SERBIA - Lithium mining stopped for now - protests continue!

We document an article from the Austrian newspaper "Red Flag" on occasion of the people's protests in Serbia:

For weeks, tens of thousands of people in various parts of Serbia have been protesting against a new law of "land grabbing", as well as against the extremely harmful mining of lithium in the city of Loznica.

Already in 2004, the largest lithium deposit in Europe was discovered in Serbia. Lithium is essential for the construction of accumulators and batteries, is also urgently needed in the car industry and is considered one of the most sought-after metals of the future, in view of the planned switch to so-called "renewable energy". To minimise dependence on China for this metal, the EU imperialists need this mine.

Among the supporters of lithium mining in Serbia is the British-Australian mining company RIO TINTO, which is one of the three largest mining companies in the world. This company is not an unknown quantity: In 1998, RIO TINTO was responsible for Austria's largest mining accident in Lassing (Upper Styria). Ten people lost their lives in this mining accident. The company is said to have been mining illegally in Lassing, too close to the earth's surface and right under built-up areas. There were no current plans of the mine and rescue teams had to rely on the statements of miners. In 2020, it was revealed that the company had blasted a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal cultural site in order to expand the iron mine there. The same company now wants to invest 2.4 billion dollars in the planned Jadar project in Serbia. To this end, the Serbian government has approved an amendment to the mining law that gives the company a free hand in lithium mining.

The masses in Serbia are protesting against this law, which, according to the protesters, allows the "sell-out" of the country to foreign companies, against expropriation in favour of companies and against environmental pollution. Already during the last weekend of November, protests took place in more than 50 cities. Motorways, traffic junctions and bridges were blocked. In the capital Belgrade alone, more than 50,000 people took part in the various blockades. This is one of the biggest mass movements in Serbia in recent years, because in the eyes of the population the RIO TINTO project stands for "expropriation", the deepening of national oppression and also for enormous environmental pollution, which means contaminated water and destruction of arable land! Targeted attacks on the demonstrators by pro-government thugs were successfully repelled by solidarity and uniting of the masses. Every weekend, thousands of people come together to express their anger, rage and outrage.

Despite the seemingly shelved plans and the (temporary) halt to construction, the protests continue. The anger of the masses is not only directed against the RIO TINTO company, but also against Serbian President Alexandar Vucic, who most represents the anti-people course of the rulers. Environmental activist Aleksandar Jovanovic Cuta said: "Aleksandar Vucic has until Christmas to cancel all projects with Rio Tinto. We also demand that he make public all documents ever negotiated and signed with Rio Tinto. Every contract with Rio Tinto must be cancelled. He has no option but to do the decent thing, which is to kick Rio Tinto out." (1). The environmentalist further stresses that if the demands are not implemented, the government can expect a huge mobilisation of the public.

These protests are one of the largest popular movements in Serbia for a long time, which on the one hand is dedicated to the environmental issue, and on the other hand, and this is the special thing about this movement, shows itself to be a very political movement, as it is about national sovereignty and against the plundering of the country by foreign corporations. The protests show that the environmental question is not isolated from imperialist oppression and exploitation, but is developing around it. The Serbian protesting population demonstrates here that it is completely wrong to rely on hypocritical agreements of the imperialists on the environmental and "climate" question.



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Images: Protests in Belgrade by Slavica Jovanovic