The Rio Tinto Company has not left Serbia
The Rio Tinto Company has not left Serbia and, judging by environmental associations in the country, has not stopped its lithium exploitation project in the Jadar Valley, even though the government’s decree from 20th January was supposed to put an end to the company’s lithium exploration.
According to Zlatko Kokanović, a resident of Gornje Nedeljice, Rio Tinto has not given up on lithium in Serbia and has no intention of giving up.
“Twenty days ago they bought a house that is not in the mining area but along the motorway route. Their activities were supposed to be stopped by the government decree from 20 January, but the only thing that has been done is the conversion of land from residential to agricultural use again,” emphasises Kokanović from the Ne Damo Jadar Association.
He says that on 10 August, the municipal administration issued 45 decrees stipulating the demolition of dilapidated houses and that the Association and the public were only informed about it at the beginning of October.
“We asked the municipal administration to see the decree and all the planning documents, so we can inspect them and determine who authorised the demolition without a building permit, but also to tell us where the waste will be disposed of”, Kokanović notes.
The local administration responded that they intend to dispose of the waste on their farmland, which, as he says, cannot be used as a landfill site.
“The inspection did not do its job and we sent a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture to do something about it as there are many agricultural plots devastated and not used for the intended purpose,” he notes.
Kokanović adds that he is waiting for an answer and expects the new Serbian government to adopt a proposal for a permanent ban on the exploitation and processing of minerals containing lithium and boron on the territory of the whole of Serbia.
“Only then will the project be finished. When the new government is formed, we will again send a letter in which we are urging for Rio Tinto to leave the country and demanding that no other such company be allowed to operate here’, Kokanović underlines, Serbian Monitor writes.
Communities are taking on metals and mining giant Rio Tinto to stop the construction of a lithium mine
In the Jadar river valley of western Serbia, communities are taking on metals and mining giant Rio Tinto to stop the construction of a lithium mine that threatens land and livelihoods across the region. Rio Tinto is a British-Australian corporation with joint headquarters in London, UK, and Melbourne, Australia. This article introduces the Jadar Project, the purposes and impacts of lithium mining, and Rio Tinto’s long legacy of destruction around the world.
What is the Jadar project?
In the early 2000s, Rio Tinto discovered a mineral in Serbia’s Jadar valley which came to be known as “Jadarite“. It is a lithium sodium borosilicate mineral, referred to as lithium and borate in this article. So far, this is the only place on earth where this particular mineral has been found. Rio Tinto tout it as one of the most significant lithium deposits in the world and have been exploring its potential for the last 15 years. The proposed mine in Serbia is expected to supply an estimated 10% of the growing global lithium demand.
The Jadar project is said to threaten more than 15,000 agricultural households in the town of Loznica and the Krupanj municipality, and the health and well-being of the communities of Loznica, Šabac and Valjevo. Households that sit directly on the proposed site of the mine face expropriation if they do not sell their land.
The project is currently at the feasibility stage (obtaining permits, buying land, completing technical documentation), yet Rio Tinto has already committed $2.4 billion to the development. Construction is then projected to take four years. Rio Tinto predicts the mine has 40 years of exploitation.
Yet locals aren’t letting it pass without a fight, taking their protests to Rio Tinto. Marija Alimpić, from the Protect Jadar and Rađevina association, says:
“Resistance among the locals is growing, their anger is growing. We’re prepared to stop the construction of the mine, and we’re convinced that there will be no mine. It remains to be seen how long it will take for them to realise this.”
Lithium mining and the electric vehicle boom
Borates, which Rio Tinto plan to extract from the Jadarite, are used in detergents, cosmetics, fibreglass, mobile phones, solar panels and synthetic fertilisers (see Corporate Watch’s report on synthetic fertilisers and climate change here).
Lithium is commonly used in batteries (pretty much anything mobile: phones, laptops, electric cars, e-scooters, bluetooth earbuds, etc.), lubricants, glasses and ceramics, military and medical technologies, pharmaceuticals, nuclear reactors and spacecraft.
