Thousands Rally in Belgrade against Industrial Pollution
As Anglo-Australian miner, Rio Tinto, is about to start mining for lithium in Serbia, protesters take to the streets marching against what they called an attempt to "poison nature".
According to a report published by Reuters, on Saturday 11, around 2000 protesters marched through the streets of Belgrade demanding Serbia's government to take more action to prevent industrial pollution, with some denouncing plans by Anglo-Australian mining firm Rio Tinto aimed at establishing a lithium mine in the country.
Protesters blocked one of the main bridges in the city for two hours, "calling for more action against water, air, and land pollution by industries such as mining and power production."
A banner the protesters held declared intolerance toward "poisoning nature", calling it a "crime which cannot be forgiven". Another banner read, " Rio Tinto go away."
However, despite the opposition of local residents, the Serbian government started selling mining resources to foreign investments in recent years.
In July, Rio Tinto committed $2.4 billion to a project "to explore and process lithium in Serbia."
Rio Tinto Serbia CEO Vesna Prodanovic has announced that the company will meet all national and European environmental regulations, "including the treatment of wastewater."
Serbia is trying to meet European Union's standards and regulations regarding environmental protection as part of its attempts to join the Union.
According to Reuters, a WHO study published in 2019 declared that "air pollution was the main cause of some 6,600 deaths in Serbia annually."
"I came here today to make Rio Tinto leave," said a protester, Danica Vujicic. "We have to put an end to it (pollution), otherwise our children will not have a future."
Lithium reserves in Serbia
A 2019 report by Bloomberg said that optimistic government estimates encouraged by preliminary explorations suggest "there may be as much as 200 million tons of (lithium) deposits in Serbia". On the other hand, the US Geological Survey said that only 1 million tons can be identified reserves in the country, "making Serbia one of the richest sources of lithium in Europe."
In 2008, lithium production went up by about 25%, according to the US Geological Survey, which makes assigning an accurate ranking for Serbia a difficult task, "as there is still little concrete data on the country as exploration continues", said Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Sophie Lu. Bolivia, the South American country, for instance, has no production despite what might be the world’s largest reserves.