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Serbia suspends lithium mine plans after protests

Serbia suspends lithium mine plans after protests


Local authorities in western Serbia on Thursday suspended a plan that would allow mining giant Rio Tinto to operate a lithium mine, following protests by environmentalists that shook the country’s populist leadership.


The mining had been expected to start in the near future, but a town council in Loznica voted to suspend a regional development plan that permitted the excavation of lithium. The vote followed the suspension last week of two key laws in Serbia’s parliament that ecologists said would help the multinational mining company start the 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 mining operation in Serbia. 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 (Vucic) stated earlier.”

Rio Tinto said in a statement Thursday that it worked in accordance with laws and the highest professional standards throughout its 10-year presence in Serbia in order to launch “the largest mining investment in this part of the world.”

“We understand the interest of citizens in everything that happens in connection with the project, and we will continue to provide information on all aspects of the project for which we are responsible and in which we participate,” the statement said, according to independent Beta news agency.

Although Rio Tinto said it would adhere to all the latest environmental protection standards, organizers of the weekend protests said the lithium excavation could inflict lasting ecological damage to rivers and farmland in the region.

Environmental protesters stand on the highway during a protest in Belgrade, Serbia, on Dec. 11, 2021. Serbia has suspended a plan that would allow mining giant Rio Tinto launch a lithium mine in the west of the country after protests by environmentalists which have shaken the country’s populist leadership. A local council of the town of Loznica in western Serbia, where the excavations were to start in the near future, voted on Thursday to suspend a regional development plan. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, File)

Now that the lithium mine plans are on hold, Vucic said earlier this week that from now on “we will have to speak in a different way to Rio Tinto and others.”


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CHINESE-OWNED STEEL MILL COATS SERBIAN TOWN IN RED DUST; CANCER SPREADS


A few hundred meters from the huge furnaces of the Chinese-owned Smedrevo steel mill in central Serbia, the village of Radinac is covered in thick red dust. Cancer rates have quadrupled in under a decade, and residents want the plant to clean up or shut down.


Throughout its almost 150-year history, the company has faced accusations of corruption, environmental degradation and human rights abuses at its excavation sites.

Lithium, which is used in batteries for electric cars, is considered one of the most sought-after metals of the future as the world shifts to more renewable energy sources.

As Serbia faces an electricity shortage, Vucic has ignored European Union pleas for countries to reduce CO2 emissions and pledged to continue and even expand coal mining for power plants.

Environmentalists are upset at the Serbian government’s lack of response to rising pollution in the country.

Source:

Dusan Stojanovic via Associated Press



Rio Tinto lithium mine: thousands of protesters block roads across Serbia

Rio Tinto lithium mine: thousands of protesters block roads across Serbia


Crowds chanted slogans condemning government of Aleksandar Vučić, which backs planned Anglo-Australian $2.4bn mine


Thousands of demonstrators blocked major roads across Serbia on Saturday as anger swelled over a government-backed plan to allow mining company Rio Tinto to extract lithium.

In the capital, Belgrade, protesters swarmed a major highway and bridge linking the city to outlying suburbs as the crowd chanted anti-government slogans while some held signs criticising the mining project.

Smaller protests were held in other Serbian cities, with small scuffles between demonstrators and counter-protesters in Belgrade and the northern city of Novi Sad, according to local media reports.

“They allowed foreign companies to do whatever they want on our land. They put us on a platter for everyone who can just come and take whatever they want,” said Vladislava Cvoric, a 56-year-old economist, during the protest.

Protesters wave flares during a Belgrade demonstration against the government-backed proposal for a lithium mine.
Protesters wave flares during a Belgrade demonstration against the government-backed proposal for a lithium mine. Photograph: Zorana Jevtic/Reuters

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic shared a photograph of the protest on Instagram and commented that “clean air, water and food are keys to health”.

“Without that, every word about ‘health’ is obsolete,” Djokovic said.

The protests followed similar demonstrations last week, during which masked men attacked one gathering in western Serbia’s Sabac – sparking outrage on social media and accusations the government was using hooligans to suppress the movement.

Substantial deposits of lithium – a key component for electric car batteries – have been found around the western town of Loznica, where the Anglo-Australian company is buying up land but is still awaiting the final green light from the state to begin mining.

Rio Tinto discovered lithium reserves in the Loznica region in 2006.

The company intends to invest $2.4bn (€2.12bn) in the project, according to Vesna Prodanovic, director of Rio Sava, Rio Tinto’s sister company in Serbia.

