Serbia Canceling all Licenses for Mining Giant Rio Tinto to Open Lithium Mine

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic speaks during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. Trying to defuse protests by environmentalists, Serbia’s populist government declared Thursday it is canceling all rights that would help mining giant Rio Tinto launch a lithium mine in the Balkan country. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic) (Darko Vojinovic / Associated Press)

Lithium is considered one of the most sought-after metals of the future as the world shifts to more renewable energy sources. Serbian government mentioned that it was canceling all licenses for mining giant Rio Tinto to open a lithium mine in the Balkan country.

For several weekends, thousands of demonstrators in Belgrade and other Serbian towns have blocked main roads and bridges to protest the planned mine in western Serbia, despite an intimidation campaign by authorities. Opponents say the project would cause severe environmental damage.

Brnabic said all the licenses granted to Rio Tinto, which has been exploring mining possibilities in the country for about two decades, were provided by the previous, pro-Western government.

Earlier Thursday, Rio Tinto in a statement expressed “concern” over reports that the project would be scrapped.

It is widely believed that Serbia, which formally seeks European Union membership but instead has been forging close ties with Russia and China, may want to hand over the lithium mining to China by sidelining Rio Tinto from the project in which it has pledged to invest $2.4 billion.

Throughout its almost 150-year history, Rio Tinto has faced accusations of corruption, environmental degradation and human rights abuses at its mining sites.

– Meriqua Whyte