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aws账号(www.2km.me)_The world wants more lithium, but doesn’t want more mines

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A drill rig at Controlled Thermal Resources' (CTR) Hells Kitchen Lithium and Power project in Calipatria, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021.

LONDON: Prices for lithium, the building block of electric-vehicle (EV) batteries, shot to a record this year, amplifying concerns there won’t be enough of the metal to fuel the switch away from combustion engines. In that climate, now should be a prime time to build a mine.

Rio Tinto Group is finding out otherwise.

Within months of unveiling plans for a US$2.4bil (RM10.12bil) mine in western Serbia, local opponents organised a movement that’s rocked the government and brought cities to a standstill as thousands of protesters marched in the streets.

Authorities subsequently suspended a land-use plan for the proposed mine, though they didn’t reject the project completely.

“The entire Jadar project is just another way for multinational companies, with the help of our state, to make profit and cause damage to the people of Serbia,” said Slavisa Miletic, an activist living near the planned mine.

The opposition Rio faces is replicating around the world, and industry executives consider it their biggest challenge going forward. Southern Copper Corp is struggling to get government support for a controversial US$1.4bil (RM5.90bil) project in Peru, and Lithium Americas Corp was taken to United States federal court over its planned mine in Nevada.

Historically, mining offered jobs and economic development to typically poor areas, with taxation and royalties to fill government coffers. But all too often, people living nearby paid a price for environmental degradation and occasional catastrophe.

That’s changing. Locals are pushing back, deciding that the economic benefits don’t outweigh the costs to their quality of life. Governments also are increasingly unwilling or unable to override those concerns.

“It’s become more difficult to build a mine today than it ever was before,” said Ben Davis, a mining analyst at Liberum.

“It’s far easier to organise opposition, often in rural and isolated communities.”

To placate critics, the Serbian government offered a referendum on the mine, but that itself became controversial, with the opposition saying recent legal revisions tilted the balance in the government’s -- and Rio’s -- favour.

Protesters also blasted efforts to speed up ownership changes for both state and private projects.

The outrage forced president Aleksandar Vucic to send the proposal back to parliament for reworking.

“Environmental issues were long neglected in Serbia because the economy and living standard dominated for years,” said Bojan Klacar, director of the Belgrade-based Centre for Free Elections and Democracy, or CESID. “Priorities have changed.”

A few thousand Serbians protested for a fourth weekend in several cities, demanding an unconditional ban on lithium exploration and mining by any company, not just Rio Tinto.

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