Demand for one lithium-reliant product however dwarfs that of all others: the electric car. With many people looking to reduce their impact on the environment, or not wanting to shell out for petrol, the electric vehicle (EV) industry is experiencing a boom, especially in Europe. Growth in EV subsidies and regulations on conventional vehicles have also boosted the market. Sales of electric vehicles increased by 43% in 2020, despite a drop in car sales overall. In Europe, the largest consumer has been Germany and the main beneficiaries have been Renault, Tesla and VW.
Rio Tinto describes the Jadar deposit as being located “at the doorstep of the European automobile industry”; by 2030, the European Commission wants to place at least 30 million electric cars on Europe’s roads. In line with the European Union’s green transport agenda promoting electric vehicles, the Jadar region of Serbia, like others in Europe and the Americas, has effectively been marked a ‘sacrifice zone’ for the ‘green’ energy industry.
How “Green“ are lithium batteries
The impacts of lithium mining is a major study in and of itself. Here we list just the tip of the iceberg of the industry’s impacts across the planet.
Lithium extraction requires huge amounts of water, approximately 500,000 gallons per tonne of the mineral. More than half of the world’s lithium resources lie beneath the salt flats in the Andean regions of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, one of the driest regions on Earth. In Chile’s Salar de Atacama, lithium and other mining activities consumed 65 percent of the region’s water, causing groundwater depletion, soil contamination and other forms of environmental degradation, forcing local communities to abandon ancestral settlements.
Communities resisting the mine in Serbia fear for the mine’s tailings. These are the toxic residues of chemicals, rock and water left over from the mining processes. How tailings are dealt with accounts for many of the major pollution impacts of mining (learn more in London Mining Network’s explainer). The only tailings site publicly announced so far is in Radjevina, which would involve the destruction of 170 hectares of forest. The land is home to many protected species and nearby villages depend on its underground waters.
In 2014, one hundred thousand cubic metres of tailings from an antimony mine were released into the Kostajnik River (a Jadar tributary) after a record rainfall triggered floods and landslides. The Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) found elevated levels of arsenic, lead, copper and zinc in local waterways. The government also reported that 360 hectares of soil were affected by heavy metal contamination. The Jadar valley is a floodplain, and after many decades of experience with pollution from mining in their communities, locals fear the new project would spell disaster.
Chemical leakages from tailings sites can be fatal. In May 2016, masses of dead fish were found in the waters of Tibet’s Liqi River, contaminated by a toxic chemical leak from the Ganzizhou Rongda lithium mine run by Chinese company BYD. Cow and yak carcasses were also found floating downstream after having drunk contaminated water. The Free Tibet campaign produced a report on BYD and the effects of lithium extraction in Tibet.
A number of toxic heavy metals are also needed as components of lithium batteries for electric cars and other consumer goods. One of these metals is cobalt. An investigation into child labour in Democratic Republic of Congo’s cobalt industry revealed that tens of thousands of children were employed in the mines – two years after the publication of a damning Amnesty Internetional report about human rights abuses in the cobalt trade. There are many health risks associated with cobalt mining, including serious lung disease.
In Serbia, locals can already see the damage caused by Rio Tinto’s exploratory activities. The Protect Jadar and Rađevina association says the area is riddled with saline aquifiers, some of which will need to be drained to access the mineral. They claim that the many exploratory drill holes made by Rio Tinto have disturbed the underground waters. Grass and vegetation is no longer growing around the holes, and locals fear contamination of their drinking water. A well in the village of Gornje Nedeljice is reportedly no longer safe to drink from.
Rio Tinto’s Jadar mine also threatens the important cultural heritage of the area. According to Marija Alimpić, more than 50 prehistoric archeological sites lie in the Jadar Valley, including a 3500 year-old necropolis which reportedly stands in the path of a second tailings waste area.
