Rio Sava Exploration, a subsidiary of mining giant Rio Tinto, plans to start building a mine in western Serbia in 2022 and expects to complete it in 2026. Representatives of local residents, however, insist that they will stop the project, and they are convinced the mine will not be built.
In the latest presentation of its project to mine jadarite ore for the production of lithium, Rio Tinto insisted that this will be “a mine for the 21st century” and that it will comply with the strictest environmental protection standards. There was no mention of the protests and discontent of the Loznica area residents over the lack of information on how damaging jadarite mining and processing will be for the environment, what technology will be applied, and whether they will have to move out of their homes.
The residents had already realized that they would have to fight for their rights because Rio Tinto enjoys the state’s support. This was recently confirmed by Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, when she rejected any doubts as to whether the investment would be justifiable.
32,000 signatures collected for petition against jadarite mine
Representatives of several organizations opposing the jadarite mine project have handed Prime Minister Ana Brnabić a petition against the mine, backed by 32,000 signatures, N1 has reported. The signatures were collected by an organization called Kreni-Promeni, and the campaign was backed by three other associations, including the Defend Rivers of Mt. Stara Planina movement.
Dragana Đorđević, who spoke on behalf of the signatories in a meeting with Brnabić, earlier said that the project would do more harm than good.
Zlatko Kokanović, a local activist, said that residents are worried and scared, and that Rio Tinto is putting pressure on them to sell their land.
Prodanović (Rio Sava Exploration): A mine for the 21st century
The area where the mine and processing facilities will be located (Facebook/Protect Jadar and Rađevina)
According to the Jadar project presentation, Rio Tinto has already invested USD 250 million, and intends to invest a further EUR 1.5 billion over the next four years.
“This will be a mine for the 21st century,” said Vesna Prodanović, general manager of Rio Sava Exploration.
The company is currently buying land, conducting environmental studies, and working on obtaining construction permits
The processing facility, according to her, will produce boric acid, sodium sulfate, and lithium carbonate, which is used in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles, according to a report by the Beta news agency.
The company is currently working on technical documentation, land acquisition, an environmental impact assessment, and construction permits, she added.
Three environmental impact studies will be completed by the end of the year
By the end of this year, according to Prodanović, three new environmental impact studies should be completed – for the mine, for the mineral processing facility, and for industrial waste.
Prodanović said that Rio Tinto will observe the strictest environmental protection requirements, including the protection of water, protection from dust and noise, but also the rehabilitation of waste dump sites that remain after production.
The jadarite processing flowsheet has never been applied before
She added that the jadarite ore is unique in the world, so its processing flowsheet cannot be compared with those applied elsewhere in the world.
The flowsheet developed by Rio Tinto, according to her, is the best possible one from the point of view of extraction and reduced environmental impacts.
Alimpić (Protect Jadar and Rađevina): There will be no mine
Marija Alimpić from the Protect Jadar and Rađevina association has told Balkan Green Energy News that Rio Tinto representatives said nothing new at the presentation, while they also admitted that environmental impact assessments have not been produced. Without these documents, she asks, how can they claim that the mine will not cause pollution?
“Resistance among the locals is growing, their anger is growing. We’re prepared to stop the construction of the mine, and we’re convinced that there will be no mine. It remains to be seen how long it will take for them to realize this,” says Alimpić.
Residents are being threatened with expropriation unless they sell their land
She says that lawyers have been threatening residents with expropriation if they don’t sell their land to Rio Tinto. That, she insists, is unconstitutional and illegal because the private interests of some company cannot be declared to be in the public interest, which is required for expropriation.
How a hectare of oak forest was cut down
The situation on the ground is best illustrated by a recent serious environmental incident in the villages of Gornje Nedeljice, Donje Nedeljice, Brezjak, and Slatina, when a hectare of old oak forest was cut down. According to Alimpić, she has been told by forest inspectors from Krupanj that the trees were cut illegally.
The forest was located on land that Rio Tinto has bought or intends to buy, she added.
No study produced by Rio Tinto can realistically justify the existence of a mine, and especially a dumping site, on the location where the company plans to build it, namely in the middle of a populated area and in the floodplain of the River Jadar, she explained.