Serbia, The real plans of the Jadar project

Europe’s largest lithium mine

The Jadar lithium project is Europe’s largest lithium mine, with a supposed $2.4 billion fund from Rio Tinto. The said lithium mine could produce 1 million electric vehicle (EV) batteries. However, locals of Jadar Valley opposed the project, not willing to sacrifice their land. They don’t want to replace their sweet and juicy raspberries and abundant bees with batteries for electric vehicles. Besides, the damages that mining will create are irreparable.

Rio Tinto found a new type of mineral called jadarite, containing borates and lithium. Jadarite was discovered in Jadar, hence the name of the mineral, in 2004. According to the giant mining company, these materials play a key role in the green transition. Lithium is important in manufacturing EV batteries. Borates, on the other hand, are useful in making wind and solar projects.

The supposed Serbia Jadar Lithium Project is one of the planet’s biggest greenfield lithium projects. Jadar’s high-grade nature and extensive deposit provide the possibility of a mine that can supply lithium for EVs for several decades. The abundance of boron and lithium deposits can make Serbia a key world producer.

If the project pursues, the initial mine’s commercial production is anticipated no earlier than 2027.  The yearly production would be 58,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate and 160,000 tonnes of boric acid (B2O3 units). The production of sodium sulphate1, on the other hand, will be 255,000 tonnes.

Lies emerged about the Jadar lithium project

Gornje Nedeljice locals had peace of mind when the government decided to revoke Rio Tinto’s licence for mine jadarite. In fact, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic announced it herself.

However, not everyone is convinced, especially Marijana Petković, a local campaign group Ne Damo Jadar member. She said, “I want the western countries to have the green transition and to live like people in Jadar. But that doesn’t mean that we need to destroy our nature. We started to fight against the mine when they found out the company was lying to us for 14 years; when we found out how big the mine really is.”

There’s a prevailing scepticism about the cancellation of the Jadar lithium project. The government only nullified the project to end protests that could mess up the presidential and parliamentary elections (April 3). It could resume if there were reelection of the government.

“Once re-elected, we expect the SNS will maintain its pro-mining stance. The fact that the government has so far refused to consider a potential lithium mining ban in Serbia points in this direction. This gave environmental protests an anti-government element and proved to be a unifying force for the historically fragmented political opposition in Serbia,” said Capucine May, Verisk Maplecroft expert.

However, Rio Tinto repudiated that this wasn’t their intention. They said it was not their plan or didn’t fulfil any activities or actions to the project’s legal stature.

They say that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. But the truth will always find a way to reveal itself. Locals found out that Jadar Lithium Project won’t just take 20 hectares of land but 600 hectares! It’s almost the size of 10,000 tennis courts.

Rio Tinto has spent more than a million euros on land in Serbia at the proposed site of a lithium mine that was eventually cancelled a year ago

A BIRN investigation shows that Rio Tinto has spent more than a million euros on land in Serbia at the proposed site of a lithium mine that was eventually cancelled a year ago, while a redacted readout of a meeting with the EU makes clear the company’s fear of a national referendum on the issue.

Since mid-2022, the year Serbia’s government revoked licences for a $2.4 billion lithium mine, Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has spent at least 1.2 million euros on land in the area that it hoped to exploit, BIRN can report, and is now offering financial aid to local firms in an apparent bid to win favour.

Faced with growing public opposition, the government called off the project in January last year, but critics speculated that the halt was only temporary, to avoid a voter backlash in elections that April.

But while Prime Minister Ana Brnabic stressed again in December that she sees no way back for the ‘Jadar’ project, the company itself says it has not “given up” and President Aleksandar Vucic is again mooting the possibility of a referendum. Opponents of the project face being beaten, he said on January 5.

“You never know – maybe they’ll have that referendum, maybe next or the year after that, you never know, just to fulfill a promise, so they can see how they will fare,” said Vucic, who as leader of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party is the most powerful political figure in the country.

A nationwide plebiscite, however, is precisely what Rio Tinto fears, according to a redacted readout – obtained by BIRN – of a meeting between company officials and the European Union delegation in Serbia on March 25 last year, two months after the project was officially cancelled.

