- Title: Rio Tinto-led plan for major lithium mine stirs protests in Serbia
- Date: 26th August 2021
- Summary: NEAR LOZNICA, SERBIA (AUGUST 9, 2021) (REUTERS) VARIOUS DRONE SHOTS OF AREA (MUTE) DRONE SHOT OF VILLAGE WITH HOUSES AND WOODEN FENCE WITH SIGN (Serbian) READING: "NO (TO) MINE, YES (TO) LIFE" (MUTE) VARIOUS OF FARMER AND PROPERTY OWNER DJORDJE KAPETANOVIC, FEEDING COWS (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) FARMER FROM KORENICA NEAR LOZNICA, DJORDJE KAPETANOVIC, SAYING: "We've got to know a lot through social networks and the internet - in Madagascar, then in Papua New Guinea, what they (Rio Tinto) did, caused civil wars. We didn't know until two years ago what that company is." VARIOUS OF KORENICA RIVER GREEN CROPS (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) FARMER FROM KORENICA NEAR LOZNICA, DJORDJE KAPETANOVIC, SAYING: "So, this is where I feed my cattle from and I am asking the state - is this fit to be a tailings pond?" DRONE SHOT OF AREA WITH CHURCH, CEMETERY AND GREEN HILLS (MUTE) VARIOUS OF MODEL WITH RIO TINTO MINE AND PLANT (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) CEO RIO TINTO SERBIA, VESNA PRODANOVIC, SAYING: "Yes, there are concerns and of course we understand and appreciate that concern. What is often said is that we will use some dirty technologies and that we will pollute the environment, which is not possible today, in today's world, with the technology available. Today, projects are implemented with high standards that guarantee environmental protection through all stages - designing, obtaining the designing conditions, determination of the conditions for a project. Therefore, we take into consideration the levels of precipitation, the prescribed levels of dust, we take into consideration everything there is in the fields, all studies and examinations are being performed to gather precise data about what is the current situation in the area, throughout the entire designing stage we apply strict standards. When it comes to production, we also apply all standards in terms of measures, maintenance, to allow the company to be ready to respond to any situation within an adequate timeframe." VARIOUS OF VILLAGE HOUSE FENCED OFF WITH INSCRIPTIONS (Serbian) READING: "PRIVATE PROPERTY / ACCESS PROHIBITED TO UNAUTHORISED PERSONS / ATTENTION! HAZARD! POSSIBILITY OF OBJECTS FALLING FROM HIGH" WARNING SIGN ON TREE READING (Serbian): "PRIVATE PROPERTY, ACCESS PROHIBITED TO UNAUTHORISED PERSONS" HOUSE FENCED OFF WITH TAPE RURAL LANDSCAPE VILLAGE HOUSE FENCED OFF WITH TAPE AND ATTACHED WARNING READING: ATTENTION! DANGER! POSSIBILITY OF OBJECT FALL FROM HEIGHT VARIOUS OF WARNING SIGN (Serbian) READING: "PRIVATE PROPERTY, ACCESS PROHIBITED TO UNAUTHORISED PERSONS" VEHICLE OF SECURITY COMPANY ABANDONED HOUSES VARIOUS OF HOUSE SERVING AS RIO TINTO INFORMATION CENTRE TRANSPARENT WITH INSCRIPTION (SERBIAN) READING: "NO (TO) MINE, YES (TO) LIFE" (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) DEAN OF BELGRADE UNIVERSITY FACULTY OF FORESTRY, RATKO RISTIC, SAYING: "Later on, during the lithium exploitation process, gigantic landfills are formed of toxic and carcinogenic mine tailings, located on the soil under which there are the most significant reserves of underground water in that part of Serbia. So, those landfills, several dozens of metres high, over 900 metres long and over 250 metres wide, if established will be full of arsenic, nickel, cadmium, led and will represent a permanent source of extremely dangerous pollution and in addition to groundwater, the surface water will also be jeopardized." SABAC, SERBIA (AUGUST 7, 2021) (REUTERS) BANNER AGAINST RIO TINTO PROJECT DURING PROTEST PROTEST WITH BANNERS (Serbian) READING: "RADJEVINA AND JADAR AND MACVA ARE KOSOVO; NO (TO) MINE, YES (TO) LIFE" MARIJA ALIMPIC HOLDING SPEECH DURING PROTEST (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) PROTESTER, MEMBER OF ASSOCIATION "PROTECT JADAR AND RADJEVINA", MARIJA ALIMPIC, SAYING: "It says here (pointing at banners): no to the mine and no to the referendum! We can't accept that, in a non-democratic manner, and from above we get imposed other people's ideas of development." PROTESTERS APPLAUDING PEOPLE HOLDING BANNER (Serbian) READING: (Serbian and English): GET OFF THE DRINA (RIVER) MAN HOLDING PAPER READING: UNECO SABAC (Local division of environmental NGO) BREZJAK, SERBIA (AUGUST 7, 2021) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) PROTESTER, MEMBER OF ASSOCIATION "PROTECT JADAR AND RADJEVINA", MARIJA ALIMPIC, SAYING: "This is a very fertile valley and the reason for that is probably that it is located between these rivers - Korenica and Jadar, which is over there. However, it is at the same time a floodplain as the Jadar river floods the area regularly, any sane person is aware that nothing can be established here - neither a mine nor a processing plant and even less any waste disposal site." DRONE SHOT OF AREA (MUTE) BELGRADE, SERBIA (AUGUST 2, 2021) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) SERBIAN MINISTER OF MINING AND ENERGY, ZORANA MIHAJLOVIC, SAYING: "Well, lithium is the 21st-century metal, and it is rare that (exploiting) it does not pay off. I am not talking about Rio Tinto because we are not Rio Tinto's advocates. However, it is unlikely that it does not pay off for our country as well. The number one condition is the environmental protection, we are not saying this for the sake of it, we mean it." NEAR LOZNICA, SERBIA (AUGUST 7, 2021) (REUTERS) GREEN CORNFIELD
