Serbian lithium is Rio Tinto’s perfect project, by Saša Dragojlo & Ivica Mladenović (Le Monde diplomatique
Empty houses with their steeply sloping roofs and animals roaming the empty roads make the village of Gornje Nedeljice, a two-hour drive southwest of Belgrade, a scene from a western. Most locals have already sold to Rio Tinto, the British-Australian multinational mining giant, which in 2004 discovered a new mineral, jadarite, near the banks of the Jadar River. Its exceptionally high lithium and boron content makes it particularly attractive to manufacturers of electric car batteries.
On 8th June the European Parliament voted to end the sale of new combustion engine cars by 2035. Slovak Maroš Šefčovič, European Commissioner responsible for interinstitutional relations and foresight, has set himself the become the world’s second largest producer of lithium batteries after China by 2025. The EU currently sources almost all battery-grade lithium from outside Europe and needs to diversify its supplier base. It is therefore not surprising that the Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs of the EU supports Rio Tinto’s investment in Serbia.
Rio Tinto has been one of the most active multinationals in the Balkans since registering its first subsidiary in Belgrade in 2001. In 2017, it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Serbian government for the implementation of the Jadar project . The working group that drafted it included representatives from Rio Tinto, the Serbian government, Mike Shirat, second secretary at the Australian embassy, and Stephen Ndegwa, then World Bank director in Serbia. A leaked document in 2021 revealed that the Serbian government had come under intense pressure from Western diplomats to treat environmental impact assessments as a formality and let the deal go through.
We have a large number of investments in the automotive industry, including in Serbia, and we all know how important lithium is for future mobility and battery cells
In May (…)
Full article: 1,837 words.
Sasa Dragojlo &
Saša Dragojlo is a political scientist and investigative journalist at the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network; Ivica Mladenović is a sociologist, political scientist and editor of the Serbian edition of The diplomatic world.
(1) The temperature, London, June 18, 2021.
(2) “Merkel: Germany interested in lithium from Serbia”, Balkan Green Energy News, September 14, 2021.
(3) ‘Mineral Commodity Summaries 2022’, US Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, January 2022.
(4) Reuters, May 5, 2022.
(5) The Serbian government did not respond to questions about the future of this project.