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Earth Thrive: Has Rio Tinto initiated arbitration over the Jadar project?

The platform Investment Arbitration Reporter has reported that Rio Tinto has officially notified the Serbian government about initiating arbitration proceedings concerning the halted Jadar project, according to the British-Serbian activist organization Earth Thrive.

The British-Serbian activist group Earth Thrive, informed through the London Mining Network, reported that Rio Tinto “notified the Serbian government about arbitration related to the halted project, referring to the bilateral investment treaty between the two countries,” as stated on social media.

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The potential initiation of arbitration was initially made public by the platform Investment Arbitration Reporter in an article titled “Serbia may revive the lithium mining project that prompted environmental protests and triggered a 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 hinted at the possibility of initiating arbitration against Serbia, stating that the company 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 Investment Arbitration Reporter article 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.

Mining Giant Leads Nine Disputes Against Serbian Institutions

The IAReporter recalls that in January 2024, the Serbian Prime Minister mentioned that Rio Tinto could sue Serbia based on the rights from the exploitation license granted to the mining giant in 2004. Domestic media emphasize that authorities have mentioned this possibility several times but have also stressed that no contract was signed with the investor.

As domestic media reported at the end of 2023, the company “Rio Sava Explorations,” a subsidiary of “Rio Tinto,” filed nine lawsuits against Serbia in the Administrative Court due to the halt of the “Jadar” project and lithium excavation. “We received information that ‘Rio Sava’ initiated as many as nine proceedings – four cases were formed against the Serbian government’s decisions, two against the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Management’s decisions, and another three cases against the Ministry of Finance’s decisions,” reported Nova.rs.

Earth Thrive Warned About Lawsuits Against Serbia in 2023

As you could read in Mašina, Earth Thrive warned about these lawsuits in March 2023. Confirmation that Rio Tinto is using legal means against the decision that halted the Jadar project in 2022 was found by Earth Thrive in a report submitted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection to the Bern Convention Bureau in mid-January 2023, which has since become available to the public.

The non-governmental organization Earth Thrive filed a complaint with the Bern Convention Bureau in 2021 regarding the construction of a lithium mine in the Jadar River valley and the associated infrastructure due to its harmful environmental impact. Earth Thrive is part of the London Mining Network, a coalition of NGOs fighting against the negative impacts of London-based companies.

As previously reported, the London Mining Network and Earth Thrive, in solidarity with the local community opposing the mine construction in the Jadar Valley, coordinated protest actions during the Rio Tinto shareholders’ meeting in 2023 and 2024. This year, activists Sofia Stefanović, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, and Nina Đukanović, a doctoral student at Oxford University, addressed Rio Tinto’s shareholders and board of directors on behalf of the organizations opposing the mine in Jadar.

Activists from Extinction Rebellion and Earth Thrive simultaneously organized an action in April 2024 in front of the Ministry of Mining and Energy in Belgrade, while activists from the Serbian Environmental Protection Alliance – SEOS gathered in Loznica.

Organizations opposing the opening of the lithium mine in Jadar will gather on June 28 this year in Gornje Nedeljice.


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