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Rio Tinto proposed lithium mine in Jadar Valley, Serbia

Local residents and allies defend the right to say NO, denounce the lack of participation and information, and resist the proposed lithium-borates mine by Rio Tinto, and backed by the Serbian government, in a farming villages and rich cultural area.


Since Serbia entered a post-socialist ‘transition’ in 2001, both large multinationals and juniors started exploring for mineral deposits and taking over previously state-owned mines and industries. One of the ‘pioneers’ has been London- and Melbourne-based Rio Tinto – one of the world’s largest miners - which has since 2001 been exploring in the country through their subsidiary Rio Sava Exploration d.o.o. Beograd. In 2004, the company announced the discovery of the mineral jadarite in the valley of river Jadar, and a potentially large deposit of borates and lithium was later confirmed [1]. Both lithium and borate are on the current EU Commission’s list of ‘critical raw materials.’

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Rio Tinto proposed lithium mine in Jadar Valley, Serbia
State or province:West Serbia
Location of conflict:Loznica/Krupanj
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Tailings from mines
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Mineral processing
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific commodities:Lithium
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The company has so far released limited technical description of the project, therefore most information needs to be deduced from the Spatial Plan. The company presents a model in their office in the village Brezjak (photo). Furthermore, since the publication of the draft of the Spatial Plan and its adoption, the company representatives continue to put out sometimes new and sometimes seemingly different information from what is stated in the Plan. What follows here is based on publicly available project description.

