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Rio Tinto stands firm on Jadar mine plans amid Serbia environmental concerns

Rio Tinto is adamant that its newly released draft environmental impact assessments prove the safety of its planned lithium extraction at the Jadar mine in northern Serbia. Chad Blewitt, managing director of Rio Tinto’s Jadar project, emphasized the company’s commitment to factual dialogue amidst what he described as misinformation and unfounded claims. The project has faced vehement opposition from Serbian citizens concerned about potential environmental damage, including river pollution and disruption of agricultural lands. Blewitt reassured that stringent safety measures would prevent any chemical leakage into air, water, or soil, asserting compliance with Serbian and EU regulations. In response to concerns about agriculture, Blewitt proposed that Rio Tinto would purchase agricultural produce at market prices and use it to feed their workforce, emphasizing coexistence with farming activities. Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, hinted at reinstating mining permits pending “new guarantees” from Rio Tinto and the EU, amidst ambitions to leverage the mine for lithium production and attract electric vehicle battery manufacturers to Serbia. However, Rio Tinto cautioned that operational timelines hinge on regulatory approvals, indicating uncertainty over the project’s start date. The prospect of mine resumption has sparked renewed protests, with demonstrators alleging governmental prioritization of foreign interests over public welfare. Despite assurances from Rio Tinto about economic benefits for Serbia, protesters remain skeptical, criticizing the credibility of the company’s self-produced impact assessments. Amidst escalating tensions, EU officials confirmed the standard practice of companies conducting environmental impact assessments, subject to governmental scrutiny, underscoring global norms in environmental evaluation processes.

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