Rio Tinto has been waging war on nature for a century and a half
If one were to describe succinctly what kind of business Rio Tinto is in, it would be DESTRUCTION OF NATURE. War on people, war on animals, war on trees and shrubs. Why? So Rio Tinto would turn a profit off the minerals they dig up – copper, silver, gold, diamonds, uranium… and now the almighty LITHIUM. Nature be damned. And now, Serbia is offering its Jadar region as the next rape victim.
One of the reasons for the new “expropriation law” which the Serbian parliament passed recently is to secure the rights of foreign investors to grab the property of local owners for the benefit of foreign shareholders, and for the ruin of local owners’ businesses, homes, fields, forests, rivers and mountains. The law has caused massive demonstrations across Serbia in the last two weekends and is yet to be signed by the country’s president Aleksandar Vučić.
Why would a government, any government, which is supposedly elected by the people so as to protect the people from the enemies, foreign or domestic, do the exact opposite – harm not just the people but also its land, water and air?
Money, I suppose, is usually the answer when such political corruption occurs. And at the center of of this Serbian controversy is a foreign company called Rio Tinto.
What is Rio Tinto? At first, judging by the name, I thought it was some place in Texas. Wrong. Rio Tinto is a river in southwestern Spain where surface mining of copper, gold and silver had been going on for over 5000 years. When a British-Australian conglomerate bought this land from Spain in 1873, they named it Rio Tinto.
By the end of the 1880s, control of the firm passed to the Ashkenazy Rothschild family, who increased the scale of its mining operations. Now Rio Tinto is 114th-largest public company in the world whose largest shareholder is the Chinese Aluminum Corporation of China.
There are few companies in the world whose history is as long and thick with crimes against nature as is Rio Tinto’s. The 148-year history of this corporate devil is replete with destruction of nature.
If one were to describe succinctly what kind of business Rio Tinto is in, it would be DESTRUCTION OF NATURE. War on people, war on animals, war on trees and shrubs. And why, so that they would turn turn a profit off the minerals they dig up – copper, silver, gold, diamonds, uranium… and now the almighty LITHIUM.
LITHIUM: WHITE GOLD OR WHITE DEATH?
And of late LITHIUM. This mineral, sometimes dubbed “white gold” as its prices have doubled between 2016 and 2018 driven by the exponential growth demand for electric batteries, especially for EV’s (electric vehicles), like Tesla and the Chinese push toward EV’s.
The lithium ion battery industry is expected to grow from 100 gigawatt hours of annual production in 2017 to almost 800 gigawatt hours in 2027. Part of that phenomenal demand increase dates back to 2015 when the Chinese government announced a huge push towards electric vehicles in its 13th Five Year Plan. The battery of a Tesla Model S, for example, has about 12 kilograms of lithium in it; grid storage needed to help balance renewable energy would need a lot more lithium given the size of the battery required.Institute for Energy Research
The lithium extraction process uses a lot of water—approximately 500,000 gallons per metric ton of lithium. To extract lithium, miners drill a hole in salt flats and pump salty, mineral-rich brine to the surface. After several months the water evaporates, leaving a mixture of manganese, potassium, borax and lithium salts which is then filtered and placed into another evaporation pool. After between 12 and 18 months of this process, the mixture is filtered sufficiently that lithium carbonate can be extracted.
All this does tremendous harm to the environment.
In May 2016, dead fish were found in the waters of the Liqi River, where a toxic chemical leaked from the Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium mine. Cow and yak carcasses were also found floating downstream, dead from drinking contaminated water. It was the third incident in seven years due to a sharp increase in mining activity, including operations run by China’s BYD, one of the world’ biggest supplier of lithium-ion batteries. After the second incident in 2013, officials closed the mine, but fish started dying again when it reopened in April 2016.
In Chile’s Salar de Atacama, mining activities consumed 65 percent of the region’s water, which is having a large impact on local farmers to the point that some communities have to get water elsewhere.
