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Serbia revokes Rio Tinto's licences - $2.4 BILLION investment gone.

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BELGRADE, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Serbia revoked Rio Tinto's (RIO.L) lithium exploration licences on Thursday, bowing to protesters who opposed the development of the project by the Anglo-Australian mining giant on environmental grounds.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said the government's decision came after requests by various green groups to halt the$2.4 billion Jadar lithium project which, if completed, would help make Rio a top 10 lithium producer.

"All decisions (linked to the lithium project) and all licences have been annulled," Brnabic told reporters after a government session. "As far as project Jadar is concerned, this is an end."

Earlier this week, Rio had pushed back the timeline for first production from Jadar by one year to 2027, citing delays in key approvals. read more

Rio Tinto said it was "extremely concerned" by Serbia's decision and was reviewing the legal basis for it.

The company committed to the project just last year, as global miners pushed into the metals needed for the green energy transition, including lithium, which is used to make electric vehicle batteries.

The mine was slated to produce enough lithium to power 1 million electric vehicles, in addition to boric acid, used in ceramics and batteries, and sodium sulphate, used in detergents. At full capacity, the mine was expected to produce 58,000 tonnes of refined battery-grade lithium carbonate per year, making it Europe's biggest lithium mine by output.


This is a very very very big deal for Rio Tinto - $2.4 Billion worth.

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A lithium-boron deposit with the potential to make Serbia a major global producer.

Jadar is named after jadarite, a lithium sodium borosilicate mineral we discovered in Serbia in 2004, near the city of Loznica in western Serbia.

The Jadar project in Serbia is one of the largest greenfield lithium projects in the world. Jadar will produce battery-grade lithium carbonate, a critical mineral used in large scale batteries for electric vehicles and storing renewable energy. In addition, Jadar will produce borates, which are needed for the development of renewable energy equipment such as solar panels and wind turbines.

The scale and high-grade nature of the Jadar mineralisation will ensure a long-life operation in the first quartile of operating costs for both products.

The proposed development will include an underground mine with associated infrastructure and equipment, including electric haul trucks, as well as a beneficiation chemical processing plant to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate.

First saleable production from the mine is expected no earlier than 2027 and, following ramp up to full production, the mine will produce annually ~58,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate, 160,000 tonnes of boric acid (B2O3 units) and 255,000 tonnes of sodium sulphate1, making Rio Tinto one of the top ten lithium producers in the world. Based on this annual production of lithium carbonate, Rio Tinto aims that, over the expected 40-year life of mine, the operation will produce 2.3 million tonnes of lithium carbonate.

1 These production targets were previously reported in a release to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) dated 10 December 2020, “Rio Tinto declares maiden Ore Reserve at Jadar” (for battery-grade lithium carbonate it was 55,000 tonnes). All material assumptions underpinning the production targets continue to apply and have not materially changed.


What’s next

In July 2021, we committed $2.4 billion to the Jadar lithium-borates project in Serbia. The project remains subject to receiving all relevant approvals, permits and licences and ongoing engagement with local communities, the Government of Serbia and civil society. The next steps for the project are seeking an Exploitation Field Licence and receipt of regulatory approvals. This includes approval of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies, which will be made available to the public for comment. Based on current estimates and subject to receiving all relevant approvals, permits and licences, first saleable production is expected to be no earlier than 2027.

We are now focused on completing the detailed engineering, land acquisition, workforce and supply preparation for construction, permitting and early infrastructure development. At the same time, we continue to collaborate with leading Serbian and international experts in mining, processing, engineering and design, communities and environment to deepen our understanding of the project.

The investment commitment builds on progress including:

  • In February, we completed the detailed geological exploration of the jadarite deposit.
  • In July 2020, we approved an additional investment of almost US$200 million to progress the next stage of development, the Feasibility Study, which is expected to be completed at the end of 2021.
  • In December 2020, we announced the maiden Ore Reserve and updated Mineral Resource at the project.

We recognise that in progressing this project, we must listen to and respect the views of all stakeholders. We are committed to upholding the highest environmental standards and building sustainable futures for the communities we operate in.

We are working hard to establish trusting and respectful relationships with Jadar communities, including landowners, the Government of the Republic of Serbia, and all other relevant stakeholders such as NGOs and civil society organisations. And we remain committed to optimising the economic and social benefits while minimising any negative impacts to the community and the environment."



One well known vocal opponent.....

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