Rio Tinto: ‘We haven’t given up’

With demand for electric vehicle batteries on the rise, Rio Tinto says the lithium mine in the area of Loznica, western Serbia, would be the biggest in Europe and make the company one of the top 10 lithium producers in the world.

The project has strong backing from the UK, Australia, United States, and the EU. The latter imports almost all of the lithium it uses but has ambitions to secure an entire supply chain of battery minerals and materials, with demand for lithium predicted to grow 18 times by 2030 and 60 times by 2050.

Serbia stands to benefit from some 2,100 construction jobs and an injection of roughly 200 million euros per year into the domestic supply chain, Rio says.

Environmentalists, however, fear huge damage to water and land in western Serbia, while some Serbs say they feel steamrollered by the powerful multinational mining giant.

Facing an election in April 2022, the government scrapped the project in the January, but Rio Tinto has not gone away.

Between June 2022 and January 2023, the company has paid some 1.2 million euros for 5.78 hectares of land via seven separate contracts with residents in the proposed mining site, BIRN found by analysing and cross-matching data from state cadastral records.

Then in January, Rio Tinto announced a programme of to support sustainable local development in the Loznica area via financial grants for local enterprises.

The company has not hidden its ambition to revive what chief executive Jakob Stausholm called in December an “amazing asset.”

“We need to figure out how to go about it,” Stausholm was quoted by Reuters as telling an investor briefing in Sydney. “The only thing I would say today is we haven’t given up.”

Asked about its continued land purchases, Rio Tinto told BIRN: “The purchase of the land is a continuation of the previously undertaken obligations of the Rio Sava company,” referring to its local subsidiary.

Pressed for clarification of these “obligations”, the company did not respond.

Regarding its support for local businesses, Rio Tinto said it was part of the company’s “commitment to the communities in which it operates” and has nothing to do with any potential referendum.

Rio Tinto reiterated that it still believes the Jadar project “has the potential to be a world-class operation that could support the development of other future industries in Serbia, acting as a flywheel for tens of thousands of new jobs for current and future generations, and the sustainable production of materials that are key to the energy transition.”

The environmental campaign group ‘Mars sa Drine’ [Get off the Drina], which opposes the Jadar project, said it had warned all along that the cancellation of the mine was a charade, but that its fate would ultimately be decided by the public.

“Rio Tinto buys people off with offers of cash, and now, in a genius marketing move, they act like a humanitarian organization that invests in local crafts,” Jovana Amidzic, a representative of the group, told BIRN. “Rio Tinto can stay on that land for 40 years, but there will be no mines.”

Nationwide referendum risks ‘more complicated dynamic’

Reviving the project without some kind of referendum risks a major public backlash against Vucic’s Progressives.

At a meeting with the EU delegation in Serbia on March 25 last year, Rio Tinto representatives appeared to be open to a local poll among villagers in the affected area, but not necessarily a wider plebiscite.

“A referendum could indicate the will of the inhabitants of the 12 villages of the area of Loznica, who according to the company would be the key players in the execution of the project, and those who would benefit the most,” a redacted summary of the meeting reads. “A local referendum would thus favour the company.”

“A nationwide referendum including Belgrade, where the most negativity comes from, could produce a more complicated dynamic,” the document adds.

BIRN received the summary from an EU citizen who obtained it from the European Commission on the basis of a Freedom of Information request. BIRN obtained another copy of the document from another EU citizen, who had also submitted an FOI to the Commission, but in the second document the reference to Rio Tinto’s misgivings about a national referendum was blacked out.

The Commission shortly told BIRN that it was “a clerical error”.

In its response for this story, Rio Tinto did not comment directly on the possibility of a referendum, saying it was a matter for “the competent authorities” in Serbia.

Amidzic of Mars sa Drine said that Rio Tinto’s fear of a national referendum only underscored the strength of public resistance, even though the country’s president and government were firmly behind the mine.

