Blockades stop lithium mine

IssueFebruary - March 2022
News by David Polden

After weeks of nonviolent protest, the world’s second-largest mining company has been shut out of a major project in Serbia.

The prime minister, Ana Brnabić, said on 20 January: ‘All permits were annulled.... we put an end to Rio Tinto in Serbia.’

A coalition of Serbian eco-activist groups had mobilised thousands of people for weeks of road blockades to halt plans by Rio Tinto Group (RTG) to dig a lithium mine in western Serbia.

The protests, in dozens of cities and towns, built up to a 100,000-person blockade of a major road in the capital, Belgrade, for two hours on 4 December.

Protesters saw the mine proposal as neocolonial. Serbia’s countryside would be destroyed and its rivers polluted – so that richer nations could restore their own environments by having electric cars with lithium batteries.

The protests also put paid to proposed changes in the law that environmental and other civil society groups saw as paving the way for foreign companies such as RTG to get around popular discontent over such projects.

The government dropped their proposed laws on 8 December.

Then the municipal assembly covering the area for the proposed mine scrapped the land allocation for the mine.

Then RTG itself put its plans to build the mine on hold.

Finally, the government was forced to withdraw all of Rio Tinto’s licences.

Topics: Corporations