Environment

Activists: Rio Tinto to bring mining equipment to Serbia for its halted lithium project

Activists Rio Tinto mining equipment Serbia halted lithium

Photo: Medija centar

Published

March 29, 2022

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Published:

March 29, 2022

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Presidential candidate Biljana Stojković from the Moramo coalition and the Assembly of Free Serbia, Bojana Novaković from the Marš sa Drine environmentalist network and Marijana Petković from the Association of Environmental Organizations of Serbia said they learned that Rio Tinto bought a boring machine for the shaft for the lithium mining project in Jadar area and that it is supposed to be delivered in April.

Environmentalists cited an anonymous source who they said got the information from Associate Professor Saša Stojadinović from the Technical Faculty in Bor in a telephone conversation that Rio Tinto’s Serbian subsidiary Rio Sava ordered a machine to bore the mining shaft for its lithium exploitation project in the Jadar valley in the country’s west.

Biljana Stojković, presidential candidate from the We Must (Moramo) coalition and the Assembly of Free Serbia (SSS), Bojana Novaković from the Marš sa Drine initiative and Marijana Petković from the Association of Environmental Organizations of Serbia (SEOS) played an audio recording of a conversation, in which they claim was said that the equipment is supposed to be delivered by an Austrian and a German company. They said they didn’t name the individual that they got the tape from for the sake of the person’s security.

In an emotional address at a press conference in Belgrade, the activists stressed that the authorities in Serbia are still supporting Rio Tinto even though the project was officially halted in January. They called on voters not to support President Aleksandar Vučić and the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), warning that otherwise the project would be resumed after the April 3 elections.

The Jadar area is part of the City of Loznica administrative area.

Another tape to be released tomorrow

Biljana Stojković from the green-left We Must list and political activist group Assembly of Free Serbia (Skupština slobodne Srbije) said the tape was recorded on March 26 and that they would release another one tomorrow. The machine is scheduled to be delivered to the site in Jadar in April, she asserted. The person on the recording that the female activists identified as Professor Saša Stojadinović says it is “highly probable.”

“This wouldn’t be happening if the government didn’t have a deal with Rio Sava,” Biljana Stojković underscored. The aforementioned person says on the tape that the faculty would “probably help” to align the documentation for the equipment with Serbian regulation and that the faculty signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Stojković: We are witnessing that citizens are being tricked, all the citizens who protested in the streets, who blocked roads exactly because of environmental pollution, mining around Serbia which is completely out of control

“So much for the Rio Tinto’s project being canceled. Not only is it not canceled, but the project is still ongoing, but out of public sight. But we have proof it is being done and that state institutions are involved. So it is deceit. The citizens have been deceived. The whole story was pushed aside only until the presidential, parliamentary and Belgrade elections are over, and then the intention is to continue everything as it was. So we are witnessing that citizens are being tricked, all the citizens who protested in the streets, who blocked roads exactly because of environmental pollution, mining around Serbia which is completely out of control,” Stojković said.

She called on voters to pick anyone except Vučić and SNS. Biljana Stojković asserted that the machine in question is very expensive and that it can bore a vertical shaft with a 12-meter diameter that is 150 meters deep.

Campaign based on lies

“The ruling party’s campaign is based on a lie that Rio Tinto left this country… If we vote for the ruling party, we vote for treason, sellout and colonization,” Bojana Novaković claimed. She noted that there is no legal basis for conducting such works and that there is no environmental impact study.

Novaković later told Balkan Green Energy News that, by all indications, German companies Thyssen Schachtbau (TS Gruppe) and DMT were hired for the job and that Herrenknecht, also from Germany, would supply the equipment.

Rio Sava still buying land, there is massive deforestation

Marijana Petković from SEOS, who lives in Gornje Nedeljice, the village that is affected the most by the project, said that activists know from tracking sales tax payments that Rio Sava is still buying land there. The employees in the local real estate cadastre office have been told not to book the transaction but to put it aside for now, she asserted.

A mining inspector came to the area twice lately together with the company’s representatives, she said. Petković claims 160 hectares have been purchased so far out of the necessary 254 hectares in total. She accused Rio Sava of blackmailing the remaining locals and pressuring them into selling their land and added that massive deforestation is ongoing.

SEOS and the locals demanded the land to be returned to the original state and for the damage to be assessed, but there was no reply

There are still 528 drillholes in the area and it is clear that the leaks are damaging the concrete around them and destroying crops, Petković underscored. She pointed out that activists and the local population demanded the land to be returned to the original state, that all location licenses be annulled, to assess the damage and convert the land now designated for construction purposes back to agricultural and forest land, but that there was no reply.

“The story is completely different in the field from what is being said on television. Not a single member of the city administration in Loznica, from the mayor on to others, has signed the civic initiative for the ban on lithium and borate research and mining, which is sufficient confirmation for us that they are waiting under a rock,” Petković said.

Kreni-promeni needs 3,000 more signatures for lithium ban initiative

The people’s initiative, a new mechanism in Serbia’s legal system, was launched by the Kreni-promeni campaign. Its activists are trying to get 30,000 signatures to make the national parliament decide on the proposal to ban all lithium and borate research and mining. The group said today that only two days are left and that it got the support of 27,000 citizens.

Kreni-promeni has spearheaded some of the massive protests in Serbia against Rio Tinto’s Jadar project for a lithium mine and processing plant, together with SEOS and other environmentalist organizations.

“We believed strongly, and I think that citizens showed that on the street, that democracy in Serbia is not for sale, that the rule of law is not for sale, that Serbia is not for sale”, its Director Savo Manojlović said in Brussels last week at the 13th meeting of the EU-Serbia Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee of the European Economic and Social Committee.

Of note, the Ministry of Environmental Protection officially canceled the procedure in mid-February for the assessment of the environmental impact study for the Jadar lithium project, according to a recently floated document. According to the decision, Rio Sava initiated the cancelation.

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