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Rio Tinto Files Serbia Lawsuits Over Lithium Project Suspension

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A Rio Tinto subsidiary has brought four legal claims against the Serbian government over the suspension last year of a controversial lithium project, officials said Thursday.

“The plaintiff Rio Sava Exploration of Belgrade has brought four lawsuits against the government’s decision,” a spokesman for Serbia’s administrative court, Milka Murganic, said.

Two claims were brought on May 13 last year and two more last July 26, Murganic said, without giving details.

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Contacted by AFP, Rio Tinto refused to comment.

In January last year, Belgrade revoked permits for a multibillion project which the world’s second-largest metals and mining corporation had hoped to develop in Serbia’s western Jadar valley, home to some of Europe’s largest lithium deposits.

The soft metal is a key component in rechargeable batteries.

Belgrade acted after widespread popular opposition. Demonstrators blocked a motorway in the capital during one rally which attracted thousands.

Environmental associations have kept up pressure on the government with sporadic protests in the belief the project has not been scotched definitively.

Last September, Serbia and the European Commission signed a letter of intent regarding a strategic partnership on batteries and raw materials — including lithium.

Earlier this month, the Serbian minister for energy and mining, Dubravka Djedovic Handanovic, refused to respond when a journalist asked if the partnership might involve the opening of a lithium mine in the Jadar valley.

On November 9, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, said the government had “drawn a definitive line” under lithium exploitation.

President Aleksandar Vucic has several times described his decision to come down against lithium mining as his greatest mistake.

 

Source: Barron’s

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