic sanu rio tinto jadarite mine damage

Vladimir Stevanović (photo: Medija centar Beograd)

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June 16, 2021

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Published:

June 16, 2021

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Members of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) have sent Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlović a letter explaining why it is not good for Serbia to allow mining giant Rio Tinto to build a jadarite mine. They are also recommending to the authorities to consider possible complications and irreversible outcomes the project would cause.

The letter and the document sent to Zorana Mihajlović, who is also mining and energy minister, were signed by biologist Vladimir Stevanović, chemist Bogdan Šolaja, and technologist Velimir Radmilović.

Vladimir Stevanović, chairman of the SANU committee on man and the environment, has told Balkan Green Energy News that there is no doubt that the mine would cause more harm than good. The document is thorough, and it contains the three academicians’ views on the project. Those views could be heard at the recently held scientific gathering: “Jadar Project: What is known?” SANU organized.

The mine would cause great and irreversible damage not only to the area where it would be located, but to the entire country

It is a document against the lithium mine, a position for which the authors have provided arguments, according to Stevanović.

He said that the implementation of the project would cause great and irreversible damage, not only to the environment where the mining complex would be located, which has forests, meadows, and agricultural land but also beyond that area. For example, it would endanger Serbia’s important water supply areas in Mačva.

Tailings with toxic residues from ore processing would span over 160 hectares

According to the project, the mine’s tailings storage facility, which would contain toxic residues from ore processing, and span over 160 hectares, would be protected with only a 1.5-millimeter foil. However, Stevanović asks what will happen if it all ends up in the soil, which is likely to happen due to land subsidence. In that situation, the contents of the tailings facility would enter the alluvium and water sources, causing irreparable damage. “What will happen if Serbia is hit by a flood similar to the one seen in 2014? Would the planned barriers around the tailings facility withstand an enormous influx of water and prevent the spillage of toxic materials?” asks Stevanović.

 I doubt that the Podrinje region will flourish, just as neither Bor have flourished

He also said that there is no such thing as “green mining,” as authorities claim it will be the case with Rio Tinto’s mine.

“Some of the terrains are always destroyed. The question now is whether we want that investment, whose negative effects on the environment are unquestionable and have not yet been well estimated. The construction of factories for lithium batteries and electric cars near the mine is still up in the air and may not be realized. If the project is realized, Rio Tinto will have the biggest profit from jadarite mining, thanks to the export of lithium carbonate, while Serbia will only get the mining royalties. I sincerely doubt that the Podrinje region will flourish, just as neither Bor nor Majdanpek has flourished,” Stevanović said.

The construction of factories to make lithium batteries and electric cars is still up in the air

vladimir stevanovic sanu rio tinto jadarite mine
Photo: Medija centar Beograd

Asked whether Serbia would have more damage than benefits from this investment, he said that there would undoubtedly be more damage from the project.

According to Stevanović, the fertile land that the mine complex would occupy could produce quality fruit and other food, which is Serbia’s great chance for development.

“When we look at the draft spatial plan of Serbia, it turns out this will be a mining country. Is this what we want? Or do we want to live in a healthy environment? And we already have environmental hotspots, such as the tailings facilities at Bor and Majdanpek, the tailings, ash deposits, and open-air pits in Kostolac and the Kolubara coal basins, and now we want another one. It will not be possible to limit the impact of the jadarite mine to that location. There is no doubt about that,” he said.

Do we want to live in a mining country or in a healthy environment?

Stevanović also said that the investor would supposedly treat wastewater from the mine. Still, he asked who would control it in this disordered country with a disastrous attitude towards the environment.

“If it weren’t for such a disastrous attitude, Rio Tinto wouldn’t have come here to invest,” he added.

The government’s disastrous attitude towards the environment makes our future uncertain

Stevanović said that the government’s disastrous attitude towards the environment and the population makes Serbia’s future uncertain. According to him, the country is now dealing with reckless people who don’t think too much in advance, which is not very clever when deciding on this kind of project and its impact on the environment.

The “megalomaniac project” to build 850 small hydropower plants

“Let’s ask ourselves what will happen with the beautiful landscapes of Serbia if such projects are implemented throughout Serbia hastily and without a thorough consideration,” he added.

Serbia has already experienced the consequences of the megalomaniac project to build 850 small hydropower plants, which will decimate the rivers in Serbia to secure an amount of electricity that could hardly cover half of the losses in the Serbian power grid caused by theft and unpaid bills. The energy obtained from the SHPPs is declared green, while their impact will be black, concluded Stevanović.

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