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Serbia in “lithium fever”

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Jadar would be the largest lithium producer in Europe for at least the next 15 years, supplying the market with enough lithium carbonate to produce over a million electric vehicles a year.

In its edition of June 23, 2023, the prestigious British daily “The Guardian” published the text: “Great Britain opens first lithium mine in Cornwall to boost electric car industry”.

The British-French partnership in the “white gold” mining project should provide the necessary resources to produce batteries for 400,000 electric cars. In Portugal, an EU member state that shows strong sensitivity to environmental issues, the government there has issued a permit for the construction of a lithium mine.

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The Czech Republic is heavily involved in the preparation of the lithium deposit in Sinovec, on the border with economically powerful Germany. And finally, Germany, the leading economic and ecological country in Europe, joins the “lithium fever” with the idea of ​​exploiting this ore from underground water.

The Germans claim that the process of extracting lithium from underground water is the most environmentally sound approach that is also economically beneficial.

How is the situation with Serbia? After obtaining all the necessary approvals and permits, “Jadar” would produce about 58,000 tons of lithium carbonate.

With this capacity, “Jadar” would be the largest lithium producer in Europe for at least the next 15 years, supplying the market with the amount of lithium carbonate sufficient to produce over a million electric vehicles per year (based on 60 kWh batteries).

Despite the enviable lithium reserves and the indisputable necessity for the country to develop economically and socially, as well as the current economic and legal relations between the State of Serbia and the company “Rio Tinto”, the lithium and boric acid exploitation project has been stopped.

The alleged reason for such a decision, in a certain part of the public, is attributed to the victory of the so-called environmental awareness, while good connoisseurs of the situation understand that the real reason for giving up should be sought in politics.

Under the pressure of the street, at the end of 2021, several non-governmental organizations, together with a part of the opposition and anti-government media, managed to stop the adoption of the spatial plan and the issuing of permits for the opening of the “Rio Tinto” mine for the exploitation of lithium and boric acid. And this undertaking was carried out under the guise of a negative obsession with the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, which was intoned, first of all, from fanatical opposition circles.

The “Rio Tinto” obstruction is one of the highlights of the so-called politics of cancellation and practice of obstruction of everyday life, which are encouraged and carried out by postmodern left liberals in Serbia. This “success” was, among other things, a result of the instant organized “environmental events of the people”, the blockade of the busy “Gazela” main road in Belgrade, and a loud media campaign.

The heterogeneity of the participants of these events, first of all, their educational structure, but also their knowledge of environmental issues and their motivation to participate in the events, reasonably cast doubt on the publicly announced reasons for gathering them.

The suspension of the “Jadar” project, by the “Rio Tinto” company, somehow fits harmoniously into the Serbian political and economic “exceptionalism”.

Instead of rational thinking about the champions of economic development and adequate environmental measures, a one-sided, simplified media-political interpretation of the project by opposition politicians and sympathizers took place.

“New leaders”, such as Sava Manojlović, who walked with representatives from the world of art and entertainment, supported by a certain number of citizens who were provoked by a vaguely articulated “injustice”, found their place in the walk.

On the other hand, a part of the population was rightly dissatisfied, first of all considering the inexplicable decision to block traffic roads.

Remembering this period, we remember the participation of the police, who, by force of circumstances, dealt with the “ecological carnival”, while the media dramatization of the “Rio Tinto” case, in the so-called independent media, introduced confusion and tension into a society affected by various forms of tension. The forced suspension of the “Jadar” project forced the state to “freeze” the idea of ​​a lithium mining project and, in parallel, the accompanying methods of environmental protection.

In support of the renewal of rational debate, it is necessary to publicly ask why in EU countries, where strict environmental laws are in force, active work is being done on processes that should enable efficient lithium exploitation.

Are we really the only ones who believe that “we need clean air and water”, and the English, Portuguese, Germans, Czechs and other nations do not strive for the same?

Does the formula of economic progress imply the efficient use of domestic natural resources in the function of creating a final product that will have its customers on the market? Needless to say, the answer to the last question is yes.

Isn’t it an economic lesson that one should sometimes use one’s own advantages and learn from the experiences of other nations that put their natural resources in the context of their own economic and social development?

Until the discovery of oil and gas in its sea, Norway was not nearly as developed as it is today. Likewise, the United Arab Emirates, after the discovery of oil and its optimal exploitation, became a more than respected political and economic power in its region, but also beyond.

In the case of lithium, why should Serbia not learn from the positive experiences of other resource-rich countries?

The following should be added to the whole story about the new mine of the company “Rio Tinto” in the Loznica region: lithium from Serbia can be easily and simply exploited, unlike the deposits of “white gold” in Bolivia, Argentina or Chile, countries with the world’s largest lithium deposits.

In light of the global “lithium fever”, it is unclear why Serbia should not use its natural resources as a comparative advantage in the global economic race for profit. Especially in the time of world-historical turbulence created by the war in Ukraine and tensions and incidents in other parts of the world.

Contemporary economic practice is based on the model of increasing the benefits of all participants in a joint economic enterprise. The example of the “Jadar” project, behind which the state of Serbia and a foreign partner jointly stand, is a striking example of a development model that is economically and socially beneficial to all actors of the project.

Isn’t the formula “Rio Tinto”, a lithium battery factory and a potential investment from the auto industry, a recommendation for a new foreign investor in Serbia who, instead of assembling cables and tailoring plants (which in itself is not a negative example), would open a technologically innovative and market attractive company?

Adherence to simple economic and social legality legitimizes progress, which can only be achieved through striving for efficient use of natural resources and the creation of innovative products necessary for the market. There is no other way.

And finally: Is Rio Tinto the development opportunity of Serbia? Without fear and bias, with awareness of the social and possibly other price that we will pay for the sake of progress, respecting the risks and believing in the attainment of ecological standards, undoubtedly, yes.   Source: Serbia Business

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