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Environmental demonstrators block a highway during a protest in Belgrade
Saturday saw instances of angry drivers trying to push through the crowds of protestersImage: Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo/picture alliance

Serbia: Activists block roads to protest lithium mine

January 15, 2022

Traffic came to a standstill on major roads as activists demanded the scrapping of a planned lithium mine. Serbia is already suffering from a series of environmental problems.


Protesters blocked major roads in Serbia on Sunday and demanded the government cancel plans to build a lithium mine in the west of the country. 

The main north-south highway that passes through the capital, Belgrade, was targeted by environmental protection activists, halting traffic for an hour. Traffic on several other roads, including a border crossing with Bosnia, was also brought to a standstill.

The protesters are calling on the government to stop plans by the global mining giant Rio Tinto to invest $2.4 billion (€2.1 billion) in a lithium mine project.

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How has the government reacted?

The ruling coalition in Belgrade, headed by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, told the Reuters news agency that a decision on the mine would be made after the country's general election on April 3.

The protests against the mine have been going on for weeks, taking place every Saturday. The activists vowed to keep going until their demands are met.

The government withdrew two laws described by activists as facilitating mine development after thousands took part in similar protests several weeks ago.

Serbia is one of Europe's most polluted countries after years of neglect, and would need to spend billions to clean up and achieve the environmental standards set as a requirement for accession to the EU.

A environmental demonstrator holds a banner reading:
Protesters have said they will keep blocking roads until their demands are metImage: Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo/picture alliance

What did the protesters say?

"Rio Tinto will not only pollute Serbia, but it will pollute everything else, the entire system, everything," one protester told The Associated Press.

"We do not want to be quiet. ... We want this country to be safe for our children," another protester in Belgrade told Reuters.

Some drivers responded aggressively to the protests, with several minor incidents being reported on Saturday.

In one case, a man was injured in the western town of Sabac after angry drivers tried to push their way through the crowds of protesters.

ab/sms (AP, Reuters)