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Rio Tinto lithium mine: thousands of protesters block roads across Serbia | Serbia

Thousands of demonstrators blocked main roads across Serbia on Saturday as anger swelled over a government-backed plan to permit mining firm Rio Tinto to extract lithium.

Within the capital, Belgrade, protesters swarmed a significant freeway and bridge linking town to outlying suburbs as the group chanted anti-government slogans whereas some held indicators criticising the mining venture.

Smaller protests have been held in different Serbian cities, with small scuffles between demonstrators and counter-protesters in Belgrade and the northern metropolis of Novi Unhappy, in keeping with native media studies.

“They allowed overseas corporations to do no matter they need on our land. They put us on a platter for everybody who can simply come and take no matter they need,” mentioned Vladislava Cvoric, a 56-year-old economist, through the protest.

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Protesters wave flares during a Belgrade demonstration against the government-backed proposal for a lithium mine.
Protesters wave flares throughout a Belgrade demonstration towards the government-backed proposal for a lithium mine. {Photograph}: Zorana Jevtic/Reuters

Serbian tennis participant Novak Djokovic shared {a photograph} of the protest on Instagram and commented that “clear air, water and meals are keys to well being”.

“With out that, each phrase about ‘well being’ is out of date,” Djokovic mentioned.

The protests adopted comparable demonstrations final week, throughout which masked males attacked one gathering in western Serbia’s Sabac – sparking outrage on social media and accusations the federal government was utilizing hooligans to suppress the motion.

Substantial deposits of lithium – a key part for electrical automobile batteries – have been discovered across the western city of Loznica, the place the Anglo-Australian firm is shopping for up land however remains to be awaiting the ultimate inexperienced mild from the state to start mining.

Rio Tinto found lithium reserves within the Loznica area in 2006.

The corporate intends to speculate $2.4bn (€2.12bn) within the venture, in keeping with Vesna Prodanovic, director of Rio Sava, Rio Tinto’s sister firm in Serbia.

Critics have accused president Aleksandar Vučić’s authorities of setting the stage for unlawful land appropriations and ignoring environmental issues.

The demonstrations come months forward of seemingly nationwide elections in 2022, with critics of the protests accusing organisers of stirring controversy to undermine Vučić earlier than the polls.

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