Expropriation Law Sparks Mass Protests in Serbia
Lithium has become one of the most sought-after resources in recent years, and Serbia has the largest lithium reserve. The reservoir is in Western Serbia in Macva, and the mineral there is called jadarite. According to the US Geological Survey, there are reportedly reserves of 118 million tons of ore containing 1.8 percent of lithium oxide.
Rio Tinto announced a few months ago that it would start exploiting lithium in four years as part of its jadarite extraction project. The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, called the project 'one of the greatest hopes for Serbia.' The people of Serbia disagree. Thousands have rallied to protest against the project and the government's plans to adopt laws on expropriation and referendums that are designed only to benefit parasitic mining companies.
The protest took place on November 24th in front of President Aleksandar Vučić's office and later marched through central Belgrade, chanting, "We will not give away Serbia."
The expropriation law will advance mining projects that damage the environment, including China's Zijin copper mine and Rio Tinto's plans for a $2.4 billion lithium mine in western Serbia.
Residents around the proposed site in Loznica, western Serbia, have repeatedly expressed concern that the mining will devastate the local environment and undermine agriculture and fuel depopulation.
Why Rio Tinto's past only further confirms the people's concerns
Rio Tinto, the world's second-largest metals and mining corporation, has faced accusations of corruption, environmental degradation, and human rights abuses. The company is currently fighting a civil lawsuit by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that accuses Rio Tinto of fraud in its Mozambique coal business. Earlier this year, the chief executive of its iron ore operation, Simon Trott, said that it was "not proud of its history." At its Marandoo mine in Western Australia, hundreds of ancient artifacts were destroyed and thrown into a trash dump. Last year, the chief executive resigned after deliberately blowing up an ancient cave, one of Australia's most significant archaeological research sites. There had been evidence of 46,000 years of continual occupation. In 2021, Rio Tinto agreed that after decades of appeals, it would finally fund an "environmental and human rights impact assessment" of its former copper and goldmine site in Panguna, in Papua New Guinea. At this site, the company discharged at least 1 billion tons of mine waste into the Kawerong-Jaba river delta, which continues to damage the environment today.
Despite the company's numerous attempts to clear its name, the people of Serbia still do not trust the promises of Rio Tinto and their government, which is why residents near the planned mining site continue to protest and show their disapproval of the President's plans.