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Serbian environmentalists reject lithium mining projects


Environmentalists again call for cancellation of lithium mining projects in western Serbia

BELGRADE, Serbia – Environmental protesters demanding the cancellation of lithium mining projects in western Serbia took to the streets again on Saturday, blocking key roads and for the first time a border crossing.

Traffic on the Balkan nation’s main north-south highway was halted 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 the Bosnia.

Minor incidents have been reported with angry drivers trying to push their way through crowds. Witnesses told N1 television that a man was injured in an incident in the western town of Sabac.

Environmental groups want Serbia’s populist government to end the possibility of lithium mining in western Serbia. The activists pledged to continue the blockades until their demand is met and the mining company Rio Tinto is “expelled” from Serbia.

Thousands of people joined similar protests several weeks ago, forcing the government to withdraw two laws that activists say were aimed at accelerating the country’s mining plans.

“This is an ecological disaster, which I think Serbia has already stepped into, and even a worse (disaster) threat,” said Belgrade resident Mirjana Podolsek.

Another protester, Janko Krizan, believes that “it is our duty to come here”.

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

Environmental issues have become a public concern in Serbia because the nation of 7 million people faces bad air pollution, poor waste management and many other environmental problems that have accumulated after decades of neglect. Serbia needs to address these environmental issues to move forward in its bid to join the 27-nation European Union.

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