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Rio Tinto challenges Serbian government with arbitration notice on Jadar project

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Background of the dispute: Jadar project and environmental protests

The British-Serbian activist group Earth Thrive has reported that Rio Tinto has officially notified the Serbian government about initiating arbitration proceedings concerning the halted Jadar project. This action references a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) between Serbia and the United Kingdom. The initial public disclosure came from the platform Investment Arbitration Reporter in an article titled “Serbia May Revive Lithium Mining Project That Sparked Environmental Protests and Triggered Previously Undisclosed Notice of Dispute.”

Rio Tinto hints at arbitration, Current status unclear

The article recalls that the Jadar project was halted in early 2022 following public protests, just before the elections. The Investment Arbitration Reporter notes that Serbian officials had described the project’s suspension as a “political” decision. At that time, the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto hinted at the possibility of initiating arbitration against Serbia. The company indicated that it had obtained legal advice “to ensure that [Rio Tinto] is treated fairly and that [the investment] is not compromised by any unlawful, unreasonable, or discriminatory actions.”

The article further states, “We have confirmed that Rio Tinto has submitted a notice of dispute to the Serbian government regarding these events, with the assistance of the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, citing the bilateral investment treaty between Serbia and the United Kingdom (the ‘BIT’). It remains unclear whether the company has since taken further steps to pursue this arbitration threat and whether recent developments might influence this (potential) arbitration. As previously noted, the BIT provides for investor-state arbitration under the rules of ICSID, ICC, or UNCITRAL,” Earth Thrive emphasizes in the article. The Investment Arbitration Reporter has announced that it will continue to monitor developments regarding this issue.

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