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Project area:2,431.39
Level of Investment for the conflictive project450,000,000+ (so far)
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:between 100s - 1000s
Start of the conflict:25/11/2019
Company names or state enterprises:Rio Tinto (Rio Tinto ) from United Kingdom
Relevant government actors:Vlada Republike Srbije (Government of Serbia), Ministarstvo rudarstva i energetike (Ministry of Mining and Energy), Ministarstvo građevinarstva, saobraćaja i infrastrukture (Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure), Republički geodetski zavod (Republic Geodetic Authority), Institut za arhitekturu i urbanizam Srbije (Institute of Architecture and Urban & Spatial Planning of Serbia), Institut za vodoprivredu "Jaroslav Černi" (Institute for Water Resources “Jaroslav Cherni"), Mašinski fakultet Univerziteta u Beogradu (Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Belgrade)
International and Finance InstitutionsU.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) from United States of America
World Bank (WB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ne damo Jadar, Zaštitimo Jadar i Rađevinu, Podrinjski anti-korupcijski tim (, Koalicija za održivo rudarstvo Srbije, Centar za ekologiju i održivi razvoj (, London Mining Network (, Earth Thrive (, Centar za životnu sredinu / Center for Environment (, Bitka za Košutnjak, Savski nasip, Kolektivna akcija Srbija, Čuvari vatre, Odbranimo reke Stare planine (, Pobuna Srbije, Odbranimo šume Fruške gore, Petkom za budućnost, Udruženje za zaštitu šuma, Zeleni talas Čačak, Pravo na vodu (, Zelena Patrola, Vojvođanska zelena inicijativa (, Romani Asvin, Polekol, Hekler (, Kreni-Promeni
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Waste overflow, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Genetic contamination, Global warming
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other Environmental impactsThere is currently lack of conclusive research about the environmental impacts of lithium mining and processing, especially in the case of extraction from rock such is the case of Jadar deposit [35,36]. With the proprietary process for processing the ore being developed by Rio Tinto, a deeper understanding of potential impacts in Jadar case is even more in the hands of the. Therefore we can detect a strong “knowledge asymmetry” between the company on the one side, and the communities, and potentially even the authorities on the other.
In Jadar, of particular concern is that the mining and processing area lies in the centre of the valley through which run rivers Korenita and Jadar, as well as a much larger hydrological system, exposed to flash floods of increasing frequency (see photo). The report on Strategic Assessment of the Environmental Impacts on Environment, that was produced together with the Spatial Plan, says: “The proposed development of mining activities will inevitably impact the hydrogeological regime within the exploitation area and cumulatively within the broader surroundings. The disturbance of the water regime may have indirect impacts on surface waters, and possibly also on soil fertility and water supply of the local inhabitants” [37:59].
To questions and concerns about environmental impacts, when recalling testimonies and scientific research from impacts of other lithium projects in the world, the company representatives answer that jadarite is ‘unique’ and cannot be compared to any other lithium project [17].
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Other Health impactsThe relevant report by the US Geological Survey on lithium reveals a number of potential health concerns. “Lithium affects metabolism, neuronal communication, and cell proliferation in many organisms in addition to humans”. Effects on rats, earthworms, crustaceans and fish have been studied. Lithium is known to be toxic to humans and it has been banned for medical use in the US between 1949 and 1970 [36].
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Other socio-economic impactsRio Tinto plans to buy off around 350 plots of land, many of which are being farmed, often for generations. The mine would imply direct displacement of 52 households and ‘about 40 more [week-end] houses.’ [1] The citizens are offered ‘fair and just’ compensation and, the company claims to be helping them ‘legally and sociologically’ with ‘relocating’ them [18]. However, the owners have reported that the offered prices were unsatisfactory, and also, that they were being pressured by the legal representatives of the company to sell under these conditions by invoking expropriation as a possibility.
The Spatial Plan on the other hand, as one of its operative goals, proposes ”the decrease in migration of the younger population by ensuring the opening of new workplaces” and ”the improvement in the quality of skills and knowledge of the local workforce” [2:22]. How this is supposed to be done is not elaborated in the Plan and has not been expanded upon in the company’s public appearances beyond the commonplaces of employing the local and national workforce. Considering that the mine is expected to employ ”highly qualified” personnel only, and in view of the actual de-development of the rural areas in Serbia, including the region of Loznica, it is unclear where this workforce will come from.
The valley of Jadar has important cultural heritage and historical sites, including memorial and sacred places. The mining and processing zone, including the 5 million tone ‘rock waste’ disposal site, would be placed in the middle of the valley thus disrupting the continuity of the cultural and natural landscape.
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Marked by a long trail of historical industrial and mining pollution in Loznica, Krupanj and the region, the local citizens demand a healthier and a sustainable future for themselves and their children. The local farmers in their statements insist that they should be allowed and supported by the government to continue with their agricultural activities in this area. Organisations Zaštitimo Jadar & Rađevinu (Protect Jadar & Rađevina) and their partners Koalicija za održivo rudarstvo u Srbiji (Coalition for Sustainable Mining in Serbia) claim that agriculture is not only more sustainable, but even more profitable on the long run. They have publicly demanded that the authorities should elaborate an economic proposal that would calculate the economic impact of continuing with agriculture instead of opening the mine. The same organisations have also claimed that all lithium mining is potentially unsustainable, that there are alternative battery technologies that should be developed and deployed further, and that the only sustainable energy is agriculture [17]. Against the dominant claims that the mine is the “project of the century” for the region and the country, the activists of ZJR publicised slogans that plums, corn, honey and raspberries are “jobs of the century.” Podrinjski anti-korupcijski pakt (PAKT) reports that the locals demand “the country to allow them production of healthy food, more than needed manure, and seedlings for reforestation, important in the system of floods prevention” [12].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The mine project is open, and the critical stages in the application are yet to be submitted, scrutinised by the authorities and by the public. However, as we see from the development of the situation so far, there are reasons to believe that the process may not be just and fair. This dispute indicates that the process of environmental and construction permitting in Republic of Serbia, as well as modes of public consultation, especially in relation to mining and energy projects, need to be reformed. Furthermore, there are indicators that there might be a breach of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, which Serbia has signed on 31 Jul 2009.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Laws on Mining and Geological exploration and related regulatives, Ministry of Mining and Energetics, (in Serbian):

Draft of the Spatial Plan for the area of special purpose for the realisation of the project of exploitation and processing of mineral jadarite “Jadar,” produced by the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure (in Serbian), the draft and accompanying documentation:

Strategic Impact Assessment of the Spatial Plan for exploitation and processing of mineral jadarite “Jadar,” produced by the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure (in Serbian):

Law on Mining and Geological Exploration (unofficial translation into English), Ministry of Mining and Energetics:

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Green Patrol in Action, “Brezjak – Smells like Fraud,” Vojvođanska zelena inicijativa (youtube page), Dec. 3, 2020. [Online] Available: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[1], “Rio Tinto confirms potential for Jadar project in Serbia,” Dec. 10, 2020. [Online] Available: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[2] The Government of Serbia, „Уредба о утврђивању Просторног плана посебне намене за реализацију пројекат експлоатације и прераде минерала јадарита ’Jadar’” (Regulation about the determination of the Spatial plan of special purpose for the realisation of the project of exploitation and processing of mineral jadarite ’Jadar) [document in Serbian] Službeni glasnik republike Srbije, 26, Mar. 13, 2020.