Rio Tinto’s legacy of destruction
Serbia’s government is claiming that the mine will bring an ‘economic revival to the entire country’. But campaigners ask if Rio Tinto can be trusted, given that the company has a very long legacy of social and environmental harm across the world. London Mining Network has produced a detailed overview of the company’s impacts around the world including:
- The Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper mine in Mongolia that threatens Indigenous communities and continues to raise serious concerns about water usage in the arid desert region.
- An ilmenite mine in Madagascar that contaminated the lakes and rivers where local people fish and collect drinking water, with levels of uranium and lead approximately 50 times and 40 times higher, respectively, than World Health Organisation guidelines for safe drinking water.
- Rio Tinto recently destroyed a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site in Australia in order to expand an iron ore mine.
- In Bougainville and West Papua, the company was accused of sidestepping responsibility for the destructive impacts and persisting dangers caused by the Panguna and Grasberg mines, as detailed in the London Mining Network’s 2020 report, ‘Cut and Run’.
- Along with fellow mining giant BHP, Rio Tinto has been seeking to develop a massive copper mine near Superior, Arizona for the past 26 years. The proposed mine would destroy religious and sacred indigenous land known as Oak Flat and potentially destroy up to 6,000 hectares of public land.
The First Nation Innu communities of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John in Canada are in the throes of a $900 million lawsuit over Rio Tinto’s mining impacts. They said:
“While Rio Tinto is anxious to uphold its image as a model corporate citizen…the Uashaunnuat and MLJ can attest that, in their own experience, these are nothing but empty words. [The company] has undertaken all of its projects without the consent of the Uashaunnuat and MLJ, in violation of our rights”.
Despite its corporate spin, Rio Tinto’s mining activities leave a trail of pollution, exploitation and repression behind them.
Blood on their hands – who is financing the mine?
The UK’s Rio Tinto plc holds a 100% interest in the Jadar Project. Rio Tinto is one of the biggest mining companies in the world. It is a ‘public’ company, meaning its shares can be bought and sold on the London Stock Exchange. As a result it has a huge number of shareholders, none of whom owns close to a majority of the company’s shares. The biggest single investor, holding 14% of Rio Tinto shares, is Chinalco, a huge aluminium producing company owned by the Chinese state. Market databases show the next biggest shareholders are the giant investment funds Blackrock, Vanguard and Capital, with 11%, 8% and 7% respectively.
Rio Tinto is run by Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm, previously the Chief Financial Officer. He leads the Executive Committee of the company, comprising the managers that head up different Rio Tinto businesses. Click here to find out who they are.
Stausholm also sits on the board of directors, which is chaired by Simon Thompson. The board is not involved in the day-to-day running of the company but features various corporate bigwigs intended to reassure shareholders the company is in ‘good’ hands. Click here to find out who else sits on the board and the other corporate appointments they enjoy.
A global shift towards hybrid and electric cars is dependent on lithium batteries and has resulted in a ‘lithium rush’, with several companies, supported by governments, scrambling to exploit lithium deposits around the world. This is ‘green capitalism‘ at its finest. Thriving on the crises of climate change and pressures to phase out fossil fuels, whole new markets are created where corporations can continue to wreck the earth to create ‘ethical’ consumer goods whose exploitative and polluting impacts are hidden thanks to the global nature of the economy.
At a protest as part of indigenous resistance to lithium mining in Argentina, one hand-painted sign said “We don’t eat batteries. They take the water, life is gone.”
Rio Tinto: Jadarite processing will be an example of world best practice
The processing of jadarite ore will take place in a modern plant, with innovative and sustainable process technology, which is environmentally friendly and significantly more advanced than previously used, said today the director of Rio Sava Exploration Vesna Prodanović.
At the fourth meeting of the daughter company of Rio Tinto, Rio Sava, with the representatives of the non-governmental sector and the general public, she said that such a method of processing Jadarite will be the result of many years of work of that company.
