error: Content is protected !!
Serbia does not give up on nature: mines leave harmful consequences - Serbia Business

Serbia does not give up on nature: mines leave harmful consequences

, News

The Bureau of the Berne Convention is following the development of the situation related to the mines in Jadar, Homolje and Bosilegrad, because of which the organization Earth Thrive filed complaints with this international institution for nature protection.

Last year, several nature protection organizations filed complaints with the Bureau of the Berne Convention regarding the negative impact that the mines in Jadar, Homolje and Bosilegrad would have on the environment.

The convention committee requested a report from these organizations and competent institutions of the Republic of Serbia, i.e. the Ministry of Environmental Protection, as required by the protocol, which was submitted to the committee in January 2023. In mid-April, the Bureau responded to those reports “diplomatically, but sharply”, as commented from the Earth Thrive organization, asking the Government for answers to the questions that, as the activists say, “the nation has been waiting for, and not getting, for years”.

“The Bureau of the Berne Convention noted that after the adoption of the Regulation that annuls the previous authorizations and suspends all proceedings or claims related to the mining project in Jadar, the company Rio Tinto submitted 4 Complaints as well as one Lawsuit to the Administrative Court and that these processes are still pending, are ongoing and active”.

“The Bureau took note of the Complainant’s concern that the construction of the lithium mine in the Jadar Valley could be re-approved and that the eventual approval of the exploitation field by the Ministry of Mining and Energy was still pending,” states the announcement of the Earth Thrive organization and emphasizes that The bureau expressed its encouragement for the republican authorities in Serbia to uphold the decision to withdraw the permit for the construction of a lithium mine.

The Bureau of the Berne Convention requests the following report for September from the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Serbia and environmental associations

“The Bureau has asked the national authorities to clarify why the permit for ‘engineering-geological research’ of water given to Rio Sava in the area immediately south of the exploitation field was still marked as active, according to the public register of the Ministry of Mining and Energy of the Republic of Serbia”, they highlight from Earth Thrive.

According to their statements, information on land registers was also requested from the competent authorities of Serbia, based on the information shared by the Complainant that the land parcels were registered in the cadastre in the name of Rio Sava in 2022. The republican authorities were also asked to explain how the interests of nature conservation are reflected in environmental impact assessments (EIAs).

“Noting with concern the reported signs of a possible mine opening, the Bureau has asked all relevant parties to submit reports for the Bureau’s September 2023 meeting. The Bureau has placed the Complaint on standby – meaning it continues to closely monitor developments regarding the mine, ready to open the Dossier in case of official renewal of the project”, explains Earth Thrive.

The British-Serbian organization Earth Thrive is behind all three mentioned appeals to the Berne Commission committee. Complaints about the opening of mines in Bosilegrad and Homolje were filed in October 2022 in partnership and cooperation with local environmental organizations Eko Krajište from Bosilegrad, Balkanka from Bulgaria and Mlavska Vojska and Čuvari Homolja from Homolje, (ET) Earth Law Center (USA), King’s College Legal Clinic for Human Rights to Healthy Nature from London and a barrister (trial lawyer) of the renowned London Bar Association. (A separate complaint regarding the destruction of Šodros was submitted to the committee by the association Svet I Dunav).

The members of earth Thrive welcome the fact that, in their opinion, the Bureau has recognized that there is a systemic problem in Serbia with regard to mines and has asked the Government to make a statement regarding the wider national strategy on the use of mineral resources, as well as the criteria for the locations for mining activities. Selected.

Sulfuric acid and cyanide “our daily”

There are well-founded doubts that all three mining projects, the Jadar project, as well as the Podvirovi copper and zinc mines in Bosilegrad and the Potaj Čuka-Tisnica gold mine in Homolje, would significantly threaten local ecosystems, as well as surface and underground water on a large territory.

The main concerns are the announced use of large amounts of sulfuric acid, which is implied by the lithium extraction technology from jadarite, the expected increase in the concentration of boron and arsenic in groundwater, as well as the use of large amounts of cyanide for the extraction of gold from ore in mines in eastern Serbia.

All projects were publicly protested in the country and abroad. Activists who oppose the opening of the Potaj Chuka-Tisnica mine, which so far attracts less public attention than the Rio Tinto project, experience pressure, threats and, they claim, physical violence from local authorities; but the local authorities claim that they are only carrying out the orders of the state.

The Regulatory Institute for Renewable Energy and the Environment announced at the beginning of April that “Rio Tinto has been trying for more than two years to obtain approval for an exploitation field, a document that allows it to start mining lithium in Serbia, despite the fact that it did not attach the necessary documentation”, and that the Ministry of Mining unjustifiably extended the deadline for supplementing the documentation 11 times. Namely, in order for the documentation to be complete, Rio Tinto should also submit the Decision on determining the scope and content of the environmental impact assessment study. This document, however, was annulled in January 2022, when the Decree on the termination of validity of the spatial plan of the special purpose area for this project was passed. Because of this, Rio Tinto filed a complaint with the Administrative Court.

“The Ministry of Mining and Energy was obliged to reject the request for the exploitation field, because there are no justified reasons for extending the deadlines.” Rio Tinto does not have the Decision on determining the scope and content of the environmental impact assessment study, as it was canceled in January last year. Although the company filed a lawsuit to the Administrative Court against the annulment decision, this does not represent a justified reason for extending the deadline for supplementing the documentation,” commented Hristina Vojvodić, legal advisor from RERI.

Serbia has a law on compliance with the Berne Convention, which it does not respect, and the people’s initiative against the exploitation of lithium and boron in the drawer

Let us recall that the Berne Convention is a Council of Europe Convention on the conservation of European wild flora and fauna and natural habitats. It was adopted in Bern in 1979 and entered into force in 1982. Serbia became one of the fifty signatory countries from Europe and Africa in 2007 and confirmed this with a special law.

The Standing Committee of the Berne Convention is for environmental activists something akin to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg: an international instance to which they can turn when domestic institutions turn a deaf ear to their appeals, or after, as is often the case, they turn out to be domestic institutions in charge of nature conservation, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the competent ministry, powerless in the face of political and financial actors and institutions. Filing a complaint with the Berne Convention secretariat is often one of the last legal steps environmental activists can take to protect endangered habitats.

“Given the increasing number of cases related to mining activities in Serbia, the Bureau has asked the Secretariat to establish a connection with the relevant interested parties to consider the possibility of organizing a seminar or other event to provide assistance to the parties in connection with these issues,” said the activists.

Let us remind you that in May 2022, the citizens came forward against the lithium mine in Jadar and submitted a popular initiative for banning lithium mining at the national level, which was signed by 38,000 people. At the end of March, the legal team of the Green-Left Club – Ne davimo Beograd filed criminal charges against those responsible for hiding the People’s Initiative to Ban Mining of Lithium and Boron.

It was emphasized that “it is not a sheet of paper, but boxes that someone deliberately put away.” As Radomir Lazović stated at the time, criminal charges were filed against the President of the Assembly in the previous convocation, Ivica Dačić, as well as the then General Secretary Veljko Odalović, then against Vladimir Orlić, the current President of the Assembly, Srđan Smiljanić, the Secretary General, as well as the President of the Committee for Constitutional Affairs and Legislation, Jelena Zaric Kovacevic.


Sign up for business updates & specials.