Rio Tinto lithium mining 'Jadar Project' won't be withdrawn, Serbia's Vucic says Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia's President, said on Monday that the Rio Tinto's lithium mining 'Jadar Project' would not be withdrawn despite "some opposition leaders demand it."
„That Project stands and won’t move. They (the former regime) brought it to Serbia. We did all the people asked for, and that’s it,“ Vucic told reporters in the southwestern Novi Pazar town.
His statement caused an immediate reaction by the environmentalists, who said they would not stop protesting against the Project.
In the meantime, the European Western Balkans (EWB) website investigated whether a pending EU resolution on batteries could affect lithium mining in western Serbia.
The Project caused big protests for two weekends in a row across the country, forcing Vucic to initiate the withdrawal of the Law on Expropriation and the changes to the Law on Referendum.
The environmentalists saw both laws as tailored to fit the Anglo-Australian company to build a lithium mine which the protesters say would irreversibly damage nature and people's health.
Vucic's statement on Monday confirmed the activists' and opposition concerns that meeting the protesters' demands was a small concession ahead of the April 2022 presidential, early general and Belgrade elections.
Earlier in the day, Nebojsa Zelenovic, the 'Together for Serbia' opposition party leader, told N1 the authorities were given a January 7 deadline to entirely "erase" the 'Jadar Project'.
He said the job was not finished with the withdrawal of the expropriation law, adding that Rio Tinto was further pressuring people to sell properties in the way of the mine.
Immediately after Vucic's statement, the environmentalists said they would not give up protests over the lithium mine.
Aleksandar Jovanovic, one of the most prominent activists, said Vucic and Rio Tinto "are the same company" and that the protest would continue until the Project "is erased."
"Rio Tinto is barking at a wrong tree because Vucic is not in charge of that. The people don't want it. So, those responsible should decide whether to have a general mutiny or stand by their people and end (the job) with Rio Tinto and other companies that are destroying Serbia," Jovanovic said.
A deputy leader of the 'Ne Damo Jadar ('We don't Give Jadar) Association, Zlatko Kokanovic, said his organisation would also continue with protests.
"We are here much longer than the 'Jadar Project'. They will have to kill us because we won't move from here," he added.
Dragan Simovic, another activist, also said that people would protest until Rio Tinto left Serbia.
Rio Sava Exploration, the company's branch in Serbia, CEO Vesna Prodanovic said last week they would put the works t on hold. She added that the company would call for a dialogue with the people to explain all the aspects of the Project.
In an interview with the Beta news agency, Prodanovic said the 'Jadar Project' "was planned within the legal framework. The company would not make a single move that could worry the population."
She added that Rio Tinto had so far invested 450 million out of 2.4 billion dollars in the Project's development.