The Rio Tinto company has been trying, for more than two years, to obtain Approval for an exploitation field, a document that allows it to start mining lithium in Serbia, despite the fact that it did not provide the necessary documentation to the request. The company lacks the Decision on determining the scope and content of the Environmental Impact Assessment study, which was canceled in January 2022, after the Government of Serbia passed the Decree on the Termination of the Spatial Plan of the Special Purpose Area for this project.
At that time, the Government announced that the Rio Tinto project in Serbia had been put to an end and that all administrative acts related to company were annulled – all permits, resolutions and decisions. In spite of that, the Ministry of Mining and Energy has not stopped the procedure for issuing the permit for lithium exploitation, but over the course of two years, without giving justified reasons, extended the deadline for the company to complete the documentation 11 times.
“The Ministry was obliged to reject the request for the exploitation field, since there are no justified reasons for extending the deadlines. Rio Tinto does not have the Decision on determining the scope and content of the environmental impact assessment study, as it was canceled in January last year. Although the company filed a complaint with the Administrative Court against the annulment decision, this is not a justified reason for extending the deadline for supplementing the documentation”, says Hristina Vojvodić, legal advisor from RERI.
In March this year, the Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI) submitted a statement on entering this dispute on the side of the Serbian Government. The organization justified its interest with pointing out numerous illegalities in the implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure, for which it previously filed a complaint with the Government in September 2021, demanding its cancellation.
In addition, RERI has submitted a request to the Ministry of Mining and Energy for the recognition of the status of a party in this administrative procedure, with the intention of timely monitoring and responding to the decisions made by the authority in the process of approving the exploitation field to the company Rio Tinto, which is of great public interest and importance, and the outcome of which can have a significant impact on the environment.