Rio Tinto may sue the Serbian government, based on the bilateral investment agreement between Serbia and the UK, for violating the provisions on fairness and equal treatment, Reuters reports.
For Rio Tinto, although aware of the political tensions surrounding the project, the Serbian government’s decision to suspend lithium exploration operations comes as a surprise and the company is in a hurry now to find a strategy for the future.
Given the upcoming elections, official Belgrade suspended the Jadar project after large-scale civil protests against mining, dashing Rio Tinto’s hopes of becoming one of the world’s top 10 lithium producers. The company, which claims it has always complied with Serbian law, is considering the legal basis for proceeding against the Serbian authorities.
The company committed to the Serbian project last year, as global miners pushed for the metals needed for the green energy transition, including lithium, which is used to make electric vehicle batteries.
The mine was slated to produce enough lithium to power 1 million electric vehicles, in addition to boric acid, used in ceramics and batteries, and sodium sulphate, used in detergents.
At full capacity, the mine was expected to produce 58,000 tonnes of refined battery-grade lithium carbonate per year, making it Europe’s biggest lithium mine by output.
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