Jadarit, the development chance of the century or the road to ecological ruin

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The economic benefit from jadarite mining is estimated at several billion dollars a year, but the public fears that the negative impact on nature would far exceed that. In the “Takovska 10” show, mining and ecology experts presented conflicting views on the possibilities of sustainable lithium exploitation in Jadar and the consequences that mining would have on the environment.

If the best forecasts were to come true, Serbia could earn ten billion dollars annually from lithium mining in the Loznica area. If the worst forecasts of ecologists come true, Western Serbia and Belgrade would be left without drinking water and fertile land, and the damage would be many times greater than the benefit.

Knežević: Jadarite is a new mineral, so the technology is not outdated either

Professor Dinko Knežević of the Faculty of Mining and Geology in Belgrade believes that sustainable exploitation of jadarite is possible.

He explains that jadarite is a new mineral, a combination of boron and lithium, so the technology of separating lithium and boron is completely new, it cannot be outdated, and it appears for the first time as an original patent.

“As far as the mining part is concerned, the methods are usual, there are no special news and there are no special fears about all of that”, adds Knežević and points out that it is easy to blame the miners.

When it comes to waste disposal, Knežević says that it is a modern method, which is used to dispose of mining waste everywhere in the world, in a way that is designed to protect the environment.

Đorđević: Where there are test wells, no weeds grow either

Dr. Dragana Đorđević from the Institute of Chemistry, Technology and Metallurgy believes that sustainable exploitation of jadarite is not possible in Jadar.

“This proposed technology is very harmful to the environment. Jadarite is unique, but that does not justify it in terms of endangering the environment”, Đorđević points out.

He denies that Jadro contains 10 percent of the world’s reserves and states that it is about one percent.

Are accidents possible?

Đorđević thinks that the accident will certainly happen, if not in 20 or 30, then in 50 years.

“The solution would be to do nothing to begin with. Until this country stands up, until we establish institutions, until we have an inspection, until we have an honest profession that adheres to ethics and morals, it is better not to do anything”, Đorđevićeva writes.

Jovović says that right-hand situations are something that happens and that is why “Rio Tinto” abandoned liquid waste, which would have been the cheapest option, and switched to a completely different technology.

“Germany has almost three times more lithium than Serbia, but it does not want to open lithium mines,” says Đorđević and adds that lithium processing technology is harmful to the environment, especially in an area like Jadar.

Although the whole of Serbia was practically dry this year, in Jadr the corn was about four meters high, due, as she said, to the moist soil brought by the shallow groundwater.

She explained that the area is rich in underground drinking water, which allows crops to thrive.

She pointed out, showing photos of corn in Jadro, that where the test wells are located, crops simply do not grow, there are no weeds either.

“This is because toxic mine water comes out of the underground to the surface, and where it spills, everything simply dries up”, explains Đorđević.

“Rio Tinto” denies that these are the consequences of research, but Đorđević says that they are already causing damage.

Ristić: Lithium is exploited in deserts and uninhabited places

Professor of the Faculty of Forestry in Belgrade, Ratko Ristić, says that it is not possible to exploit jadarite in the Jadra valley at this level of technological development.

Jadarite is a unique mineral, but, according to him, it is the worst possible form, containing lithium and boron.

“In order to extract lithium and boron, according to the Rio Tinto study, you need 1,100 tons of concentrated sulfuric acid per day, several tens of tons of explosives for underground exploitation. The Rio Tinto study predicts that 850 hectares of land will subside. A study by the Faculty of Biology, who worked for Rio Tinto on a preliminary assessment of the impact on biodiversity, says that the web of life will be erased and the recommendation of colleagues from the Faculty of Biology is that the project should not be implemented at all”, says Ristić.

Lithium is currently exploited in some countries of the world, but as a rule, he points out, in deserts and uninhabited places.

When it comes to the Czech Republic and Germany, adds Ristić, they exploit lithium, but from underground water.

According to the “Rio Tinta” study, says Ristić, in the first phase, 2,000 hectares would be affected by mines, plants, and access roads, and in the future, 20,000 people would be threatened with the expansion of the mine.

“Lithium is not the best material for the production of batteries. You have sodium-ion batteries, you have graphene batteries, you have hydrogen fuel cells, you have iron-based batteries. The world’s largest corporation, Kettle, has already made a contract with ‘Tesla’ and will make them sodium-ion batteries “, points out Ristić.

Jovović: The excess water is so purified that it must be demineralized

Professor of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Belgrade, Aleksandar Jovović, believes that the exploitation of jadarite is possible in principle, like any other project, with certain protective measures.

Professor Jovović, when asked if it is inevitable that landfills destroy the water basin, said that it is not necessary and that, as with any industrial production, everything happens at the location itself.

He says that the amount of water that would be used is thousands of times smaller than what is written about in the public.

“The processing itself, that technological part of the process, is carried out at a very low temperature, below 100 degrees Celsius. Under such conditions, there is no great evaporation, and everything is done in closed-type reactors”, explains Jovović.

Here, he says, the question is not whether something can be built, but the problem is the distrust that arises from the beginning, that is, the distrust of how such a process will be conducted in the future.

Jovović claims that there is no possibility of pollution from waste water, because the excess water that needs to be discharged into the local rivers is so purified that it must be demineralized in order not to dilute the watercourses.

Is there a trade-off between harm and benefit?

When asked if it is possible to build a mine according to high standards, such that it contributes to social well-being, without causing damage that no one wants, Knežević says that it is not possible to talk in black and white.

“You cannot have a factory and an industrial plant that will not have any impact on the environment, but it must be reduced to a sustainable system”, Knežević points out.

He believes that the whole project must be approached realistically and assesses that until now, according to the documentation, “Rio Tinto” has approached and found the technology so that the impact on the environment is minimal.

On the other hand, Đorđević says that it will not be according to high standards and will cause damage.

He believes that a compromise solution is to leave it for future generations.

“If everything is destroyed in the next few decades, what will be left for future generations”, asked Đorđević and stated that Jadro is one of our best sources of drinking water, which can meet the needs of 85 million people.

Jolović says that the Government’s decision made it impossible to see the project and the environmental impact study.

“I think that every project can be built in densely populated areas with certain measures. You have large industrial parks all over Europe”, said Jolović, RTS writes.