- Embargoed: 9th September 2021 10:05
- Keywords: Lithium Rio Tinto Serbia energy pollution water pollution
- Location: BELGRADE, NEAR LOZNICA, SABAC, BREZJAK, SERBIA
- City: BELGRADE, NEAR LOZNICA, SABAC, BREZJAK, SERBIA
- Country: Serbia
- Topics: Environment,Europe
- Reuters ID: LVA001ERX4HTL
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Four years from now, fields in the Jadar river valley in western Serbia where Djorjde Kapetanovic grows corn and soy to feed his cattle will be turned into a waste dump for Europe's biggest lithium mine.
Rio Tinto in July committed $2.4 billion (2 million euros) to its Jadar project as global miners push into metals needed for the green energy transition, including lithium, which is used to make electric vehicle batteries. The Jadar project, once completed, would help make Rio a top 10 lithium producer, just as demand for EVs booms.
Opposition to the project is growing, however, because of concerns about possible environmental damage and protest rallies have become more frequent. In April, thousands gathered in Belgrade to protest against widespread pollution in the Balkan country and the lithium mine near Loznica, 142 km (88 miles) southwest of the capital.
Once it reaches full capacity, the mine is expected to produce 58,000 tonnes of refined battery-grade lithium carbonate per year. That would make it Europe's biggest lithium mine in terms of production, Rio Tinto said.
In the village of Korenita, dairy farmer Kapetanovic said the mine, if opened, could leave him without income. Part of his land where he grows crops to feed his animals will be turned into a dump for mining waste, known as tailings, with compensation from the company.
Other areas of his land, his house, and a cattle shed will be outside the mine, leaving Kapetanovic worried about exposure to possible pollution.
"Who would want to buy products made on the outskirts of the mine?" said Kapetanovic, who produces 10 tonnes (22,000 lb) of meat and 90,000 liters (23,775 gallons) of milk per year, making him one of the bigger producers in the Loznica area.
One other major concern for environmentalists is Rio's plan to put waste dumps in the Korenita and Jadar rivers valley.
Marija Alimpic, a member of an association opposing the project pointed out this area is prone to flash flooding. In 2014, Korenita river flooding caused a closed mine's tailings dam to overflow, spilling toxic waste onto agricultural land.
Rio Tinto said it planned to convert the liquid waste into "dry cakes" to make it easier and safer to store and is planning for once-in-a-millennium floods in its construction.
The company's Serbia CEO Vesna Prodanovic said the Anglo-Australian miner would meet all European Union and Serbian environmental regulations, including on the treatment of wastewater. She added the company takes into account "everything there is in the field" and also precipitation and prescribed dust levels.
One study, commissioned by Rio Tinto on the mine's environmental impact, concluded the mine should not be built as it will cause "irredeemable damage to the biosphere," an abstract obtained by Reuters found.
Ratko Ristic, dean of Belgrade Univesity's faculty of forestry said the underground reserves of water in the area would be polluted by dangerous toxic and carcinogenic metals.
Lithium is central to the European Union's plans to secure an entire supply chain of battery minerals and materials as the use of electric vehicles increases.
Serbia, which sits on the world's 11th largest lithium reserves, is working its way through the accession process to join the EU.
Rio said the project would create about 2,100 construction jobs and inject approximately 200 million euros ($235.32 million) per year into the domestic supply chain.
Prodanovic added the company's studies estimated the project would add 1 percentage point to Serbia's $51.4 billion annual GDP. It would also boost Loznica's municipal budget by 60-70% annually, she said.
(Production: Hedy Beloucif, Branko Filipovic, Fedja Grulovic, Ivana Sekularac, Aleksandar Vasovic)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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