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Continued exploration efforts: Rio Tinto and the Jadar project

The “Jadar project” was officially terminated at the start of 2022, yet Rio Tinto persists in its exploration endeavors with the full backing of the Serbian government, affirmed Dragana Đorđević, a scientific advisor at the Institute of Chemistry, Technology, and Metallurgy at the University of Belgrade, today. Speaking at a scientific symposium titled “The Jadar Project – Progress Until 2021 and Since 2021” in Kragujevac, Đorđević disclosed that Rio Tinto is actively seeking to acquire “further land” in Jadar to conclude its research. “Despite significant local resistance, we are assisting community members in their defense efforts. The final outcome remains uncertain,” she stated. Đorđević highlighted numerous irregularities attributed to Rio Tinto, noting, “The scientific community is diligently flagging these irregularities, and we hope legal professionals will also intervene, leading to resolution.” She pointed out that on-site experts have observed environmental pollution resulting from Rio Tinto’s research activities, contradicting the company’s claims of strict adherence to ecological standards. “On the flip side, our government’s support and legislative adjustments enable the company’s legal pollution and contamination,” Đorđević asserted. She stressed the importance of citizens heeding expert advice over political rhetoric, which, she believes, often aligns with the interests of foreign companies. “Companies are drawn to regions with low-cost exploitation, labor, lax environmental standards and high corruption. Over the past decade, our country has plummeted more than 20 places on the global corruption index, facilitating corrupt practices by foreign entities, influencing governmental decisions from the top down to local levels,” she elaborated. Đorđević reiterated the profession’s staunch opposition to the “Jadar Project,” citing its environmental impact, which is typically associated with desert regions worldwide. “The majority of global lithium reserves are found in South America, particularly in the salt flats of Atacama, where 70 percent of the world’s reserves are located, and lithium can be easily extracted using solar energy. Serbia, on the other hand, possesses only a fraction of reserves, primarily in ores, which entail complex and environmentally damaging extraction methods, leaving behind tailings that pollute for centuries,” she explained. She underscored the transient nature of foreign mining operations, emphasizing the lack of accountability for environmental remediation once these companies depart. The scientific symposium “The Jadar Project – Progress Until 2021 and Since 2021” was organized by the Alliance of Environmental Organizations of Serbia (SEOS) in collaboration with the local associations Neko Brine za Levač from Rekovac and Prvi Prvi na Skali from Kragujevac.

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