“It is planned that the ‘Jadar’ project will be an example of the best ore processing technology that meets three, for us the most important principles: to be technologically sustainable, environmentally friendly and economically viable”, said Prodanović
After the meetings held in April, June and July with more than 200 participants, representatives of Rio Sava, at the fourth meeting, together with experts from scientific institutions involved in the project, presented in detail the technology of ore processing within Rio Tinto, technology processing of jadarite on the project ‘Jadar’, but also a chain of additional values of the project in terms of the final product and benefits for Serbia.
The open meeting was attended, as it is stated, by more than 70 participants of the general public, and they had the opportunity to get answers to all questions related to the project in a direct conversation with the representatives of Rio Sava.
“The ‘Jadar’ project, as one of the leading greenfield investments in Serbia, is attracting a lot of attention from the public, non-governmental organizations and especially the local population. A series of open meetings is an important segment of open dialogue and cooperation based on accurate, relevant and transparent information”, the statement said.
Rio Tinto’s Planned Jadarite Mine Sparks Protest in Western Serbia
Protesters against a planned mine by Rio Tinto in western Serbia accused the local authorities of altering the urban plan to make way for an investment that they fear will damage their environment.
Hundreds of locals from western Serbia, but also activists and opposition politicians from other parts of the country, gathered on Thursday in Loznica, western Serbia, to protest against amendments to the local urban plan to meet the needs of a lithium mining investment by the Anglo-Australian multinational corporation Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto Group is developing the Jadar project near Loznica within which it intends to open an underground mine to exploit jadarite, from which lithium, a mineral used to produce batteries, will be extracted.
Lithium is crucial for the transition to renewables, but mining it is environmentally costly, experts warn.
Marijana Petkovic, from the initiative “We will not give Jadar”, told the protesters that adoption of this plan needs to be stopped as it would be “the beginning of all later permits on the basis of which they will request permits” for much else.
“It’s a poisonous plant. They came in 2004, they never answered us as people on three key things: what to do with the noise; with the water; what is the minimum amount of pollution. None of what they promise can be fulfilled. One well has been leaking for five years, and every year a fee is paid for water pouring into the fields and damaging the crops, because it is possible that it cannot be repaired,” Petkovic said at the protest.
She criticized President Aleksandar Vucic’s proposal of the referendum on Rio Tinto investment, claiming that the corporation has so much money that it can pay off everyone, adding that they are already paying local farmers in the area for damage to land they already caused.
Two Serbian NGOs, the Coalition against Environmental Corruption and the Podrinje Anti-Corruption Team, PAKT, have filed charges against Rio Sava Exploration, Rio Tinto’s Serbian subsidiary firm, for environmental pollution.
Charges were filed for alleged violations to environmental regulations since 2015, polluting water and land in the wider area of the Jadar Valley in western Serbia.
The company installed about 125 observation facilities to monitor the groundwater level, most of which leaked in the meantime, so that groundwater with dangerous substances spilled onto the plots of locals, causing significant damage, the NGOs claim.
In the meantime, the company concluded agreements on compensation for damages with several of the injured parties, “and in that way acknowledged the damage caused to the environment”, the NGOs’ official statement about the charges said.
In 2017, Rio Tinto signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Serbia’s government on the Jadar lithium extracting project.
Several officials announced the deal as crucial for Serbia, including President Vucic, who said the project would benefit the economy, and criticised the environmentalist NGOs, accusing them of being paid from abroad for their actions. Vucic announced a potential referendum on the matter if criticism continued.
BIRN recently revealed the details of talks between the Serbian ambassador to the EU, Ana Hrustanovic, and Lawrence Dechambenoit, Rio Tinto’s chief foreign officer, in Brussels on June 8, in which the company was “considering the possibility of faster realization of the current project” and possible expansion of the project, following talks with Vucic on June 1.
Several opposition leaders in Serbia have claimed they were instructed not to criticize the government regarding the Rio Tinto project by the US Special Envoy, Matthew Palmer, during his meeting with opposition politicians in June this year.
