Rio Tinto wants to restart negotiations with the Serbian government on the USD 2.4 billion Jadar project for lithium production, its top executive said at the annual shareholders’ meeting in Australia after which he stepped down due to public outrage over the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal settlement in Australia by the company.
Company Chair Simon Thompson pointed out that it believes it would be able to discuss all options with the Government of Serbia now the elections are over, Reuters reported.
At the shareholders’ meeting, Simon Thompson stressed that the Jadar project could satisfy 90 percent of the current European needs for lithium. It is also crucial for Serbia because it could stimulate the economic development of the country and open opportunities for the development of a downstream business to supply green technology to the European automotive market, in his words.
After the event, CEO Jakob Stausholm told reporters that the company is developing other projects that would make it a lithium producer but that it is evident they have not given up on the Jadar project. It is a perfect project with impeccable environmental, social, and governance characteristics, Stausholm added.
CEO Jakob Stausholm: The company hasn’t given up on the Jadar project, it is perfect
Simon Thompson also said that, according to Serbian regulations, Rio Tinto could not publish its environmental and social impact assessment before obtaining government approval. This led to misinformation about the project that was circulating ahead of the elections in Serbia, he added.
Thompson pointed out the company understands the local community’s concerns but believes the concerns have been largely resolved by the environmental impact assessments the company has done.
Of note, Simon Thompson ended his term as chair after the shareholders’ meeting. According to Reuters, he stepped down due to public outrage over the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal settlement in Australia to expand the iron ore mine.
Vučić lamenting over Serbia’s decision to terminate cooperation with Rio Tinto
Almost immediately after the elections in which he won a new mandate, Aleksandar Vučić, the President of Serbia, stated that the decision to terminate cooperation with Rio Tinto was wrong. He also added that the Jadar project would make the area the most developed in Serbia, but now he doesn’t see how it could be changed. He told national broadcaster RTS he wouldn’t have terminated cooperation but that he understood the decision of Prime Minister Ana Brnabić. The decision came after citizens blocked streets and roads throughout Serbia several weeks in a row.