“Even with all the machinery of Vucic’s rule over the media, the people’s resistance is clear to them,” Amidzic said, adding that regardless of whether the project is put to a referendum, it is already in violation of the law.

“There are legal processes that have not been followed, and therefore we can see that this project cannot be realised according to legal regulations because it is catastrophic in terms of its impact on biodiversity, people’s health, water, air and land”.

Project aborted, but approval pending

Calling off the project on January 20, 2022, Serbia’s government terminated a decree concerning the spatial plan of the special purpose area for the Jadar project and, five days later, annulled a decision by the Ministry of Environmental Protection regarding the environmental impact study.

“All administrative acts related to Rio Tinto, i.e. Rio Sava, all permits, decisions, and everything else has been annulled,” Brnabic declared in the wake of mass protests. “With this, as far as the Jadar and Rio Tinto project is concerned, everything is over.”

However, Rio Tinto’s request for the approval of the exploitation field, submitted on January 6, 2021, is still pending, Ministry of Mining confirmed to Mars sa Drine organization.

BIRN asked the Ministry of Mining why the request is still officially under consideration if the project has already been aborted, but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.

In November last year, the government also signed declarations of intent with Slovakian battery maker InoBat to build an electric vehicle battery factory in Serbia, Reuters reported. Rio Tinto is an investor in InoBat.

Activists and the opposition say this all points to a likely revival of the Jadar project.

Meanwhile, a proposal to ban the mining of lithium and boron in Serbia, signed by more than 38,000 people and submitted to parliament last year, has still to come before the competent committee of ministry, despite rules that it should do so within 30 days.

Radomir Lazovic, an MP of the opposition Green-Left Coalition, said the so-called ‘People’s Initiative’ was being kept from lawmakers on someone’s orders.

“At every session and at every opportunity I asked what’s happening with the People’s Initiative,” Lazovic told BIRN.

“I managed to get answers from the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government, and now the answer has arrived from the Committee for Constitutional Affairs and Legislation that this document never reached them, which can only mean one thing – that someone deliberately removed it from the regular procedure.”

BIRN sent inquiries to the Serbian president’s office and the Serbian government about the Rio Tinto lithium project, but received no response by the time of publication, Balkan Insight writes.

Europe, Cornwall set for lithium mining boom

Forecasts suggest the UK will require around 80,000 tons of lithium a year by 2030, but almost 40 percent of that could come from under Cornwall.

The second great Cornish metals rush has begun.

Two-and-a-half decades after the closure of its last tin mine, the mineral-rich county could be on the verge of becoming a global player in the undersupplied metals market again.

This time, it’s not just tin which will be mined. As well as copper and tungsten, Cornwall is hoping to become Europe’s major provider of lithium, the metal used in batteries that power technology products from phones to electric cars.

By 2030, it is expected that Cornwall will be producing enough lithium to provide more than a third of the UK’s estimated requirement, just in time for the planned end of fossil-fuel vehicle production.

Five companies are leading the charge on the peninsular. One of them is Cornish Lithium, which by 2026 hopes to begin extracting around 10,000 tons of the metal each year.

“Back in the 19th century, miners started encountering very, very hot water coming into the mine,” says Cornish Lithium’s founder, Jeremy Wrathall. “It was salty and they didn’t know why because it was so far from the sea, right in the middle of Cornwall.

“They had it analysed by Professor William Miller of Kings’ College London in 1864, and he was the first to discover lithium in Cornwall. So, it’s been down there for a long time.”

Mr Wrathall, who gained more than 30 years of experience in the mining finance industry before launching his own exploration company, is confident that Cornish Lithium’s two sites in the county will play a major role in helping to make the UK a critical metals powerhouse.

“Every ton that we can produce in Cornwall is a ton less the UK has to import and a ton less associated carbon,” he said. “If[it’s coming in from China, that lithium is made with fossil fuels and you’re shipping it all the way over the ocean with fossil fuels.”

In total, the Government forecasts that the UK will require around 80,000 tons of lithium a year by 2030, but almost 40 per cent of that could be coming up from up to 2,000m under Cornwall.

