Rio Tinto says environmental studies show Serbian lithium project is safe


June 14, 2024

Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto said on Thursday newly published environmental studies showed that its Serbia lithium project, which was stopped in 2022 after massive protests, would be safe for the environment.

If implemented, the $2.4 billion Jadar lithium project in Western Serbia could cover 90 percent of Europe's current lithium needs and help to make the company a leading lithium producer.

Lithium, largely used in batteries for electric vehicles (EV) and mobile devices, is regarded as a critical material by many major economies.

On Thursday, Rio Tinto's Serbian unit made public several environmental studies conducted over the past six and a half years.

"Results of scientific research show that the Jadar project can be realised safely by respecting highest domestic and international environmental standards," the company said in a statement.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in January authorities wanted to hold further talks with Rio about the project and welcomed public discussion on whether it should go ahead.

Just ahead of the country's 2022 general elections, Serbian leaders revoked Rio's licence for the project, bowing to a 30,000-signature-petition from environmental groups and local communities.

Green activists say the mine will pollute water supply, causing more environmental damage in Serbia, already one of Europe's most polluted countries.

Rio's representative in Serbia, Marijanti Babic, said in Thursday's statement that the company had published studies in order to "renew a public dialogue" about the project.

"These studies give an opportunity to local community and all interested parties to see for themselves what had been done so far."

Serbian Prime Minister Milos Vucevic, who took over last month after December's parliamentary election, told state RTS TV that he was open to talks about resuming the project.

"I am expecting the answer from experts - if experts say no, then it is no, but they have to be aware of their responsibility," Vucevic said.

"I believe it is possible to exploit natural resources and preserve nature's wealth and people above all. I think this (lithium project) is a historical chance."

(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Mark Potter)



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