BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Local authorities in western Serbia on Thursday suspended a plan that would allow mining giant Rio Tinto to operate a lithium mine, following protests by environmentalists that shook the country’s populist leadership.
The mining had been expected to start in the near future, but a town council in Loznica voted to suspend a regional development plan that permitted the excavation of lithium. The vote followed the suspension last week of two key laws in Serbia’s parliament that ecologists said would help the multinational mining company start the project.
For three consecutive weekends, thousands of protesters in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia blocked main roads and bridges to oppose Rio Tinto’s plan to launch a $2.4 billion mining operation in Serbia. The protests were the biggest challenge yet to the increasingly autocratic rule of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
“Whether there will be a mine depends on people (in western Serbia) and the study on environmental impact assessment,” Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said. “These are the two conditions that the president (Vucic) stated earlier.”
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