Critics have accused president Aleksandar Vučić’s government of setting the stage for illegal land appropriations and ignoring environmental concerns.

The demonstrations come months ahead of likely national elections in 2022, with critics of the protests accusing organisers of stirring controversy to undermine Vučić before the polls.

Source:

Agence France-Presse via The Guardian



South Africans protest against Shell oil exploration in pristine coastal area

South Africans protest against Shell oil exploration in pristine coastal area


South Africans took to their beaches on Sunday to protest against plans by Royal Dutch Shell to do seimsic oil exploration they say will threaten marine wildlife such as whales, dolphins, seals and penguins on a pristine coastal stretch.


A South African court on Friday struck down an application brought by environmentalists to stop the oil major exploring in the eastern seaboard’s Wild Coast, rejecting as unproven their argument that it would cause “irreparable harm” to the marine environment, especially migrating hump-back whales. read more

The Wild Coast is home of some of the country’s most undisturbed wildlife refuges, and it’s stunning coastal wildernesses are also a major tourist draw.

At least 1,000 demonstrators gathered on a beach near Port Edward, a Reuters TV correspondent saw.

“It’s just absolutely horrendous that they are even considering this. Look around you?” said demonstrator Kas Wilson, indicating an unspoilt stretch of beach. “It’s unacceptable and … we will stop it.”

Shell officials were not immediately available for comment, but the company said on Friday that its planned exploration has regulatory approval, and it will significantly contribute to South Africa’s energy security if resources are found.

But local people fear the seismic blasting conducted over 6,000 square kilometres will kill or scare away the fish they depend on to live.

“I don’t want them to operate here because if they do we won’t be able to catch fish,” said 62-year-old free dive fisherwoman Toloza Mzobe, after pulling a wild lobster from the ground. “What are we going to eat?”

Environmentalists are urging Shell and other oil companies to stop prospecting for oil, arguing that the world has no chance of reaching net zero carbon by 2050 if existing oil deposits are burned, let alone if new ones are found.

Earlier this year, a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its planet warming carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels, a decision it plans to appeal.

South Africa’s environment ministry referred Reuters to a statement late last month that “the Minister responsible for environmental affairs is … not mandated to consider the application or to make a decision on the authorisation of the seismic survey.”

South Africans protest against Shell oil exploration in pristine coastal area

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A protestor joins a demonstration against Royal Dutch Shell's plans to start seismic surveys to explore petroleum systems off the country's popular Wild Coast at Mzamba Beach, Sigidi, South Africa, December 5, 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

What is seismic blasting?

The process involves blasting the seafloor with highly powered airguns at intervals, and then measuring the echoes, which helps map out oil and gas reserves.

The process can continue for weeks or months at a time. The sound of the blasts can travel for hundreds of kilometers.

Ecologists believe the exploration technique could upset the behavior of marine animals including their feeding, reproduction and migration patterns, especially animals like whales who depend on their sense of hearing.

Why are people protesting?

There are fears the prospecting activity will have a devastating impact on marine life.

The area Shell is planning to explore is known as the Wild Coast along the country’s eastern coastline. It’s a popular tourist area and environmental groups regard it as an ecologically sensitive marine sanctuary. 

“It’s just absolutely horrendous that they are even considering this. Look around you!” said demonstrator Kas Wilson. “It’s unacceptable and… we will stop it,” he said.

“Seismic blasting on the Wild Coast will not only destroy precious ecosystems but will also impact local communities, all in the name of profit,” Greenpeace Africa said in a tweet.

Local fishermen believe the prospecting will have an impact on their livelihoods. “I don’t want them to operate here because if they do we won’t be able to catch fish,” said fisherwoman Toloza Mzobe.

Shell says discoveries will be good for South Africa

However, Shell has said that its exploration had received regulatory approval and that its activity would contribute significantly to South Africa’s energy sector if resources were discovered.

The oil company plans to spend four to five months exploring in the region. Speaking to AFP in November, a company spokesman said: “We take great care to prevent or minimize impacts on fish, marine mammals and other wildlife.”

But environmentalist contend that there will be no chance of meeting net zero carbon emissions targets by 2050 if prospecting for new reserves is allowed to continue.

Sources:

Siyabonga Sishi via Reuters

kb/jsi at DW News



Court hears Steven Donziger’s criminal appeal in Chevron saga

Court hears Steven Donziger’s criminal appeal in Chevron saga


A federal appeals court in Manhattan heard dueling arguments Tuesday over whether to throw out the criminal conviction of environmental lawyer Steven Donziger on constitutional grounds.


