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Rio Tinto asserts safety of Serbia lithium project amid environmental concerns

Rio Tinto announced on Thursday that it had published new environmental studies indicating the safety of its Jadar lithium project in Serbia, which was halted in 2022 due to extensive protests. The proposed $2.4 billion project in Western Serbia could potentially supply 90% of Europe’s current lithium needs, positioning Rio Tinto as a significant player in the global lithium market, crucial for electric vehicles (EVs) and mobile devices.

The company’s Serbian unit released findings from studies conducted over six and a half years, asserting that the Jadar project could proceed while adhering to stringent domestic and international environmental standards. Rio Tinto emphasized its commitment to environmental responsibility in its statement.

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Earlier this year, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic expressed interest in reopening discussions with Rio Tinto about the project, welcoming public input on its future. The project faced setbacks in 2022 when Serbian authorities revoked Rio’s license following protests supported by environmental groups and local communities, reflecting concerns about potential water pollution in a country already grappling with significant environmental challenges.

In a statement, Rio Tinto’s representative in Serbia, Marijanti Babic, underscored that releasing these studies aimed to foster renewed public dialogue and transparency about the project’s impacts and benefits.

Recently elected Serbian Prime Minister Milos Vucevic indicated willingness to engage in discussions regarding the project’s resumption, marking a potential shift in the government’s stance.

Rio Tinto’s efforts to restart the Jadar lithium project amidst environmental and public scrutiny highlight ongoing debates over balancing economic development with environmental protection in Serbia’s fragile ecosystem.

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