Serbia Weighs Threat of Lawsuit over Stopped Lithium Mine

Sasa Dragojlo Belgrade BIRN January 14, 2022

Multinational Rio Tinto could sue Serbia if it scraps a long-planned mining project for good – but some experts suspect the government is exaggerating the threat to scare the public into accepting the mine.

Serbia’s government seemingly did all it could to support the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto’s planned “Jadar” lithium mine project in western Serbia, which promised to make the company one of the top 10 lithium producers in the world.

The government signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the multinational in 2017, formed a joint working group for the project, changed the essential local spatial plan, using a legally problematic government decree, and started infrastructure works for the project, even before an exploitation permit was granted.

However, serious public outrage linked to fears for the environment, which peaked in protests and road blockages at the end of last year, shook President Aleksandar Vucic and forced him to back down.

With elections coming in April, Vucic and his protégée, Ana Brnabic, the Prime Minister, suddenly said they might stop the project, but also warning that this could cost the country a lot.

“We are close to saying; you do not want Rio Tinto in Serbia, then goodbye… Let’s draw a line,” said Brnabic on January 8, putting the blame on the former Democratic Party officials under whose auspices Rio Tinto started explorations in Serbia in 2004.

Top officials have warned Serbs also that Rio Tinto could sue the state, although their statements on which basis that could be done, or how much money Serbia might be obliged to pay, have been unclear, and even mutually conflicted.

For the full article go to Balkan Insight

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