Rio Tinto’s investments all over the world are known for their impact on local communities and on the environment. They were accused of being responsible for multiple human rights violations in Papua New Guinea, according to a report from the Human Rights Law Centre.
The company has been also criticized for its investments in Madagascar, Mongolia, Mozambique, India, Indonesia, China and the US, and has been accused of environmental and working violations, but also of bribery.
Most recently, in May 2020, Rio Tinto demolished an Australian Aboriginal sacred site in Juukan Gorge, Western Australia, which had evidence of 46,000 years of continuous human occupation and was considered the only inland prehistoric site in Australia. The company later apologised and several CEOs of the company have since resigned.
Source: Balkan Insight
Environmental issues of Rio Tinto’s Jadar project in Serbia
In February this year, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić visited Rio Tinto’s site and said that this effort is important not only for Loznica but for the whole country. On that occasion, she expressed the hope that the construction of the chemical plant will begin at the end of next year. Many Loznica residents disagree with this idea, arguing that an environmental catastrophe awaits them if it happens.
Miodrag Stanisic from Osecina says that excavations in the mine will increase the pollution in the area, and that there will be more harm than good from the mine. He adds that he participated in the protests against the construction of the chemical plant here.
“We are about fifteen kilometres from the future mine. In the last year and a half, the representatives of Rio Tinto conducted research here three or four times a week. The excavations are planned in the basin of the Kolubara and Korenita rivers and will be 40 metres long. This in practice means that the waste will be disposed of on the surface,” Stanisic warns.
Stanisic points out that the technology of mining the ore is quite dirty, and the possibility of an environmental accident is very high. He adds that many citizens are uninformed, which is why they are silent about this.
“I am an economist by profession and I think the effects (of the project implementation) will be very negative. The miners are poorly paid and I don’t think the area will benefit from that,” said Stanisic.
Vladan Jakovljevic shares Stanisic’s views and says that because his family of five was not able to work in Loznica, he started beekeeping.
“A black and poisonous cloud hovers over my bees and my existence, and if the bees disappear, the location population will not fare well. I am not a member of any political party and my opposition to mining is a personal stance in the interest of preserving the quality of water, soil and air,” Jakovljevic adds.
Marija Alimpic from the Protecting Jadar and Radjevina Association recalls that in 2004, Rio Tinto discovered deposits of borate and lithium which are considered critical raw materials. According to her, during the 15 years of research, the company has kept the technical, environmental and social impacts of the project secret. The company says that the jadarite is as a unique mineral and claims to have developed special processing techniques, although no one has seen or heard anything about it.
Protest against Rio Tinto’s lithium mine in Serbia
The experts of Rio Tinto conducted many years of research on the mineral jadarite (sodium-lithium-borosilicate) and found it in 2004 in the basin of the river Jadar, after which it was named. During this, the representatives of the state, together with the authorities from Rio Tinto, announced the construction of a chemical plant for 2021, and this endeavor was marked by the Serbian public as an investment of the century.
The local population of Brezjak is most worried about the impact of dirty technologies related to lithium mining on their environment, which was often warned by domestic experts for environmental protection, the Oslobodjenje movement announced. In the village of Brezjak in the Loznica area, a large protest was held in front of the representative office of Rio Tinto, against the company’s intention to start the exploitation of lithium ore.
Marija Alimpic from the association “Let’s protect Jadar and Radjevina” in her address to the gathered pointed out that “citizens were not informed about this project, there were no consultations, and many were intimidated.”
“We must be aware of how many long-term problems this project will leave, not only for the residents of Loznica and its surroundings, but also for the whole of Serbia,” said Alimpic and added:
“Rio Tinto representative Gregory Maher does not know where he came to. “Serbs will defend their homes, their villages and their environment.”
This was also confirmed by the resident Slavisa Miletic, who said in a fiery speech that he is “a descendant of famous ancestors and the father of six children, but that he does not intend to retire, but to fight for his country.”
