Ana Brnabic, Serbia’s Prime Minister, announced that a plan to allow Rio Tinto to build a new lithium mine was cancelled on Thursday.
This decision is a major change for the government after months and months of weekly protests which brought thousands onto the streets.
Brnabic stated in a televised speech that “we have fulfilled all the demands of the environmental protests” and “have put an end Rio Tinto in Serbia,”
Why did people protest?
For months environmental protesters have been calling for an end of the plan. They blocked major roads, bringing to a halt traffic in the capital and other areas.
Protesters were concerned about the pollution that the mine would cause. Serbia is already one of Europe’s most polluted countries. The EU would have to spend billions to help Serbia reach its potential accession to the bloc.
Rio Tinto, which discovered lithium deposits in 2004, purchased land in Loznica. The company planned to invest $2.4 million (2.12 billion). Lithium is an important component of modern technologies such as electric cars.
Brnabic declared that “Everything about Jadar is finished”, ending the plan on Thursday.
However, activists pledged to continue their protests until government bans borate and lithium mining.
“Just one step!” After the announcement by the prime minister, protest leader Savo Manjlovic tweeted “Just one more step!”
The Government is looking forward to the forthcoming elections
The government’s sudden change of heart comes before the April elections. Although the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), initially supported the development and maintenance of mines in Serbian, its support has declined.
Novak Djokovic, the Serbian tennis player, spoke out in support of clean air in December.
Brnabic had stated earlier in the month, that the fate for the mine would be determined after the election, but she later changed her mind.
“We are listening and protecting the interests of our people, even when we think differently,” she stated on Thursday.
ab/sms (Reuters, AFP)