British Lithium is hoping to produce 21,000 tonnes a year using sustainable, chemical-free, mining to produce its battery grade lithium carbonate from the mica in Cornish granite.

“We are delighted with the support we’re getting from local, national and international stakeholders and are feeling very positive about 2023 and all that lies ahead,” says British Lithium’s chief executive, Andrew Smith, who aims to begin production toward the end of 2025 at the company’s site at Stenalees, near St Austell.

While lithium production may be hitting the headlines, Cornwall is, once again, set to become a world player in tin.

The existence of tin in Britain can be traced back to 2000BC, but mining for the metal in Cornwall did not begin until around 1800BC. The county soon became an important producer of tin, which forms bronze when mixed with copper.

During the Industrial Revolution, the county established itself as a global player in the industry and remained so for much of the 20th century. It was not until 1998 that the final mine in Cornwall closed.

Cornish Tin is bringing mining back to the Great Wheal Vor for the first time in 150 years. The project involves 26 former tin and copper producing mines in Breage.

In 1929, the mining historian AK Hamilton Jenkin described the mines as “probably the richest tin mine which has ever been worked in the world”, and Cornish Tin’s chief executive, Sally Norcross-Webb, is planning to make the site globally significant once again.

“This is very high-grade tin with historic production grades of over 5.5 per cent tin,” she says. “Even assuming a current production grade of only 2 per cent tin this would be one of the top three tin mines by grade in the world today,” adding that the group is using “the best available technologies” as part of a commitment to green mining.

With tin used in the soldering of circuit boards in almost every tech product around, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US has predicted a fourfold increase in demand for the metal by 2040 as the electric vehicle and energy storage revolution really takes hold.

“We will be producing clean tin and provide a domestic supply for UK industry of a critical mineral,” Ms Norcross-Webb says.

“When we’re in full production we will employ between 150 and 200 people, and for every direct job in the mining sector there are four indirect jobs created,” she adds.

It is forecast that the mining industry will bring up to 10,000 new jobs into Cornwall where salaries are lower than the UK average and a high proportion of people work in the seasonal tourism industry.

Cornish mining bosses demand Government plays its part in critical metals revolution

Mining bosses have called on the Government to get behind the metals rush in Cornwall with a “solid plan” to ensure the entire UK benefits from the millions of tonnes of lithium and tin set to be produced in the county.

The companies behind the raft of mining projects have claimed they will be forced to export their production overseas unless the Government invests in electric vehicle gigafactories and other tech production.

Jeremy Wrathall, chief executive and founder of Cornish Lithium, told: “We have the lithium need for electric vehicle batteries right here in Cornwall. We have the resources to supply gigafactories in the UK. We just need the gigafactories to supply it to.”

President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act committed billions of dollars to the production and sourcing of critical metals to reduce the US’s reliance on imports from China. The EU has a critical mineral strategy and President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met earlier this month to agree a deal to co-ordinate their supply of vital metals.

“We will still produce the lithium and sell it to Europe if we’re unable to sell it here, but we want to play a big role in helping the UK reduce its reliance on imports. We need the Government to invest and help us the UK meet the challenge of climate change,” said Mr Wrathall.

Sally Norcross-Webb, chief executive of Cornish Tin, said: “We need real government support. Actions, not words, to facilitate the setting up of battery storage, vehicle manufacture, all the supply chain businesses that are needed to make Cornwall a real force for the future and a county that can actively participate in and make successful the next industrial revolution.” The Government was contacted for comment.

Dennis Rowland, the project manager at Cornwall Resources, said: “People can earn very well, much higher than the average salary. You hire local, train local and mining will bring a boost to Cornwall.”

Cornwall Resources operates the Redmoor tin-tungsten-copper project, based in Kelly Bray, close to the Devon border.

The company is currently seeking funding for a feasibility study for the project which will include further exploration drilling and studies, and culminate in an economic model justifying the establishment of a new, underground metal mine in Cornwall.

“The scoping study that we produced in 2020 showed there are globally significant levels of metal,” says Mr Rowland.

