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Serbia: Thousands rally in Belgrade for environmental causes

September 12, 2021

The protesters have called on the Serbian government to cut ties with the Rio Tinto lithium mining firm and demanded new regulations to protect nature.

Environmental protest against Lithium mine in Belgrade, Serbia
The protesters believe the Serbian government is selling out the country's environment to foreign companiesImage: Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo/picture alliance

Around 2,000 people took to the streets of the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Saturday in protests against lithium mining. 

The demonstrators demanded the government bar international mining firm Rio Tinto from building a lithium mine in western Serbia. Rio Tinto had pledged $2.4 billion (€2 billion) to the project in July, with lithium being a necessary component of electric vehicle batteries.

Banners in the city carried slogans such as "Rio Tinto go away." The protesters also temporarily blocked one of the major bridges in Belgrade

A girl holds a drawing of the Earth during the protest
Protesters called for more action against water, air and land pollutionImage: Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo/picture alliance

"Our demand is that the government of Serbia annul all obligations to Rio Tinto," protest organizer Aleksandar Jovanovic said. 

The demonstrations were organized by 30 environmental organizations in Serbia. Over 100,000 people have endorsed a petition against the Rio Tinto mine. 

The Serbian government has backed Rio Tinto's mining project to boost the economy. Rio Tinto's CEO has vowed to abide by both national and EU environmental regulations.

Protesters call on government to fight pollution

The protesters also called for more regulations to protect the country's nature and combat pollution.

Controversial coal-powered plants run by Chinese companies  have caused a negative impact on air quality, while industrial waste has polluted Serbian rivers.

"We were thirsty this summer, we breathe toxic air and land is being sold out," protest organizers said in a statement. "Forests are being cut and mines are expanding."

According to Swiss air quality monitoring company IQAir, Serbia is the fifth most polluted country in Europe as of 2019.

The Balkan nation, which has aspired to EU membership, will need to enact stricter environmental standards to join the 27-member bloc. 

wd/fb (Reuters, AP)