NewsSerbia greenlights Europe's largest lithium mine amid protests

Serbia greenlights Europe's largest lithium mine amid protests

A lithium mine (illustrative photo) and the location of the Jadar Valley in Serbia
A lithium mine (illustrative photo) and the location of the Jadar Valley in Serbia
Images source: © Getty Images | Bloomberg, Google Maps
Jacek Losik

16 June 2024 17:03

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, in a conversation with the Financial Times, revealed that he is preparing to approve the opening of the largest lithium mine in Europe. According to estimates, the Jadar Valley contains "white gold" deposits worth around 4 billion euros. Earlier, the investment was halted due to social protests.

In an interview with the British daily Financial Times, President Vučić admitted that new guarantees from Rio Tinto (the world’s third-largest mining company—ed.) and the European Union seem to address Serbia's concerns regarding whether the mine will meet necessary environmental standards.

The British-Australian company had previously planned to exploit Serbian lithium deposits. This project was halted after mass protests from activists and the public at the end of 2021.

The petition calling for the cessation of the works justified the occupation of an area of over 5,000 acres, including 28 villages, by the mine development plan. However, many agreements between the government and Rio Tinto have not been published, which indicates a lack of transparency in the cooperation and raises suspicions of corruption.

Serbs can meet 90% of Europe's demand for "white gold"

In January 2022, the then Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Ana Brnabić, announced the suspension of the project and the end of the Rio Tinto subject. However, in an interview with the "FT," Aleksandar Vučić stated that if everything goes our way, the mine could be opened in 2028.

Reuters noted that if the project is realized, it could cover 90% of Europe’s current lithium demand and help Rio Tinto become the world's largest producer of this resource.

Lithium and its compounds are used to produce, among other things, durable alloys used in aviation, lithium cells, and lithium-ion batteries.

Jadar Valley in Serbia
Jadar Valley in Serbia© WP |

Vice-President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, said in May 2024 that negotiations between Serbia and the EU regarding lithium mining in the Jadar Valley in the western part of the country are nearing completion. The EU representative noted that the final legal hurdles remain to be agreed upon.

"White gold" from Jadar

Lithium is called "white gold" because of its colour and value. Nowadays, it is used in lithium-ion batteries, which power laptops, mobile phones, and tablets.

It is also used to produce heat-resistant glass and ceramics, durable aviation alloys, and lithium cells.

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