Environment

Lithium research is threat to Rekovac municipality, locals and ecologists warn

Photo: Aleksandar Todorović

Published

August 27, 2022

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Published:

August 27, 2022

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Balkan istraživanja Ltd. aims to continue its activities and open more exploration wells in the municipality of Rekovac, the Association of Environmental Organizations of Serbia (SEOS) has announced. The company has received licenses for geological exploration on a total area of almost half the territory of the municipality, according to activists and locals who are concerned about the further developments in this part of Serbia. They say that the Ministry of Mining and Energy should review the issued permits for geological exploration.

In a statement regarding the continuation of the activities of Balkan istraživanja Ltd. in the municipality of Rekovac, SEOS points out that the company is trying in every way to open more exploration wells despite resistance from the locals.

The ecological organizations said the company, registered in Belgrade, has obtained approval for geological exploration on a total area covering almost half of the territory of the municipality. The survey area is 175 sq km, while the territory of the municipality covers 366 sq km.

Rekovac is a small town and municipality located in the Pomoravski District in central Serbia, near Kragujevac. Just over 10,000 people live in the municipality, and about 1,500 are in the city.

The municipal assembly has unanimously decided to amend the municipal spatial plan in order to stop the activities of Balkan istraživanja, SEOS recalls, noting that the procedure is in the final phase.

The area for geological research extends a further 99 sq km into the territory of the municipality of Jagodina. Apart from these two municipalities, Balkan istraživanja has licenses for lithium and borate research in the territories of Pranjani, Dobrinja, and Kosjerić.

Potential research hazards

Residents of places in Serbia where geological explorations are carried out and planned based on past experiences worry about the further fate of their region. Namely, it has been shown in several cases that research into lithium and boron is not an entirely safe process.

SEOS states that there are examples of wells that caused environmental consequences in the villages of Loznica and Valjevo. Not even ambrosia grows around the wells, the level of groundwater is disturbed, while the level of boron and arsenic is elevated in the wells, the activists note.

They are concerned that similar can also happen in Rekovac, where even in half of the municipality’s territory and in populated areas, a zone for lithium and borate exploration has been designated.

The People’s Initiative for a permanent ban on exploration, exploitation, and processing of ores containing lithium, borate, and the accompanying association of metals in the territory of the Republic of Serbia was signed by 38 thousand of citizens.

Responsibility at the Ministry

Locals in the municipality of Rekovac and SEOS state that the competencies for geological exploration belong to the Ministry of Mining and Energy.

Based on the correspondence between this company and the municipal authorities of the municipality of Rekovac, SEOS concludes that the company tried to exert pressure on the local self-government by sending a letter announcing the continuation of exploratory drilling, for which they have legal permits.

In the letter, the company requested that at its expense the municipality of Rekovac form a three-member commission to supervise the works 24/7. The company also offers a EUR 100,000 guarantee if pollution occurs during exploratory drilling operations.

As can be concluded from the correspondence, the municipality responds that there is no legal basis for the establishment of a joint commission for expert supervision of geological works. The competence for this belongs to the Ministry of Mining and Energy of the Republic of Serbia, while “the municipality waives responsibility”, SEOS said.

Ministry to review permits for research

Does the continuation of the research mean that the state is regulated only for the interests of foreign corporations, in which representatives of the authorities create an environment in which they can seamlessly exploit resources, with small compensation and cheap labor, and permanently pollute and destroy the natural environment, the concerned activists asked?

The claim that a small percentage of research areas turn into mines is not a fact that interests us, the activists say. They mention that residents should not become ecological refugees, and fertile and populated territories should not be permanently destroyed for the profit of companies.

Residents should not become ecological refugees, and fertile and populated territories should not be permanently destroyed for the profit of companies

The country must not be destroyed for the EU, the US, or whoever, to implement an “imaginary green agenda” based on countries and regions being sacrificed for it, according to the locals of Rekovac and associations gathered in SEOS.

Many stakeholders and individuals still argue that the issue of lithium mining is a political issue, as well as that is the fuel of the 21st century, SEOS said. They insist that they will not bid and wait for corporations to settle on fertile fields, watercourses, and the health and future of the people.

Competent ministry and the Government should audit all investigative approvals following the opinion of local self-governments, i.e. residents of these areas

Locals and activists pointed out that the competent ministry and the Government should audit all investigative approvals following the opinion of local self-governments, i.e. residents of these areas, and not issue new permits for research in addition to the existing ones. Serbia’s main potentials are the development of agriculture and tourism and nature conservation, SEOS said.

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