Excerpt from theconversation.com
Thousands of demonstrators rallied across the Serbian capital Belgrade this month, protesting the US$2.4 billion (A$3.3 billion) Jadar lithium mine proposed by global mining giant Rio Tinto. The project, Rio Tinto’s flagship renewable energy initiative, is set to become the largest lithium project in the European Union.
Lithium is a crucial component of energy storage, both for renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles. Forecast demand has prompted efforts by companies and governments worldwide to tap into this market – a scramble dubbed the “white gold rush”.
As lithium projects have multiplied across Australia, Europe, Latin America and the US in recent years, so too have concerns over their environmental and social impacts. Communities near proposed and existing lithium mines are some of the loudest opponents. In a town near the proposed mine in Serbia, a banner reads: “No mine, yes life”.
Lithium extraction serves legitimate global environmental needs. But the industry must not ignore local social and environmental risks, and community voices must be included in decision making. The harsh lessons of mining to date need not be learned again in new places.