That last operating mine to close in Cornwall was in South Crofty near Redruth, but its demise did not last long.

Canadian-based Cornish Metals, one of the largest mining companies operating in the county, is hoping it can return to full production in 2026 and that the fourth-largest tin deposit in the world could produce up to 5,000 tonnes of the metal a year.

As well as a plentiful supply of tin, the site also offers potential for the mining of copper, lithium, tungsten, zinc and silver.

While there has been some local opposition to the various projects, the companies claim the overwhelming support of Cornish residents.

The county is well known for its great views but these businesses believe that what lies beneath its hills can provide a much-needed economic boost for locals too, iNews writes.

Finland, Sibanye-Stillwater has received an environmental permit for the Rapasaari mine and Päiväneva concentrator at the Keliber lithium project

This permit has been issued by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Western and Inland Finland.

The firm submitted two separate permit applications for the Rapasaari mine and Päiväneva concentrator in 2021. However, the applications were subsequently combined into a single permit by the AVI.

The Rapasaari mine operations will involve the extraction of ore and waste rock, disposal of the waste rock, and water discharge from the area.

As part of concentrator operations in Päiväneva, the firm will undertake mineral processing, tailings and process water treatment, water intake from the river Köyhäjoki, and responsible discharge of overflow to the river.

In a press statement, Sibanye-Stillwater said: “The permit decision from the AVI includes a water management permit for the concentrator and the right to start operations despite the existence of any appeals.

“Since the permit decision from the AVI was published, Keliber has carefully assessed the 144 permit conditions it contains and on Friday 3 February 2023, made a submission to the Vaasa Administrative Court for changes to and/or clarification to six of the permit conditions.”

In the following weeks, Sibanye-Stillwater plans to start construction at the Keliber lithium refinery in Kokkola.

Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman said: “Our aim is to advance the project within schedule while ensuring our environmental impact is as low as possible while we follow the required processes to ensure all permitting conditions are reasonable, unambiguous and will be practical to implement and adhere to”, Mining Technology writes.

Czech Republic, European Metals expects surge in gigafactory battery output

European Metals said the latest half-year saw “continued progress” towards the finalisation of a Definitive Feasibility Study for its Cinovec lithium project in the Czech Republic.

Discussions with prospective offtakers and project financiers are also ongoing, it said.

“From a macro perspective, the price for lithium remains extremely strong with Lithium Carbonate setting all-time high prices in October and the expectation of continuing strong demand within the European Union for lithium resulting from the announcement of gigafactory production capacities of approximately 120 GWh in 2022” it added.

By 2025, this is expected to quadruple to over 500 GWh, and by 2030 potentially fourteenfold to up to 1.7 TWh.

Cash at the period end was A$17.5mln with losses for the half year to end December at A$4.7mln (A$1.76mln), Pro Active Investors reports.

European Lithium has made a big statement in its bid to become the first on-shore producer of lithium hydroxide

Backed by an offtake deal with BMW, a definitive feasibility study released by European Lithium today shows the mine and downstream processing operation will generate 8800t of lithium hydroxide monohydrate per annum for 14.6 years.

That would amount to some 129,000t over the life of mine from the completion of a hydrometallurgical downstream processing facility in 2026.

With a robust DFS and internal rate of return of 33.3%, well above standard industry investment thresholds, construction of that plant is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

Mean green machine

The DFS also highlights the impressive ESG credentials of the Wolfsberg operation, located just 20km east of the city of the same name in Austria.

The project will be well-located, just 93km from a 3000 strong cohort of university students at an established mining university in Leoben with a technically skilled local population.

It will also have access to the Baltic to Adriatic rail corridor through the completion of the Koralm tunnel in 2025, providing access to motorways that will connect the mine to lithium-ion battery plants under development across the EU.

The DFS has also outlined the tiny environmental footprint of the operation, with a mining fleet of battery electric vehicles revealed to be economically viable for the project.

An underground portal, concentrator and surface infrastructure will all be located within an envelope of under 10 hectares.

