Hundreds oppose Rio Tinto’s lithium challenge in Serbia

Helding banners that learn: “Cease traders, save nature, we’re not giving up on nature in Serbia,” and chanting “Rio Tinto get away from the Drina river”, the protests have been mirrored overseas. Activists gathered in Berlin, New York and at Rio Tinto’s headquarters in London.

Serbian tennis participant Novak Djokovic joined in by sharing {a photograph} of the protest on Instagram and commenting that “clear air, water and meals are keys to well being”.

“With out that, each phrase about ‘well being’ is out of date,” Djokovic wrote.

Jadar, found by Rio Tinto geologists in 2004, is likely one of the largest greenfield lithium tasks presently in improvement. It has the potential to supply about 55,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium carbonate.

The world’s second-largest miner, which greenlighted the challenge in July, has repeatedly warned of an imminent and “important” provide hole for lithium, as demand for the metallic utilized in electrical autos (EV) and inexperienced applied sciences continues to soar. 

Rio Tinto estimates that dedicated provide and capability expansions will contribute about 15% to demand development over the 2020-2050 interval. The remaining 85% would wish to come back from new tasks. 

To place the state of affairs in perspective, the miner’s head of economics Vivek Tulpule stated in October that filling the provide hole would require greater than 60 Jadar tasks.

Rio’s challenge positioned in western Serbia, would produce sufficient lithium to energy a million EVs. It should additionally produce boric acid, utilized in ceramics and batteries, and sodium sulphate, utilized in detergents. 

Sourcing Europe

Mine building is predicted to start early subsequent yr, topic to environmental approvals, with the primary manufacturing in 2026. 

As soon as in operations Jadar mine would provide primarily the European market, one of many world’s largest rising EV markets.

Following ramp as much as full manufacturing in 2029, the  mine will produce 58,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate, 160,000 tonnes of boric acid and 255,000 tonnes of sodium sulphate a yr. 

Thousands protest against Rio Tinto’s lithium project in Serbia
The Jadar challenge has an estimated manufacturing capability of 55,000 tonnes per yr.(Picture courtesy of Rio Tinto.)

In solely three years, British automobile makers should supply native electrical automobile batteries as set by the Brexit free commerce deal inked in 2020.

Below the settlement, all European commerce in automobiles and components will proceed to be freed from tariffs or quotas after the Brexit transition interval ended on December 31, so long as they comprise sufficient content material from both UK or EU factories.

Batteries will at first be allowed to have as much as 70% of supplies from international locations exterior the EU. From 2024 onwards, that requirement will tighten to 50%.

The EU is presently developing large-scale battery cell factories. European Fee Vice President Maros Sefcovic has stated that by 2025, the deliberate services would produce cells to energy ultimately six million electrical autos.

Over the previous 5 years, the miner has tried to develop its footprint in the battery market. In 2018, Rio reportedly tried to purchase a $5B stake in Chile’s Chemical and Mining Society (SQM), the world’s second largest lithium producer. 

In April this yr, it kicked off lithium manufacturing from waste rock at a demonstration plant positioned at a borates mine it controls in California. 

Rio invested $10 million to construct the pilot plant that can have the ability to produce 10 tonnes a yr of lithium-carbonate. By the top of the yr, and primarily based on the trial’s outcomes, it’s going to determine whether or not or not to spend an extra $50 million in an industrial-scale plant with annual capability of 5,000 tonnes a yr — sufficient for round 15,000 Tesla Mannequin S batteries. 

The projected manufacturing could be roughly the identical because the capability of Albemarle ’s Silver Peak mine in Nevada, which is presently the one lithium-carbonate producing asset within the nation, in response to the US Geological Survey.  Serbia’s authorities anticipates the nation’s booming mining sector will begin producing between 4% and 5% of its whole GDP in lower than 10 years, a major improve from its present 2%. 

(With information from Reuters)

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