Every once in a while there is some good news that warms the cockles of one’s heart. It is very rare these days anywhere in the world to see that democracy actually words in fact and nor just in word. But this morning’s headline news was an apparent victory of the Serbian people over their government.

Because the massive protests against Rio Tinto and its plans for lithium mine in Jadar which the Serbian people held on Nov 28 and again on Dec 4 resulted in a cancelation of the Rio Tinto contract by the Serbian government (see  “THOSE WHO DO NOT LEARN FROM HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT”, Nov 30, 2021).

Here’s what we wrote about it on Dec 5 (see SERBIA: GETTING IN BED WITH A DEVIL FOR A SONG – Rio Tinto has been waging war on nature for a century and a half):

“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.”

Predictably, the Serbian media connected that with the deportation of the country’s tennis star from Australia (Rio Tinto is based in Melbourne and London). Here’s today’s front page of a Belgrade tabloid (left). Which we have recast into this (right)…

So is it time for people in Belgrade to break out the champagne and celebrate this rare victory?

Why not. It is well deserved. Alas, they need to stay alert and beware. For this isn’t over yet.

First, Rio Tinto may sue Serbia for a breach of contract. The company has already issued a statement that they are evaluating their “legal options.”

An eventual court battle is likely to be long and costly and its outcome uncertain. In the end, the Serbian taxpayers may have to shell out a lot of money to pay for this “freedom” from Rio Tinto which has already spent $450 million on exploration work in Serbia.

Second, this move by the Serbian government is certainly part of its election tactics (the elections are in April).

“We are not afraid of Rio Tinto,” Serbian PM Ana Brnabic said yesterday. “We are here for our people and our country. They can do whatever they think they should do. This is the final decision of the government of the Republic of Serbia. “

This sure sounded like an election campaign pitch, didn’t it?

Alas, the Serbian people must beware some hidden aces which their government may be holding behind their backs. Here’s an excerpt from today’s ABC News report:

“It is widely believed that Serbia, which formally seeks European Union membership but instead has been forging close ties with Russia and China, may want to hand over the lithium mining to China by sidelining Rio Tinto from the project in which it has pledged to invest $2.4 billion.”

This government has already brought in a number of Chinese companies which have bought typically large resource-based Serbian companies. Some of these investments have become ecological disasters (such as the mine in Bor, for example, or the steel factory in Smederevo).

“Chinese investment in Serbia is valued at seven billion euros,” according to the New Eastern Europe magazine). “Most of these funds are Chinese loans. As a result, Belgrade’s relations with China are characterized by factors typical of Beijing’s foreign economic activities. This includes trade imbalances and questionable investment quality (more words than money).”

Such as in the case of the above two examples – Bor and Smederevo. It has been reported that more than 6,000 people are dying in Serbia every year from industrial air pollution. In Belgrade alone, some 2,000 people are dying per year from the effects of bad air.

Above 3 pictures: Chinese steel company HBIS's Smederevo steel mill; Lower 3 pictures: Chinese mining company Zijin, which runs Bor’s large-scale copper mining and smelting complex, is expanding its operations.

“Another problem for Chinese investment involves the vast differences that exist between the legal and regulatory frameworks of China and the European Union. This could potentially create additional problems for Serbia’s European integration.”

“According to Igor Novaković, director of research at the ISAC Fund, China’s presence potentially could put Serbia “between two fires”. In a world in which tensions are only growing between the West and China, the Serbian government may face a difficult future.”

In short, the Serbian people must be mindful of that old saw – “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” By forging a cozy relationship with China, Serbia may once again find itself in a crossfire of an economic, if not a shooting, war between the West and China. And Russia, another Chinese ally.



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.


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.

Also see…

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





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