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People power halts plans for lithium mine in Serbia

LOCAL authorities in western Serbia suspended plans to let mining giant Rio Tinto operate a lithium mine yesterday, after protests by environmentalists that shook the country’s populist leadership.

Mining had been expected to start in the near future, but a town council in Loznica voted to suspend the regional development plan permitting lithium excavation.

The vote followed the suspension of two key laws in Serbia’s parliament last week that ecologists said would help the multinational start its project.

For three consecutive weekends, thousands of protesters in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia blocked main roads and bridges to oppose Rio Tinto’s plan to launch a $2.4 billion (£1.8bn) mining operation in the country.

The protests were the biggest challenge yet to the increasingly autocratic rule of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

“Whether there will be a mine depends on people [in western Serbia] and the study on environmental impact assessment,” Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said.

“These are the two conditions that the president stated earlier.”

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