Column: Rio’s lithium project will test mining’s ESG credentials – by Andy Home (Reuters – July 29, 2021)

LONDON (Reuters) – Rio Tinto’s decision to invest $2.4 billion in developing the Jadar lithium mine in Serbia is big news. For the company with its heavy exposure to the iron ore sector, it’s a major strategic pivot to the fast evolving battery metals space.

For the lithium market, it marks the first entry of a big international mining company into what is a supply landscape dominated by specialty incumbents.

It’s hugely significant for Serbia, which is trying to attract investment to its mining sector, and it’s hugely important for the European Union, which has identified its Balkan neighbour as a key link in its mineral securities chain.

It’s even a big geological first. The lithium will be derived from a completely new mineral.

But the Jadar project will also be a big test of big mining’s green credentials. An online petition against the mine has already garnered over 120,000 signatures, according to Balkan Green Energy News. Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, has mooted the option of a referendum on whether it should go ahead.

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