LONDON (Reuters) – Rio Tinto has only bad options as it tries to salvage its $2.4 billion Serbian lithium project after the country’s leaders bowed to environmentalists and cancelled it last week.
The Anglo-Australian miner could sue the government, a step likely to fail and further antagonise Belgrade, or bet that pro-mining politicians emerge victorious in April parliamentary elections, a result that would embolden opponents.
The mining titan has little experience charting where to go next. People inside Rio said that while they were aware of the political tensions around the project, the government’s decision to pull the plug was a surprise that left the company scrambling for a strategy on how to proceed.
With elections looming, Belgrade halted the project following widespread protests against the mine, dashing Rio’s hopes of becoming a top-10 lithium producer. The miner, which said it has always complied with Serbian laws, is reviewing the legal basis for the decision.
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