Professor Dusko Kuzovic, a representative of the Oslobodjenje movement, emphasized that the project was not transparent.
“The feasibility study has been declared a business secret of Rio Tinto. We demand a moratorium, not only on this project, but also on all other endeavors that permanently destroy the environment, such as mini-hydro power plants. ”
Representatives of environmental movements, the PAKT organization, “Ne damo Jadar”, who have been pointing out numerous problems of lithium mining for a long time, also spoke at the gathering. The protest gathered several hundred residents of Brezjak and surrounding villages, who carried banners “Rio Tinto go away”, “We are defending the whole of Serbia”, “What will our children tell us”, “Lithium for you – poison for us”.
The protest was also attended by the president of the Oslobodjenje movement, Mladjan Djordjevic, who a few days ago pointed out the problems and harmful consequences of this project in the media, explaining that Serbia will be left with “destroyed environment in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, as well as seven billion tons of toxic tailings. ”
Representatives of Rio Tinto left the offices before the beginning of the protest, refusing to talk to the gathered citizens.
Protests against Rio Tinto’s future lithium mine in Serbia
Protest was organized in front of the Rio Tinto’s premises in Serbian city Loznica. The citizens of Loznica demanded an urgent suspension of all activities related to the construction of the jadarite/lithium mine and the abandonment of the lithium exploitation project near their city.
Citizens are protesting because they do not know what the ore flotation will look like, how and where the tailings from the mine will be deposited and what impact it will have on the environment, and they express fear that it will be harmful to the environment and health. The protest was organized by the informal citizens’ association for the protection of Gornji Jadra and the Podrinje Anti-Corruption Team (PAKT). Miroslav Mijatović from PAKT told Sputnik that this is only the first protest that there will be more of them, because the health of their children is more important than any “artificial economic progress”.
He states that Rio Tinto came to Serbia with a “long tradition of violating human rights and violating the environment.” He estimates that the opening of the mine will close life in Gornji Jadar, that low-skilled jobs will be created, and fertile land will be lost.
According to him, the potential danger of an environmental accident is much greater than the local one, and the consequences can be felt within a radius of 150 kilometers, which means that not only Loznica is endangered, but also Šabac and Belgrade.
He states that in the past few years, the Faculty of Mining and Geology has earned 100 million and 500 thousand dinars from Rio Tinto, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering 12 million, the Faculty of Civil Engineering 10, and the Institute of Public Health Belgrade 13.1 million dinars, institutions are auditing all the studies done so far, because the people cannot trust the institutions paid for by Rio Tinto.
The most important request of the protest organizers is the holding of a referendum of the citizens on whether they are for or against the mine.
“Citizens must be asked whether or not they want a mine and under what conditions,” said Mijatović.
Rio Tinto invested half a billion
The mining company, Rio Tinto, whose headquarters are in London, has been present in Serbia since 2007.
In July 2017, Rio Tinto signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Serbia on the project for the development of lithium and pine deposits “Jadar”, and in the middle of last year it announced that it would start exploiting lithium in four years. According to the plan, a feasibility study for the project should be completed by the end of this year.
Rio Tinto has so far invested almost half a million dollars in research. According to “Bloomberg”, the estimated reserves of lithium in Serbia are the largest in Europe, and preliminary research suggests that it could be 200 million tons. The American Geological Institute speculates that it is as much as a million tons of lithium.
Rio Tinto approved investment for the feasibility study for lithium-borate Jadar project in Serbia
The unique mineral, Jadarite was discovered by Rio Tinto geologists in 2004 near the city of Loznica in Western Serbia. The Jadar deposit contains high-grade mineralisation of boron and lithium supporting a long-life operation in the first quartile of operating costs for both products.
Rio Tinto Energy & Minerals Chief Executive Bold Baatar said “Rio Tinto’s lithium project pipeline is an important part of our vision to pursue opportunities which are part of the transition to a low-carbon future. We look forward to working closely with the Government of Serbia over the next eighteen months as we develop and validate our understanding of the project to the point when we can seek a final investment decision by the Board of Rio Tinto.”
