Electric cars and lithium for batteries? Serbs revolt against Rio Tinto

Elon Musk Tesla - Israel

Hey Elon – can you solve the problem of mining for lithium needed to run Teslas?

Electric cars are probably for the greater good, especially if they are powered up with renewable energy. But fewer emissions on our city streets, certainly helps with bringing down high rates of lung cancer and bringing problems in cities. 

But as always the case, lithium batteries that are good for your Tesla in Oakland or Montreal might be terrible in someone else’s backyard. As we speak the Serbians are heavily fighting against lithium mining by Rio Tinto, and are calling out the government for its corruption.

According to The Guardian, which I consider to be the greatest environmental newspaper on the planet, Rio Tinto and the Serb government started its advertising campaign using clean tech as the greater good on national TV, announcing:

“Green technologies, electric cars, clean air – all of these depend on one of the most significant lithium deposits in the world, which is located right here in Jadar, Serbia.

Jadar Valley Serbia, area of lithium mining

Area of lithium mining, Jadar Valley, Serbia via Rio Tinto website

“We completely understand your concerns about the environment. Rio Tinto is carrying out detailed analyses, so as to make all of us sure that we develop the Jadar project in line with the highest environmental, security and health standards.”

In July, Rio Tinto announced that it would invest $2.4bn in a project in the Jadar valley, in western Serbia, overlooked by the Cer and Gučevo mountains, building what it says will be Europe’s biggest lithium mine, and one of the world’s largest on a greenfield site. The site will also over 40 years produce boric acid and raw materials for solar panels.

“Such mines are mostly opened in deserts precisely because of the detrimental effect on the environment and biodiversity,” said Prof Dragana Đorđević, head of environmental chemistry and engineering at the University of Belgrade told The Guardian: “The basins of the Drina and Sava rivers, from which about 2.5 million people are supplied with water, are endangered.”

“Woke” Serbs aren’t buying the propaganda. One critic told the Guardian that Rio Tinto could be seen as “a poster child for corporate malfeasance.”

They fear displacement, toxic pollution and loss of land and biodiversity.

So we are in a bit of a pickle. On one had we want renewable energy and electric cars but these “things” require raw materials. But is a company that provides products and parts we need, despite not being able to save the planet too, a demon? Not long ago we interviewed Rio Tinto for their aluminium supply chain progress – on the blockchain. We know that corporates can do better, want to do better, but how and at what risk to communities and ecosystems?

Or perhaps all mines should just move to Africa where the people are not organized enough, or safe enough to rise up against authorities? Or to Canada

We received a dispatch from Jun, a Serbian eco activism group. They write:

“Of the myriad of environmental problems in Serbia, we are most concerned with the proposed Rio Tinto-operated Jadar lithium mine. Rio Tinto executives told EU officials that the development of the mine will begin after the March 2022 elections in Serbia. This amounts to strategic manipulation of Serbia’s democratic process by foreign corporations and governments,” they write.

“As the regional implementation leader of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda in the Western Balkans, 28. Jun is obliged to communicate on the deteriorating ecological situation and its potential for humanitarian crisis.

“We will use our Special Consultative Status with the United Nations to enlist, organize and shape public support of necessary policy changes to benefit the people of Serbia.

“Our report will be submitted to the United Nations, the Serbian Ministry of Environmental Protection and made public before the March 2022 elections. In addition to the communiqué, 28. Jun will make contributions in support of environmental projects to both municipal governments and civil society organizations in Serbia.

“Our foray into the battle to protect our land, air and water begins immediately.”

We’d be happy if anyone from Rio Tinto would like to comment and we will publish it here. I suspect jobs of the future aren’t in blockchain. They are in renewable mining for resources. Get learning your green MBAs people, and start here:


::Rio Tinto Serbia

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