The Association of Environmental Organizations of Serbia (SEOS) urged the Ministry of Mining and Energy to meet its demands by November 1 and suspend and revise all licenses issued to Rio Tinto and other mining companies. At a press conference in front of the ministry’s building, members of the academic community pointed to potential threats to the environment from additional mining.
Activists held a press conference in front of the Ministry of Mining and Energy to highlight what they see as alarming activities of mining companies and the geological exploration that is being conducted in Serbia. Environmentalists noted that the government earlier claimed that it stopped the activity.
After a series of protests, the Government of Serbia formally halted Rio Tinto’s Jadar lithium project on January 20.
However, environmentalists now reiterated that the activity continued. They formed a crisis headquarters in the village of Gornje Nedeljice near Loznica, where Rio Tinto intends to build a lithium mine and processing unit.
Mining companies continued with project activities
Zlatko Kokanović from the Ne damo Jadar group said 27 plots were registered in the name of Rio Tinto’s subsidiary Rio Sava from January 20 to September 1. He asked
Near the village of Sibnica in the municipality of Rekovac, local activists stopped the machines that they claim were preparing the terrain for an exploration well. The company Balkan istraživanja has obtained permits for geological exploration in the area, which the locals strongly oppose.
Aside from Jadar and Rekovac, locals and activists gathered in SEOS are demanding the suspension of mining activities throughout Serbia – on the Starica mountain near Majdanpek, in the Homolje mountain range, and in areas near Požega, Valjevo and Loznica.
Environmentalists oppose mining in almost all places where exploration permits have been granted and where mines are planned to be built. Kokanović pointed out that from 2011 to 2020 a total of 528 exploration wells were drilled.
List of demands
SEOS demands the withdrawal and revision of all permits that the Government of Serbia approved for Rio Tinto and other mining and exploration companies.
In its list of demands, SEOS said Rio Tinto has to leave Serbia immediately.
The responsible ministry then needs to cancel all land purchase contracts made after the decision that was announced on January 20, activists said.
In addition, SEOS demands the disclosure of all the government’s contracts and obligations. It said Rio Tinto’s request to determine the exploitation field needs to be rejected.
Environmental organizations demand that the people’s initiative for the permanent ban on the exploitation of boron and lithium be verified and put on the agenda of Serbia’s parliament.
Last but not least, SEOS requests the Law on Mining to be changed.
Rio Tinto and all similar companies “that want to dig and drill” around Serbia can only be stopped if all the demands are met, Kokanović said.
Low trust in institutions
Environmental activists that founded the group have been resisting exploration and mining for several years.
“This is the last attempt to cooperate through institutions, which disappointed us a long time ago,” said Ljiljana Bralović from SEOS. She stressed that activists would radicalize protests after November 1 if all their demands are not met.
“We are very serious because we have no choice,” Bralović said.
At least 40 mining projects, of which 10 are for lithium and boron, are planned in Serbia by 2035, according to Serbia’s draft spatial plan for the period from 2021 to 2035.