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Current Affairs

Serbians protesting over lithium mining

Date: 27 January 2022 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Lithium mining license given to Rio Tinto, an Anglo-Australian multinational mining organization, has been revoked by government of Serbia.

 

Background

Environmental protests have been taking place to oppose the mining conducted by the company.

 

Details

The license given to mining has been annulled. Serbia, which is going to elections soon, is making it a political move.

 

The protests

  • Serbians have been taking to the streets, blocking bridges and roads to oppose the mining project scheduled to take place in Jadar valley.

  • Lithium deposits were discovered by the company in 2006 and had purchased the land for mining. It was planning to invest $2.4 billion in the project.

  • Successful completion would have made it one of the biggest investments in the country. Fully functional mine would have produced 58,000 tonnes of refined battery-grade lithium carbonate every year.

  • The lithium would have been enough to operate one million electric vehicles along with boric acid and sodium sulphate.

 

Accusations

  • Even though Rio Tinto is said to have adhered to all European Union’s environmental standards, citizens say that mining would pollute drinking water.

  • Apart from Rio Tinto, the government has sold mining rights to China’s Zijin copper miner. Protestors have criticized the prime minister for calling China ‘savior’ for its copper mining industry.

  • They say that government made the move only because of elections and they want banning of all future borate and lithium mining projects in the country.

 

Rising pollution challenges

  • Serbia is already facing industrial pollution. The new mine would only make it worse, polluting the land and water in the area.

  • Serbia is one of the top ten countries with the most deaths due to pollution. It is the fifth largest polluter in Europe and 32nd in the world.

 

Controversial laws

  • The law on referendum and expropriation law were the two controversial legislations for Serbians hitting the street.

  • The Law on Referendum would make it difficult for citizens to protest against projects that spread pollution in the country.

  • The Referendum law also lowers the referendum requirement by stating that it would not require 50 per cent of the registered voters to turn out for a referendum to pass.

  • The expropriation law would make it very easy for the state’s government to acquire private land for any project.