Rio Tinto has approved an additional investment of almost $200 million to progress the next stage of the development of the lithium-borate Jadar project in Serbia. This will primarily fund the feasibility study, including the completion of detailed engineering designs, as well as permitting and land acquisition by the end of 2021, in line with the initial project schedule.
The company completed the detailed exploration of the Jadarite deposit in February 2020. The results of the drilling programme are now being incorporated into an update of the geological model. This update will facilitate a JORC Reserve declaration as part of the feasibility study and also a submission of Elaborate on Reserves, in accordance with the Serbian mineral code.
The development includes an underground mine, an industrial processing facility and all associated infrastructure. The project has the potential to supply the world with a significant amount of end-industrial products for lithium batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage facilities. It would also supply borates which are used in the manufacturing of detergents, cosmetics and other consumer goods.
In parallel, Rio Tinto has also started work on the commissioning of its lithium demonstration plant in the United States, which is extracting lithium from waste rock at its Boron mine in California. This plant could potentially produce 10 tonnes per year of lithium-carbonate needed in rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and consumer electronics.
Rio Tinto Jadar Lithium project, exploitation environment impacts
Lithium borate reserves at the site near Loznica have been estimated roughly at 135 million tons. Vladimir Simic, a professor at the Faculty of Mining and Geology, says the underground will be exploited. “There should be no problematic effects, because I suppose as with most borates and similar minerals – these are easily soluble minerals that will be converted into lithium and boron in some technological process,” he added.
The Jadar project, developed by one of the leading mining companies Rio Tinto in Serbia, includes one of the world’s largest lithium borate deposits. Jadar is a unique deposit of a new lithium sodium borosilicate mineral of jadarite discovered in 2004 near Loznica in western Serbia. Rio Tinto has invested more than $ 130 million so far in the development of the Jadar project, and if the investment is approved, the planned construction of mines and processing plants could begin in 2021.
The jadarite ore was discovered in 2004 and recognized as a new mineral in 2007, and 15 years later we talk about the final phase of the exploration, which we heard after a meeting between Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and the Minister responsible with company representatives.
Vladimir Simic, a professor at the Faculty of Mining and Geology at the Department of Economic Geology, explains that the final phase of the exploration means, according to our laws, that a resource and reserves study will be finalized to determine exactly how much ore is available, which is a part of commercially available to take out, in what way, under what conditions, at what cost and finally at what profit.
“About 135 million tonnes of ore have been investigated so far, according to the available Rio Tinto materials. It is no small amount for a single bed that spans six to seven square kilometers. Of course, these are not fully defined reserves yet, we do not know if all this can be taken out commercially or not, “says Simic, adding that additional studies and analyzes are needed and that this is a big deal.
He thinks that the bearing, geologically speaking, is well defined.
Otherwise, it states that the basin where the jadarite was found was drilled from tens of thousands of wells during the 1970s and 1980s, when uranium was being explored. “And I just can’t believe no one has ever drilled jadarite before,” says the professor. But he states that the state was working on purpose at the time – if uranium was being explored, it was done and there was no budget for other more detailed examinations of all the sediments that had been passed.
Lithium borate reserves at the site near Loznica have been estimated roughly at 135 million tons. Asked how much it can be exploited, Simic says – it depends on Rio Tinto.
Talking about the benefits to the state, he states that it is certainly something that would lead to the employment of people. He said that we have good experts.
“They will invest in it, they will pay the state a fee for the use of mineral resources that is required by law … I do not know about lithium, because it does not appear in existing laws, it will probably be something similar to other non-metallic mineral raw materials, maybe up to five percent of profits – though it is never clear to me out of which profit. It is not clear to me, and I have been dealing with mineral raw materials for 30 years, ”the professor said.
