Mining companies have no intention of leaving Serbia and there will be more and more of them, and justice and laws are not on the side of citizens who fight for human rights and environmental protection, lawyer Sreten Đorđević said today.
At the conference “Availability of environmental (in)justice in Serbia” in Belgrade, Đorđević pointed out that mining companies will not leave Serbia “at any cost”, neither because of financial losses nor the revocation of permits.
“We should not be fooled that mining companies engaged in any type of exploitation or applied geological research will leave Serbia within the existing legal framework. I think there will be more and more of them,” Djordjevic said.
Speaking about the boron and lithium mining plans in the Valjevo basin, Đorđević, the legal representative of the citizens’ movement “March from Kolubare”, recalled that the rights to applied geological research of boron and lithium in the area of Valjevo North were taken away from the company Euro Lithium Balkan.
However, the same company announced a few days ago that it wants to engage in applied geological research on the geothermal potential of the Valjevo area in the same area.
“I think it’s actually a simulation of the desire to explore geothermal potential, behind which could be the company’s desire to stay in that research area by any means, with some new solution, and not allow another company to enter its place,” he said. Djordjevic.
Although the company Euro Lithium Balkan has been operating with huge losses for several years, which amounted to 2.9 million euros in 2021, Đorđević said that the company is incorporating other companies backed by investment funds into its ownership structure.
Namely, in 2021, Euro Lithium Canada concluded a lien agreement with Lithium Royalty Corporation from Canada by pledging 10% of the ownership of Euro Lithium Balkan in the name of that company’s claims.
Behind the company Lithium Royalty Corporation is the investment fund Waratah Capital Advisors Ltd, which manages assets of about four billion dollars.
“At risk citizens from the Valjevo area should be told that nothing is over.” The interests of the mining sector are so strong that they will want to stay in this area at all costs at the cost of losing permits and constantly operating with losses,” said Đorđević.
According to him, in order for mining companies to leave Serbia, the Law on Mining and Geological Research, the Law on Expropriation and the entire “mining lobby legislative framework that destroys the entire system of regulations in the field of environmental protection and consequently human rights protection” must be changed.
Đorđević mentioned that in Serbia, excluding Vojvodina, there are only three mining inspectors, one for the field of underground water, one for geological research and one for solid rock masses.
He said that citizens are demoralized and disincentivized to fight for their rights, because court proceedings take a long time, costs are huge and unpredictable; In most cases, there is a huge disproportion between the plaintiff and the defendant, and they are increasingly exposed to strategic lawsuits against members of the public (SLAPP lawsuits).
“In all these proceedings where citizens are fighting for the protection of human rights and the protection of the environment, the balance of justice is drastically tilted to the other side, the side of investors, because on that side the state administration factor prevails and that is why there is such a great inequality, as well as in economic powers one side and the other,” Djordjevic said.
He noted that the law does not recognize the possibility of exemption from court costs in proceedings with elements of environmental protection, which, in his opinion, would be justified because it is not about particular personal interests, but about the protection of collective interests.
Djordjević also pointed out that the legal system of Serbia in the area of civil rights has not changed for 50 years, as well as that in the draft of the new Civil Code, no provisions refer to procedures with an element of environmental protection or compensation for damages in that area.
“It seems that the future law makers did not recognize the area of environmental protection rights in the civil-law sense, which is unacceptable because environmental problems increase with geometric progression,” said Đorđević and added that in the meantime laws in the field of mining are being developed to the detriment of citizens’ interests, N1 writes.