Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has had its plans for the Jadar Serbian lithium mine scrapped after President Aleksandar Vučić and his government accused the company of ignoring the potential for environmental harm.
Shares for the companies plunged 4.8% after the announcement marked a definitive end for the $1.4 billion project and any hope Rio Tinto had of become Europe’s largest lithium supplier in an age of lithium-intensive renewables technology.
Lithium is a vital resource for battery creation. The loss of the Serbian mine represents a huge blow for Rio Tinto’s ambition to enter the top 10 global producers of lithium. Due to a sharp increase in demand, the world is facing a shortage of lithium. Any shortage in lithium will significantly impact the production of electric vehicles and conflict with various green policies across Europe.
“There aren’t that many projects like Jadar, and the Western world is not going to have its own supply chain if these are not developed,” said Sam Brodovcky, head of global metals and mining for Standard Chartered.
The decision comes less than a week after the Australian government enraged Serbia by deporting World Number One Novak Djokovic. The tennis champion has been a vocal opponent of the Rio Tinto mine, using his Instagram account to join the protest.
“Given the current civil protests throughout Serbia that indicate the need for a serious and concrete approach to important environmental issues, I decided to address the public, convinced of the great importance of these topics for all of us,” wrote Djokovic.
“I am aware that there are other demands that are heard at the protest, which have a political connotation. I want to distance myself from 'position' and 'opposition', political currents of any kind. I have always tried to be APOLITICAL. It bothers me that a person cannot emphasize his personal position and opinion on the basic elements for life and health such as Air, Water and Food without being "marked" as a leftist, rightist, oppositionist, democrat, progressive, socialist etc.”
Prime Minister Ana Brnabic addressed a news conference to explain that the shock decision has been made after the government was inundated by green groups concerned about environmental damage. Large protests of over 30,000 have previously blocked roads, demanding that the government stop the Rio Tinto mine.
Rio Tinto is the world’s second-largest mining company.