As in Tibet, there is the potential for toxic chemicals to leak from the evaporation pools into the water supply including hydrochloric acid, which is used in the processing of lithium, and waste products that are filtered out of the brine. In Australia and North America, lithium is mined from rock using chemicals to extract it into a useful form. In Nevada, researchers found impacts on fish as far as 150 miles downstream from a lithium processing operation.
Lithium extraction harms the soil and causes air contamination. In Argentina’s Salar de Hombre Muerto, residents believe that lithium operations contaminated streams used by humans and livestock and for crop irrigation. In Chile, the landscape is marred by mountains of discarded salt and canals filled with contaminated water with an unnatural blue hue.
In May 2020, in order to expand the Brockman 4 mine, Rio Tinto demolished a sacred cave in Juukan Gorge, Western Australia, which had evidence of 46,000 years of continual human occupation, and was considered the only inland site in Australia to show signs of continual human occupation through the last Ice Age. Rio Tinto later apologized for the distress caused and CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques subsequently stepped down.
Rio Tinto has been widely criticised by environmental groups as well as the government of Norway for the environmental impacts of its mining activities: claims of severe environmental damages related to Rio Tinto’s engagement in the Grasberg mine in Indonesia led the Government Pension Fund of Norway to exclude Rio Tinto from its investment portfolio.[
Observers have also expressed concern regarding Rio Tinto’s operations in Papua New Guinea, which they allege were one catalyst of the Bougainville separatist crisis. There have also been concerns over corruption: in July 2017 the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced the launch of a fraud and corruption investigation into the company’s business practices in Guinea.
Carbon dioxide emissions
According to The Guardian, Rio Tinto is one of the top 100 industrial greenhouse gas producers in the world, accounting for 0.75 percent of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions between 1988 and 2015. In 2016, Rio Tinto estimated to have produced 32 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in its own climate change report.
Corruption in Mozambique
he U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating a $3 billion impairment charge against Rio Tinto regarding a coal deal they made in Mozambique. Rio acquired Riversdale Mining Ltd., an Australian coal mining company with significant interests in Mozambique, in 2011 for $2.9 billion in an all-cash deal. Two years later they wrote down the value of the assets by $3 billion. Following the impairment charge, which included an additional $11 billion in asset write-downs, chief executive officer of Rio Tinto, Tom Albanese stepped down from his post and left the company. Rio later sold the assets for $50 million.
SERBIA’S NEW WHITE KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR
So now that we have gotten to know Serbia’s new “white knight in shining armor,” let us take a look at why Rio Tinto picked Serbia as its first and only European target. In a word, it’s Jadar.
In July, Rio Tinto announced that it would invest $2.4bn in a project in the Jadar valley, in western Serbia, overlooked by the Cer and Gučevo mountains, building what it says will be Europe’s biggest lithium mine, and one of the world’s largest on a greenfield site.
Notice on the above map of the Rio Tinto world that NO OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRY has welcomed this predator on its territory. And for a good reason, considering the environmental impact lithium mining has.
The company estimates that over the expected 40-year life of the mine, it will produce 2.3m tonnes of battery-grade lithium carbonate, a mineral critical for large-scale batteries for electric vehicles and storing renewable energy, and 160,000 tonnes of boric acid annually, necessary for the renewable energy equipment such as solar panels and wind turbines.
Alas, at what price to the people and nature of Jadar? For more on that, check out this London Guardian article. No wonder the country is up in arms over such a sellout of its government. Especially after another failed foreign “investment” by the Chinese company Zijin whose takeover of the Bor mines has been nothing short of disastrous for the people and the environment in this easter Serbian region.
JUST SAY NO
Forty years ago, Nancy Reagan, the first lady and her husband Ronald helped launch the “just say no” (to drugs) campaign.
Likewise, Serbian president and his government should also JUST SAY NO both to the “expropriation law” and to Rio Tinto. Or face the wrath of the nation.
For the first role of a government is to PROTECT its people not to sell them our down the river for a song so that some foreign corporation can gorge on their resources.
France 2 surveyElectric batteries: will a lithium mine devastate a valley of 20,000 inhabitants in Serbia?
Posted the 11/24/2021 8:35 PMUpdate the 25/11/2021 10:01