Serbian environmental protesters reject lithium mining plans

Environmental protesters again call for cancellation of lithium mining plans in western Serbia

BELGRADE, Serbia — Environmental protesters demanding the cancellation of plans for lithium mining in western Serbia took to the streets again Saturday, blocking main roads and blocking border crossings for the first time.

Traffic on the Balkan country’s main north-south highway was disrupted for more than an hour in the capital Belgrade, as well as on several other roads across the country, including one on Serbia’s border with Bosnia.

Some of the minor incidents reportedly involved angry drivers trying to squeeze through crowds. Witnesses told N1 TV that a man was injured in an incident in the western town of Shabak.

Environmental groups want Serbia’s populist government to stop the possibility of lithium mining in western Serbia. Activists have pledged to continue the blockade until their demands are met and Rio Tinto is “expelled” from Serbia.

Thousands of people took part in similar demonstrations weeks ago, forcing the government to withdraw two laws that activists say were designed to speed up the country’s mining program.

Belgrade resident Mirjana Podolsek said: “This is an ecological disaster, and I think Serbia has stepped into it, and even worse (disaster) is threatening.”

Another protester, Janko Krizan, said it was “our duty to be here”.

“Rio Tinto will pollute not only Serbia, but everything else, the whole system, everything,” he said.

Environmental concerns have become a public concern in Serbia, as the country of seven million people is facing severe air pollution, poor waste management and many other environmental problems that have accumulated over decades of neglect. Serbia must address these environmental concerns in order to advance its membership in the 27-nation European Union.


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