“European Lithium is committed to the sustainable development of its Wolfsberg Project, utilising the most advanced mining and processing technologies to become a reliable low carbon producer of LHM and be a key part of the emerging lithium supply chain in Europe,” the company said.

Importantly, most of the company’s mineral resource of 12.88Mt at 1% Li2O (measured and indicated 9.7Mt at 1.03% Li2O) has been converted to proved and probable reserves, which come in at 11.483Mt at 0.64% Li2O, with contained lithia of 72,937t.


The baseline price for the study has been ramped up significantly from a PFS completed in April 2018 from US$26,800/t to US$54,000/t.

But the need for lithium to power a move to EVs and energy storage has only gathered pace since then.

The 2018 study assumed 140 million EVs would be rolled out worldwide by 2030.

But sales have already outpaced projections. In 2021 EV sales worldwide hit 6.6m against previous expectation of 5m, a 30% beat.

The IEA’s long term forecasts for EV adoption by 2030 have doubled since the 2018 PFS, with a long running deficit expected in undersupplied lithium markets.

The EU has moved to accelerate the shift by passing laws that all new passenger vehicle sales will be EVs by 2035, with more than 1500GWh of lithium ion battery manufacturing planned.

The number of gigafactories in Europe is projected to lift from 142 in 2022 to more than 1200 in 2030, providing demand for lithium hydroxide monohydrate of 650,000tpa.

Much of the planned expansions in the global industry are already allocated to early moving Chinese battery producers, with European Lithium expected to provide a genuine domestic lithium producer to supply the fast-growing Euro battery market.

Capital costs

At a capital cost of US$866m, the integrated mine and processing operation is expected to produce at operating costs of US$17,016/t after by-product credits, compared to a 2025 sales price of US$48,600/t.

That is conservative in comparison to current prices, a 39% discount to the US$79,500/t being paid for lithium hydroxide in Antwerp last month.

It comes ahead of the listing of the project on the major NASDAQ market in the United States, providing access to capital from the world’s biggest investment market.

“The robust DFS provided by DRA provides confidence in the commercialisation of the Wolfsberg Project. This positive news has come during a buoyant market for lithium and an increased urgency for decisive action to accelerate the green energy transition, especially in Europe,” European Lithium chairman Tony Sage said.

“Our next steps include finalisation of the listing of Critical Metals on NASDAQ and continuing our discussions with our financiers. Through the business combination with Sizzle, Critical Metals Corp. expect to access substantial opportunities available in the U.S. market”, Stock Head writes.

Serbia, Jadar is a project that will have to do with the modern economy

The United States Ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill, said that Rio Tinto is not just an ordinary mining project because it will have connections with the modern economy and said that he is trying to cooperate with the Government of Serbia on this issue and that the US is trying to support Rio Tinto, which is partly although not entirely an American company.

I think it’s important for Rio Tinto that people understand that this is not just a mining project. This is not just a project where something is taken out of the ground and exported. This is a project that will have to do with the modern economy.

In the end, the lithium extracted from the ground will be used for the production of batteries that will be installed in electric vehicles, said Hill in an interview with the portal Glas Šumadije.

He said that he is trying to cooperate with the Government of Serbia on this issue, and that the US should come to support Rio Tinto, which is partly, although not entirely, an American company.

I think it’s very important that everyone involved in this project has to respect the environment, and that’s the number one rule, Hill said.

The ambassador pointed out that “we should make an effort to point out to citizens the need for this project to connect them with the green agenda, the green economy, because that’s where they belong”.

Hill assessed that it is a very complex issue that should be dealt with by the people living in this area.

I’m sure everything will be fine if everyone works together and keeps the needs in mind in the future, Hill concluded, Danas reports.

Europe, “Lithium and rare earths will soon be more important than oil and gas”

The Commission chief pronounced these words as Europe was reeling from an energy crisis accelerated by Russia’ war in Ukraine and which led to the bloc pledging to wean itself off fossil fuels — most of which it has traditionally supplied from Russia — and accelerate its transition towards “homegrown” renewables and other green tech.

