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Serbian Activists Block Roads To Protest Possible Lithium Mine

Activists block a road in Novi Sad on January 3 in a protest against lithium exploitation in Serbia.

Hundreds of people blocked roads at several locations in Serbia on January 3 to protest a prospective lithium mine that they say will damage the environment.

For weeks, demonstrators have staged regular protests and blocked roads demanding the government reject a possible lithium mine in western Serbia.

London-based Rio Tinto, the world's second-largest metals and mining company, is studying the possible development of a lithium mine in Serbia, believed to be one of the largest in Europe.

The mine has the potential to generate significant export revenue and jobs for Serbia, especially if the country pursues plans to refine it locally and develop lithium battery plants.

Demand for lithium battery-powered electric cars is expected to surge in the coming years as the United States, Europe, and China seek to cut carbon emissions.

Rio Tinto says it would respect laws and environmental standards, but ecology groups worry dirty lithium mining will damage the environment. To date the company has only carried out explorations.

“Rio Tinto must leave Serbia,” said Aleksandar Jovanovic, one of the protest leaders.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who backs the projects, called the protests political.

Speaking at a military base, Vucic there will be no lithium mining until more environmental evaluations are completed.