The locals in western Serbia where Rio Tinto plans a lithium mine have said on Tuesday they are appalled by President Aleksandar Vucic's statement that the Anglo-Australian company 'Jadar Project' "won't be withdrawn," despite environmentalist protests that blocked the country for two weekends in a row.
Nebojsa Petkovic of ‘Ne Damo Jadar’ (We Don’t Give Jadar) organisation told N1 that the villagers of Gornje Nedeljice, the central spot for Rio Tinto’s plan, would continue with roadblocks across the country on January 3.
„On December 16, we demanded the Government to return the Rio Tinto’s issue to square one,“ he said, adding Serbia could get out of the Project.
„If it turns out that something is not environmentally OK if experts say the processing cannot be healthy, that nature will be devastated, why someone’s 400 million euros investment should be a problem,“ Petkovic asked.
In the meantime, the leader of the Go – Change movement, Savo Manojlovic, told N1 that after the referendum on Constitutional changes, the people’s Initiative’against the exploitation of lithium will be submitted. Speaking about the possibility of paying penalties to Rio Tinto, he says that if Telecom could pay 600 million euros for the rights to broadcast Premier League matches,then it is OK to pay penalties „for the health of our children“.
„If the institutions do not do their job, we will solve things in the street with novelties. That will not be possible before February, because a legal path is needed to make the slogan ‘Rio Tinto March from Serbia’ legally implemented,“ he said.
Later on Tuesday, answering N1’s question of whether the ‘Jadar project will be withdrawn in line with previous statements that signed document is binding, Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic has said that Serbia has committed itself by issuing permits for Rio Tinto’s research, adding the company potentially can sue the state.
Petkovic said that Serbia’s Association of Environmentalist Organisations (SEOS) decided to start with roadblocks again on January 3 for three hours, from 1 to 4 pm.
He called on people to join to enable the coordination and added they already had four locations planes for the blockades.
„After that, on Saturdays of the 8th, 15th… To see who will give up first,“ he warned, adding that for the time being, only the SEOS organised the blockades.
He added he believed the same number of protesters would turn out as during the last roadblocks.
Aleksandar Jovanovic, an activist, told the nova.rs website his organisation would join the new protest.
„I call on people to join in big numbers and organise huge blockades. Rio Tinto has no plan to leave Serbia,“ Jovanovic said.
After two Saturdays’ roadblocks, Vucic gave in, visited Gornje Nedeljice and promised to withdraw the Law on Expropriation and amend the Law on Referendum.
After the Parliament did it, leading environmentalist organisations stopped the protest.
Both Vucic and the Government said the Rio Tinto project would go on if the studies showed there would be no environmental and health hazards and if local people said yes at a referendum.