These, however, rely on so-called rare earths which are needed to produce everything from the latest generation batteries to the materials needed to manufacture photovoltaic panels.

“The urgency now is securing lithium supplies, it’s really really urgent,” Dr Evi Petavratzi, a senior mineral commodity geologist at the British Geological Survey told Euronews.

The United States Geological Survey estimates that Europe is home to 7% of global lithium deposits, enough to cover 80% of European battery needs.

Why are new mines so hard to open?

New mines currently take decades to get approved, due to fierce opposition by local people and politicians who are concerned about environmental and social consequences.

An example of this is the Norra Kärr rare earth element project in southern Sweden. Despite this deposit being found in 2009 and a 25-year mining licence being granted in 2013, no metals have been extracted.

The licence granting led to large protests over environmental concerns and the extraction licence was overturned in 2016 and a mine leasing application was rejected in 2021.

Speaking about the environmental impact of hard-rock mining, Dr Simon Jowitt, an economic geologist and associate professor at UNLV Department of Geoscience said: “There’s always a certain potential impact on the environment, on ground and service water.”

“Every mine is a little different in terms of that potential, but there’s always some. There’s also the risk posed by dust from mines.”

Most lithium is extracted by one of two methods: solar evaporation and hard-rock mining.

The biggest concerns with this form of extracting lithium are its high water usage, possible depletion of groundwater levels, and the waste salt which is left behind. Approximately 2.2 million litres of water is needed to produce one tonne of lithium using this method.

The other most common way of extracting this precious metal is through more traditional hard-rock mining, typically using opencast pits.

Not only are such pits an eyesore, but dust from such mines can also spread to surrounding areas sparking health and environmental concerns. Furthermore, the processing of the mined material can also use significant amounts of water.

However, it is important to put the risks involved in precious metal mining in the context of the benefit they bring from reducing fossil fuel extraction.

Higher prices enabling more complicated extractions

Increased demand for batteries — it is set to explode 14-fold between 2020 to 2030 — has pushed up the demand and price of lithium from about $20,000 per tonne five years ago to $80,000 per tonne last November and driven innovation into new, more expensive, mining methods that mitigate possible impacts on the environment.

An example of this is the proposed San José de Valdeflórez lithium mine in Spain’s Western province of Extremadura.

Originally proposed as an open-pit mine less than a kilometre away from the UNESCO mediaeval city of Cáceres and a natural reserve, the project faced fierce opposition from all quarters.

However, Extremadura New Energies (ENE), the Spanish subsidiary of Infinity Lithium, is now planning on building the mine completely underground with the entrance of the mine being located 2 km away from the city.

The material will also be crushed inside the enclosed mine, cutting the risk of dust pollution.

It has also unveiled plans to use patented technology which means the mine will not have to use sulfuric acid for lithium extraction, resulting in a zero-flow discharge mine. This dramatically reduces the risk of contaminating surrounding land water sources.

Additionally, the vehicles and mining operations will be powered by renewable energy, including from a new green hydrogen plant.

However, these mitigation methods were only introduced following objections by local people and authorities – highlighting the importance of local engagement in improving lithium mining.

Furthermore, although the deliberations and debates over the San José de Valdeflórez project resulted in a much-improved end project, it has been a long journey since it was first proposed in 2015.

Despite this, the project’s environmental impact has never been approved or evaluated. The company is currently seeking approval for an exploration permit and hopes to submit the project for environmental evaluation by April this year.

A local protest group, Salvemos la Montaña (Let’s Save the Mountain), has also gained significant support in its campaign against the project.

EU mining ambitions

The Commission wants Europe to build a more resilient supply chain to reduce its reliance on strategic competitors for imports and processing of rare metals.

In a document published last year, The Commission stated it could introduce targets into legislation, for example, that at least 30% of the EU’s demand for refined lithium should originate from the EU by 2030. Another goal is to ensure that the time from the start of exploration work to a mine or a refining facility opening is reduced to a matter of years, not decades.

To do that, it plans “to facilitate the roll-out of targeted raw materials projects in the EU” and for the Commission to be empowered to “list Strategic Projects – which would be labelled as of European interest – based on proposals from member states.”

