MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Rio Tinto is eager to reopen talks with the Serbian government over its $2.4 billion Jadar lithium project, which stalled ahead of recent elections in the country, the director said on Thursday. general and president of the company.
The Serbian government revoked licenses for the Jadar project in January after massive protests sparked by environmental concerns about the mine project.
“We very much hope that we can discuss all options with the government of Serbia now that the elections are over,” Thompson told shareholders at the company’s Australian annual meeting, in Rio Tinto’s first public comments after the election. .
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was overwhelmingly re-elected in April, but his party failed to form a full government.
The Jadar project, which could supply 90% of Europe’s current lithium needs, was “very important for Serbia” as it could boost the country’s economic output and open up opportunities for developing downstream business for provide green technology to the European automotive market. , Thompson said.
Chief executive Jakob Stausholm said the global miner was pushing ahead with plans to become a lithium producer, trying to fast-track the Rincon project it acquired in Argentina in December.
“But we certainly haven’t given up on Jadar because, frankly, it’s a perfect project,” Stausholm told reporters after the annual meeting.
He said the project had “impeccable” environmental, social and governance credentials.
Under Serbian rules, the company could not publish its environmental and social impact assessment of the project before obtaining government approval, which Thompson says resulted in misinformation about the project circulating before the elections in Serbia.
“We certainly understand the concerns of the local community, but we believe that in reality those concerns are very largely addressed by the environmental and impact assessments that we have done,” Thompson said.
Rio Tinto is hyper responsive to community concerns after sparking widespread public outcry after destroying 46,000-year-old caves in Western Australia for an iron ore mine – a disaster that prompted Thompson to step down. He retired after Thursday’s annual meeting.
The Rio climate action plan, which the company put to a vote for the first time this year, won the support of 84% of its UK and Australian base shareholders, according to results released after the Australian general meeting.
The company is committed to reducing emissions from its operations by 15% by 2025 and 50% by 2030 and to working with its customers and suppliers to reduce its indirect emissions, or scope 3 emissions.
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