[3] J.M. Gomez & M. Savic, “There May Be a Fortune Buried in a Forgotten Corner of Europe,” Bloomberg, Aug. 29, 2019. [Online] Available: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[4] Energy Community, “Two billion euros burnt in coal subsidies by Energy Community Contracting Parties in 2015-2019,” Dec. 2, 2020. [Online] Available: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[5] R. Arbinolo, ”Monster Serbian Coal Plants Face Legal Action After Ending Hundreds of Lives Early,” Meta EEB, Jan. 26, 2021. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[6] B. Butler, “One in three shareholders vote for Rio Tinto to adopt binding emissions target,” The Guardian, May 8, 2020. [Online] Available: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[7] The Government of the Republic of Serbia, “Jadar strategically important project for Serbia,” Nov. 19, 2020. [Online] Available: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[8] The Government of the Republic of Serbia, “Project ‘Jadar’ of exceptional importance for Serbia,” Aug. 2, 2018. [Online] Available: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[9] Rio Tinto, “Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Serbia and Rio Tinto on Jadar Project,” Jul. 24, 2017. [Online] Available: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[10] Tanjug, “Prvi sastanak radne grupe za projekat ‘Jadar’,” Politika, Dec. 8, 2020. [Online] Available: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[11] D. Pejović, “Interview: Vesna Prodanović, general director of Rio Sava Exploration d.o.o.,” Politika, Dec. 20, p. 12, 2020.

[12] M. Mijatović, “Slučaj litijum: država protiv građana,” Peščanik, Dec. 8, 2020. [Online] Available: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[13] V. Đurić, “Najavljuju žalbe jer im je zemlja 'postala' građevinska, tvrde – zbog Rio Tinta,” N1, Nov. 6, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[15] Green Patrol in Action, “Brezjak – Smells like Fraud,” Vojvođanska zelena inicijativa (youtube page), Dec. 3, 2020. [Online] Available: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[16] Rio Tinto, “Jadar Newsletter Q3-Q4 2019,” [Online] Available at: [Broken link]

[17] Senior Environmental Advisor of Rio Sava Exploration in TV programme, “Rio Tinto najavio ulaganje od 100 miliona evra, aktivista – rudnik nepotreban,” N1 Info, Jan. 22, 2021. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[18] Interview with Vesna Prodanović, director of Rio Sava, “Dokle se stiglo sa projektom Jadar, ispod zemlje se pravi mali grad – ljudi zabrinuti za reke,” RTS, Jan. 17, 2021. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[19] Rio Tinto, “Jadar,” company webpage. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[20] London Mining Network, “Rio Tinto: answer the question!,” May 13, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[21] I. Todorović, “Rio Tinto’s lithium project in Serbia challenged over transboundary impact,” Balkan Green Energy News, Dec. 1, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[22] EJ Atlas currently contains 40 EJ conflicts involving Rio Tinto. A constantly updated list of articles about Rio Tinto can be found on London Mining Network: and MAC: Mines and Communities:

[23] J. Canić-Tešmanović & R. Gligorić, Praistorijaska nekropola Paulje kod Loznice, Loznica: Muzej Jadra, 2001. R. Gligorić, Nekropola razvijenog bronzanog doba u Brezjaku, Loznica:Centar za kulturu “Vuk Karadžić”, 2014. R. Gligorić et al., “An AMS dated late Bronze Age grave from the mound necropolis at Paulje,” Starinar, 66, 2016. DOI:

[24] Rio Tinto, “Jadar Newsletter Q1 2019,” company website. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[25] BirdLife International, “Important Bird Areas factsheet: Cer mountain.” [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[26] Zavod za zaštitu prirode Srbije (Institute for Nature Protection of Serbia), “Pokrenut postupak zaštite Predela izuzetnih odlika ’Planina Cer,’” Jul. 25, 2019. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[27] Zavod za zaštitu prirode Srbije (Institute for Nature Protection of Serbia), “Proglašen PIO ’Kulturni predeo Tršić-Tronoša’” Jul. 25, 2019. [Online] Available at:˙ [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[28] FoNet, “Rio Tinto tvrdi da otpad od jadarita neće biti opasan, građani nezadovoljni,” N1, Nov. 3, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[29] J. Spirić, “Lead smelter in Zajača, Serbia,” EJ Atlas, Last update Nov. 18, 2019. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[30] Public Investment Management Office of the Republic of Serbia, “Rehabilitation Works Start in Stolice Mine Tailings Pond,” Jun. 17, 2016. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[31] Rio Tinto, “Jadar,” the company webpage. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[32] “Jadar – potencijal za razvoj Srbije” [interview with the Managing Director of Rio Tinto Minerals, Jadar Project] Novosti online, Oct. 30, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Jan. 15, 2021]

