Protests target lithium mining and other environmental issues
People attend a demonstration against pollution and the exploitation of a lithium mine, Belgrade, Serbia, September 11, 2021.
AP Photo / Darko Vojinovic
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – Several thousand people demonstrated in Serbia on Saturday to demand a ban on lithium mining in the Balkan country as well as a resolution of many other environmental problems that have made the region l one of the most polluted in Europe.
The rally in downtown Belgrade was organized by some 30 environmental groups who have recently gained popularity in Serbia amid widespread disillusionment with mainstream politicians and amid the major pollution problems facing the region is facing.
Protesters held banners demanding protection of Serbia’s rivers, nature and air which they said have been endangered by for-profit government policies and decades of neglect.
Protesters then blocked one of the capital’s main bridges for a while as they announced several more blockades across the rest of the country in the coming months.
More than 100,000 people have signed a petition against international mining company Rio Tinto, which has sought to build a lithium mine in the west of the country rich in ore used in the production of electric car batteries.
“Our demand is that the government of Serbia rescind all obligations to Rio Tinto,” said Aleksandar Jovanovic, one of the organizers. “We have come together to say no to those who offer concentrated sulfuric acid in place of raspberries and honey.”
A number of experts have warned that nature in western Serbia will suffer if lithium is exploited in the region rich in fertile land and agriculture. Serbia has also faced huge pollution problems caused by coal-fired power plants run by Chinese companies.
Besides mining, Serbia faces growing problems, including poor waste management and high air pollution caused by the use of low-quality coal and other pollutants. Rivers have been polluted with toxic industrial waste and many cities, including Belgrade, lack good sewage and sewage systems.
“We were thirsty this summer, we are breathing toxic air and the land is being sold,” protest organizers said in a statement. “Forests are cut and mines are developing. “
The Balkan countries must significantly improve their environmental protection policies if they are to move forward with their application for EU27 membership. Impoverished and tainted with corruption after years of war in the In the 1990s, many Balkan countries put environmental issues in the background.
Rio Tinto has committed $ 2.4 billion to the project in Serbia, which would make it one of the world’s largest lithium producers amid growing demand for electric cars.