Rio Tinto affirms Serbian lithium project environmentally safe

Rio Tinto affirms Serbian lithium project environmentally safe
Rio Tinto affirms Serbian lithium project environmentally safe

The $2.4 billion Jadar project could cover 90% of Europe’s current lithium needs.

Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto said recently published environmental studies showed its Jadar lithium project in Serbia, which was halted in 2022 after mass protests, would be environmentally safe.

If implemented, the $2.4 billion Jadar project in western Serbia could meet 90% of Europe’s current lithium needs and help make the company a leading lithium producer.

Lithium, primarily used in batteries for electric vehicles (EV) and mobile devices, is considered a critical material by many major economies. On Thursday, Rio’s Serbian unit released several environmental studies carried out over the past six and a half years.

“The results of scientific research show that the Jadar project can be carried out safely while respecting the highest national and international environmental standards,” the company said in a statement.

Debate around the project

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

Just before the country’s 2022 general election, Serbian leaders revoked Rio’s license for the project, bowing to a 30,000-signature petition from environmental groups and local communities.

Environmental activists say the mine will contaminate the water supply, causing further environmental damage in Serbia, which is already one of the most polluted countries in Europe.

Rio’s representative in Serbia, Marijanti Babic, said in a statement on Thursday that the company had published studies to “renew public dialogue” about the project. “These studies give the local community and all interested parties the opportunity to see for themselves what has been done so far,” he said.

Serbian Prime Minister Milos Vucevic, who took office last month following parliamentary elections in December, told state television RTS that he was open to talks about resuming the project. “I await the response from the experts: if the experts say no, then it is no, but they have to be aware of their responsibility,” Vucevic said.

“I believe that it is possible to exploit natural resources and preserve the wealth of nature and, above all, people. “I think this (the lithium project) is a historic opportunity.”

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