When asked what this will mean for the environment, the professor says that since the jadarite is located in three levels, the depth of the reduced level is from 100 to 700 and below meters, and that the best is the lowest layer, therefore at the greatest depth – it will have to be exploited underground. “There should be no problematic effects, because I suppose, as with most borates and similar minerals, they are easily soluble minerals that will be converted to lithium and boron in some technological process,” Simić added.
Lithium is used in the manufacture of batteries that power vehicles, computers, mobile phones and industrial systems, as well as alloys for the aviation industry.
Rio Tinto in Serbia: Lithium exploitation plan presented
Finally, the plan of the whole Jadar project saw the light of day. Here are some of the most important side projects and what all lithium extraction will bring in the villages around Loznica.
The spatial plan of the special purpose area for the realization of the project for exploitation and processing of Jadarite minerals “Jadar” was put on early public insight, which will last until the end of the year.
As stated in the document, the initiative for the development of the Spatial Plan was submitted to the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure in December 2016 by the company Rio Sava Exploration d.o.o. Belgrade, a company operating within the global mining corporation Rio Tinto.
The beginning of the development of the Spatial Plan was preceded by several years of exploration of the Jadarite minerals (sodium lithium borosilicate), which were discovered by the geologists of the Rio Sava Exploration in the Jadar River basin, by which this unique mineral was named – as published in the documentation.
The Spatial Plan area covers an area of 293.91 square kilometers and a total of 22 cadastral municipalities in the territory of the City of Loznica (settlements Runjani, Lipnica, Bradic, Brnjac, Veliko Selo, Jarebice, Draginac, Simino Brdo, Cikote, Surice, Stupnica, Slatina, Korenita, Gornje Nedeljice, Donje Nedeljice, Grncara and Sor) and the municipalities of Krupanj (settlements Kostajnik, Dvorska, Brezovice, Krasava and Cerova).
The “Jadar” deposit in which the previously unknown mineral jadarite was discovered at the end of 2004 is in the central part of the scope of the Spatial Plan, and so far it is the only place where this mineral was found which is new to science and represents the concentration of lithium and boron . Based on the annual report for 2017 of the global mining corporation Rio Tinto, the estimation of jadarite resources has been carried out for the Lower Jadarit zone alone, to a total of 136 million tonnes. In addition to opening the exploitation of Jadarite, within the area of the Spatial Plan, it is expected that the production of antimony will be restored, as well as the exploitation of lead-zinc ore.
The Jadar project, we recall, estimates that it will employ 700 people (up to 400 in the mine, on an area of about 100 and about 200 maintenance workers), involves changing the purpose of the regime of use of space, construction of facilities, roads and infrastructure, conducting mining activities, processing ores, production, deposit of materials and establishment of protection measures in the area of the total area of approximately 2030,64 hectares.
The project implementation area is divided into several zones, for example, in the Mining Activities Zone, two vertical shafts will be constructed for access to the mine body, for ventilation of the mine and for the transportation of ore and mining waste to the surface. Two mine excavation techniques will be applied at the mine: conventional drilling and blasting and machine continuous excavation.
A landfill of approximately 5.2 million cubic meters of waste within the first subzone is planned.
Further, the concept of development on the scope of the plan involves the construction of a new route Ruma-Sabac-Loznica, as well as the construction of a new section of Valjevo-Loznica in the length of about 13.75 kilometers. Projections indicate the generation of approximately 600 trucks in the driveway and about 1,400 trucks in the haul, on a weekly basis, with dump trucks predominating.
The railway infrastructure envisaged by the project will include the reconstruction of the existing Ruma – Sabac – Rasputnica Donja Borina – state border – (Zvornik Novi) railway and construction of a new Valjevo – Loznica railway, which will be displaced in one part, and the construction of several bridges is planned to bridge the newly constructed regulated riverbeds, which will intersect with the displaced section of the track.
The plan also envisages the construction of missing water and hydrotechnical infrastructure – reservoirs at planned locations and the reconstruction and modernization of the network and facilities.