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Serbian police charge local activists for resisting revival of Rio Tinto’s lithium project

Serbian police charge local activists resisting revival Rio Tinto lithium

Photo: Ne damo Jadar / Facebook

Published

July 8, 2024

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Published:

July 8, 2024

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Seven people were arrested and criminally charged in Loznica in western Serbia at a protest against Rio Tinto’s project for a lithium mine and processing plant. They blocked the railroad ahead of the Supreme Court’s ruling. They expect the tribunal will reinstate the spatial plan, which the government abolished in 2022, halting the investment.

Some two hundred people cheered as two of the leaders of the local Ne damo Jadar group and five more activists were released from police custody in Loznica. Rio Tinto is planning a lithium mine and processing plant in the territory of the western Serbian city. The Ne damo Jadar movement blocked the local railway, resulting in the arrests.

Zlatko Kokanović will be criminally charged with jeopardizing traffic with dangerous means and attacking officers authorized by law, alongside two misdemeanors, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said. Nebojša Petković is also facing a criminal charge for allegedly attacking on-duty police.

Police claim eight officers were injured

Eight officers suffered scratches and hematomas, according to the ministry. The other five people that were apprehended will be charged with obstructing police work, it added. Following the arrest, people from Loznica and nearby cities and municipalities gathered in front of the police station.

Petković said everyone denied the claims.

In January 2022, following mass protests throughout Serbia by locals and activists, the government said it would scrap Rio Tinto’s Jadar project. In the meantime, the Anglo-Australian mining giant continued with its activities, while top state officials renewed support for the investment.

The Ne damo Jadar group is part of the Association of Environmental Organizations of Serbia (SEOS). The site for the mine is in the Gornje Nedeljice village, where both Kokanović and Petković reside.

Jadar project hinges on upcoming Supreme Court ruling

The latest protest was prompted by news that the Supreme Court of Serbia is meeting on July 11. Environmentalists expect that judges will overturn the abolishment of the spatial plan.

Ne damo Jadar and other organizations called for a gathering in front of the Supreme Court in Belgrade on the day of the session. Last week they submitted a demand to the Government of Serbia to adopt a law banning the exploration and exploitation of lithium and boron in the entire country.

The parliament ignored a compulsory petition to discuss banning lithium and boron exploration and mining in the entire Serbia

The activists threatened to block railroads 40 days later if they receive no reply.

Of note, the opponents of the Jadar project already submitted a petition in 2022 with over 38,000 signatures, in accordance with the Law on the Referendum and the People’s Initiative, to ban the exploration and mining of lithium and boron in the country. It obligated the National Assembly of Serbia to discuss the matter but it disregarded the document.

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