[33] V. Spasić, “Rudnik jadarita će Srbiji doneti više štete nego koristi,” Balkan Green Energy News, Dec. 9, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Jan. 15, 2021]

[34] D. Pavlović, “Sa sednice Skupštine grada: Loznica dobija obilaznicu,” Lotel, Oct. 20, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Jan. 15, 2021]

[35] D.B. Agusdinata, et al. “Socio-environmental impacts of lithium mineral extraction: towards a research agenda,” Environmental Research Letters 13.12, 2018. R.B. Kaunda, “Potential environmental impacts of lithium mining,” Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law. DOI:

[36] D.C. Bradley et al. (eds.), “Critical mineral resources of the United States—Economic and environmental geology and prospects for future supply: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1802,” US Geological Survey, 2017, K16. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

[37] Ministry of Construction, Transportation and Infrastructure, “Просторни план подручја посебне намене за реализацију пројекта експлоатације и прераде минерала јадарита 'Јадар': Извештај о стратешкој процени утицаја просторног плана на животну средину,“ Nov. 2019. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Jan. 26, 2021]

BBC News, “'Kryptonite' discovered in mine,” Apr. 24, 2007. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

Mining SEE, “Protests against Rio Tinto’s future lithium mine in Serbia,” Oct. 5, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

N1 Beograd, “Litijum kod Loznice - kako bi eksploatacija uticala na životnu sredinu,” N1 Info, Oct. 11, 2019. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

I. Krstić, “Rio Tinto in Serbia: privatization of natural resources, obstruction of sustainable development,” Mašina, Nov. 12, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

Balkan Green Energy News, “Voices of discontent over Rio Tinto’s jadarite mine investment in Serbia grow louder,” Nov. 6, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

V. Spasić, “Serbian prime minister: Rio Tinto’s jadarite mine investment is going as planned,” Balkan Green Energy News, Dec. 23, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

N. Anđelković, “Jadarit, Rio Tinto i životna sredina: Šta treba da znate o nalazištu litijuma u Srbiji,” BBC News na srpskom, Jan. 20, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

Beta, “Utisak nedelje: MHE i projekat Jadar - više štete nego koristi,” N1 Info, Dec. 13, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

London Mining Network, “Remote control: Rio Tinto’s AGM and ‘shareholder engagement session’, London, 8 April 2020,” Apr. 16, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

J. Đajić & N. Prljević (HEKLER), “Life as Collateral Damage,” Crvena, Dec. 20, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

B92, “Govt., Rio Tinto in MoU on ‘world-class lithium-borate site,’” Jul. 24, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

RTS, “Meštani Gornjeg Jadra nastavili proteste zbog najavljene izgradnje rudnika litijuma,” Jan. 4, 2021. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Jan. 4, 2021]

A. Santovac, “Rio Tinto 2023. otvara rudnik litijuma kod Loznice,” N1 Info, Jul. 24, 2017. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

Lj. Sokić, “Projekat “Jadar” – Investicija veka ili ekološka katastrofa,” Nova, Oct. 21, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

Blic, “Route of Valjevo-Loznica railway to change due to jadarite exploitation,” Ekapija, Oct. 30, 2020. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

S. Petrović, “Juriš na utrobu Zemlje – eksploatacija rude u Srbiji,” Mašina, Jul. 2, 2019. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Feb. 1, 2021]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Podrinjski anti-korupcijski tim, "Litijum u Gornjem Jadru - belo zlato ili ekološka bomba," youtube, Oct. 22, 2020.
[click to view]

Koalicija za održivo rudarstvo u Srbiji (KORS) – Coalition for Sustainable Mining in Serbia (youtube channel):
[click to view]

Petition Kreni-Promeni “STOP rudniku litijuma! Rio Tinto - Marš sa Drine!”
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:mirko nikolić, Linköping University, [email protected]
Last update09/02/2021
Conflict ID:5345
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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