Ramón Jiménez, CEO of ENE told Euronews he certainly believes that “it is possible to make this process faster without reducing environmental or social impact reductions”.

He said that his San José de Valdeflórez project had enjoyed strong support from the central Spanish government. However, convincing central governments may be the easy part, convincing local residents will be key if the EU really wants to boost its mining output, Euronews writes.

Serbia: Starting in June 2022, Rio Tinto bought land worth at least 1.2 million euros in the vicinity of Loznica

Starting in June 2022, Rio Tinto bought land worth at least 1.2 million euros in the vicinity of Loznica, despite the fact that the Government of Serbia suspended the company’s lithium mining project “Jadar”, the Balkan Research Network (BIRN) announced.

BIRN also obtained a document from the company’s meeting with the Delegation of the European Union, in which, among other things, it is stated that Rio Tinto looks favorably on the local, and fears a potential national referendum on the “Jadar” project that was supposed to be carried out. in the vicinity of Lozica.

After a series of protests by environmental activists across the country and blockades of bridges and roads, the Government of Serbia, led by Ana Brnabić, stopped the “Jadar” project on January 20 last year and canceled all documents with the company Rio Tinto.

However, part of the public was not convinced that the project was completely suspended, but pointed out that it was only “frozen” until more favorable socio-political circumstances, reports Beta.

BIRN research shows that the mining corporation has definitely not “put an end” to the project. Only from June 2022 until today, the company has purchased at least 5.78 hectares of land in the vicinity of Loznica.

By cross-checking data from the Republic Geodetic Institute, BIRN found that Rio Tinto signed at least seven sales contracts with land owners in the villages of Gornje Nedeljica and Slatina – the first in June 2022 and the last in January 2023 – paying a total of more than 1.2 million euros.

The smallest contract is worth 15,000 euros, which is what Rio Sava, the Serbian subsidiary of the mining giant, paid for property on 457 square meters in Slatina, and the largest is 430,000 euros – what the company paid for almost 5,000 square meters, also in the municipality of Loznica.

Rio Tinto does not hide its desire to “revive” the project. Rio Tinto Ltd CEO Jacob Stausholm (Jakob Stausholm) said at a briefing for investors in Sydney in December last year that “Jadar” represents “unbelievable value”.

“We have to figure out how to do it. The only thing I would say today is that we didn’t give up,” Reuters reported his statement.

In a reply to BIRN, Rio Tinto points out that “the purchase of land is a continuation of previously assumed obligations of the Rio Sava company that refer to the period before the Government of Serbia in January 2022 invalidated the acts for the implementation of the project”.

Rio Tinto did not answer the additional question about what kind of “previously assumed obligations” are we talking about, considering that the contracts were certified months after the decision of the Government of Serbia, and the last two almost a year after the suspension of the project.

Portugal, Savannah Resources updates on decarbonization at Barroso lithium project

Savannah Resources, a company aiming to build the largest lithium mine in western Europe in Portugal, has announced it has found a way to eliminate the project’s direct emissions (Scope 1) by using battery electric mining equipment.

The company also stated that indirect emissions (Scope 2) could be lowered by 54% due to a potential reduction in the plant’s power requirement. The updated strategy followed the completion of a study by Portuguese environmental consultant ECOPROGRESSO, which aimed to reduce emissions and create a decarbonization strategy.

“A number of viable options are available to secure 100% renewable energy supply to the Project including regional solar and wind generation, on market purchase, via direct Power Purchase Agreements, or a combination of these,” the company said. “Use of 100% renewable energy would reduce the Project’s Scope 2 emissions to zero.”

The company plans to continue detailed analysis as part of the definitive feasibility study and to determine a site-specific solution for a battery-operated mining fleet and charging infrastructure.

The Barroso project holds 27 million tonnes of lithium and will also yield feldspar and quartz, which will be sold locally and in Spain.

Portugal is already Europe’s top lithium producer, but its output is entirely used for ceramics and glassware, Energy and Mines reports.