Wed, 18 May 2022

BELGRADE, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Answering to demands of environmental protests, Serbia terminated the project of UK-Australian mining company Rio Tinto concerning future exploitation and processing of mineral jadarite in Western Serbia, according to a government press release after a session on Thursday.

The move put an end to what was to become one of the biggest investments in lithium exploitation in Europe.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that the spatial plan of the special purpose area for the Jadar lithium project, which was adopted on Feb. 13, 2020, has been canceled together with "all administrative acts related to Rio Tinto" including "all permits, decrees, and decisions".

"We have fulfilled all the demands of the environmental protests and put an end to Rio Tinto in Serbia. This is the end of everything, it is over and all the demands have been met," Brnabic briefed.

Rio Tinto has been present in Serbia since the year of 2002. In 2004, the company discovered rich deposits of the lithium sodium borosilicate mineral jadarite. In 2006, Serbia adopted a law to grant the company exclusive exploitation rights.

In recent months, while the company accelerated efforts to engage in the exploitation of lithium, borates, and sodium sulfates, repetitive mass protests were staged by environmental activists across the country, over the concerns of possible devastating effects on surrounding agricultural subsistence and health.

Earlier on Thursday, Rio Tinto voiced concerns over the announcement of the withdrawal of the spatial plan, saying that the company is "committed to developing the project in accordance with all Serbian and international regulations. "And we take into account the environmental concerns expressed by the public, " said the company in a press release.

According to the company's website, it has so far committed 2.5 billion U.S. dollars into the implementation of the project, expecting to start production in 2027 and over the course of 40 years produce 2.3 million tons of lithium carbonate for batteries and electric vehicles along with borates used for "renewable energy equipment such as solar panels and wind turbines".

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