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Rio Tinto Files Serbia Lawsuits Over Lithium Project Suspension

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A Rio Tinto subsidiary has brought four legal claims against the Serbian government over the suspension last year of a controversial lithium project, officials said Thursday.

“The plaintiff Rio Sava Exploration of Belgrade has brought four lawsuits against the government’s decision,” a spokesman for Serbia’s administrative court, Milka Murganic, said.

Two claims were brought on May 13 last year and two more last July 26, Murganic said, without giving details.

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Contacted by AFP, Rio Tinto refused to comment.

In January last year, Belgrade revoked permits for a multibillion project which the world’s second-largest metals and mining corporation had hoped to develop in Serbia’s western Jadar valley, home to some of Europe’s largest lithium deposits.

The soft metal is a key component in rechargeable batteries.

Belgrade acted after widespread popular opposition. Demonstrators blocked a motorway in the capital during one rally which attracted thousands.

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Environmental associations have kept up pressure on the government with sporadic protests in the belief the project has not been scotched definitively.

Last September, Serbia and the European Commission signed a letter of intent regarding a strategic partnership on batteries and raw materials — including lithium.

Earlier this month, the Serbian minister for energy and mining, Dubravka Djedovic Handanovic, refused to respond when a journalist asked if the partnership might involve the opening of a lithium mine in the Jadar valley.

On November 9, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, said the government had “drawn a definitive line” under lithium exploitation.

President Aleksandar Vucic has several times described his decision to come down against lithium mining as his greatest mistake.

Source: Barron’s

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