Lithium mine opponents block roads in bad weather


BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – Hundreds of people in Serbia spent part of a holiday weekend blockading roads on Saturday to protest against plans to mine lithium in the Balkan country.

The protests took place a day after Orthodox Christians in Serbia and many other countries celebrated Christmas. The protests took place in the capital, Belgrade, and in several other locations.

Mine activists have held weekly rallies to keep pressure on the populist government of President Aleksandar Vucic to remove the possibility of lithium digs in western Serbia.

Thousands of people have joined protests in the past and environmental groups have vowed not to stop until mining proposals are rejected.

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told pro-government television Pink on Saturday that her government was “on the verge of canceling” any deal with multinational mining company Rio Tinto, which has explored the area and wants to extract lithium.

“We are listening to our people,” Brnabic said.

Experts have warned that mining for lithium, a material used for car batteries and the like, will destroy the region’s farmland, ecosystem and water.

Serbia faces many environmental problems after decades of neglect. The country is inundated with garbage and the air quality is very poor.

Improving environmental protection is one of the criteria that Serbia must fulfill in order to move forward on the path to EU membership.


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