Donziger has been imprisoned since Oct. 27 for criminal contempt in connection with his long-running legal battle with Chevron Corp over oil pollution in Ecuador. His lawyers say the private attorneys appointed as special federal prosecutors in his contempt case lacked supervision by a higher U.S. authority, violating the Constitution’s Appointments Clause.

Arguing before a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Donziger’s lawyer Stephen Vladeck said Tuesday that because the special prosecutors acted as officers of the United States without proper supervision, the court must exercise its authority by reining them in.

“Whatever powers district courts still have to appoint a prosecutor to try criminal contempt, that power must be limited,” Vladeck said.

One of the special prosecutors, Rita Glavin, countered that “I do want to say for the record that at no point did we state that we were not under the supervision of the attorney general.”

Donziger, who was disbarred in New York last year, was charged in 2019 with failing to turn over his computer and other electronic devices in the Chevron pollution case. In that case, a Manhattan judge in 2014 barred enforcement in the United States of a $9.5 billion judgment that Donziger won against Chevron in Ecuador, finding it was secured through bribery, fraud and extortion.

A federal judge in Manhattan appointed the special prosecutors after the Department of Justice declined a court referral to prosecute him.

During Tuesday’s arguments, U.S. Circuit Judge Steven Menashi asked Glavin, “if the policy of the United States was they don’t want Mr. Donziger prosecuted, you would abide by that policy?”

“If they directed me to take that position in court, yes,” Glavin responded, adding later that she was subject to “a mix of judicial and executive supervision.”

Justice Department attorney Robert Parker told the panel that the special prosecutors were not acting as officers of the United States to begin with, undercutting Donziger’s Appointments Clause argument.

Donziger, meanwhile, has continued to generate support outside the courtroom. On Monday, nine members of Congress sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking his office to “rectify the unprecedented and unjust imprisonment of Mr. Donziger.”

The case is United States v. Donziger, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-2486.

Source:

Sebastien Malo via Reuters



Climate protesters block London bridges after activists jailed

Climate protesters block London bridges after activists jailed


Traffic on Lambeth and Vauxhall bridges stopped in rally against jailing of Insulate Britain members


Police have arrested 30 climate activists after a major bridge in central London was blocked by a sit-down protest.

The arrests on Lambeth Bridge came after Public Order Act conditions were imposed on the protest, which had been held in support of nine Insulate Britain campaigners who were jailed this week.

The bridge had been shut to traffic for a number of hours on Saturday by the sit-in, which initially involved up to 250 people who had marched from the Royal Courts of Justice.

Referring to Public Order Act conditions imposed on the protest, the Metropolitan police said: “Lambeth Bridge has now been reopened, 30 arrests were made for breach of S14 conditions.”

The force also said that Vauxhall Cross, where some of the demonstrators had moved, had reopened.

Earlier, climate protesters blocked the two London bridges as part of a demonstration against the jailing of nine Insulate Britain activists.

Members of the group were sentenced this week after breaching a court injunction in place to stop further road blockades that have caused serious disruption for motorists since September.

Campaigners stopped traffic on Lambeth Bridge, which crosses the Thames between Westminster and Lambeth, just after 2.10pm on Saturday. A sit-down protest forced police to divert traffic to other routes.

Supporters of the nine jailed Insulate Britain climate activists blocking Lambeth Bridge in central London
Supporters of the nine jailed Insulate Britain climate activists blocking Lambeth Bridge in central London on Saturday 20 November. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Earlier on Saturday evening, the Met imposed public order conditions on the protest and urged the remaining protesters to leave. Four of the protesters had glued themselves together.

The public order notice said the group have “no identified organiser” and “warm clothing, food, seats” and if they fail to leave, could face arrest.

An offshoot protest also blocked Vauxhall Bridge, the next bridge upriver.

Gabriella Ditton, 27, who was taking part in the demonstration at Lambeth Bridge said she believed she would end up in jail for taking part in the protests. She has been arrested six times with the campaign group, once for breaking the injunction.

“I have known for a couple of years that the only thing that is going to serve us is civil resistance. I have faith in people coming together.

“Solutions to this crisis exist, we just need the political will to do it.”

Gabriella Ditton.
Gabriella Ditton: ‘The only thing that is going to serve us is civil resistance.’ Photograph: Helen William/PA

Zoe Cohen, 51, who had travelled from Warrington in north-west England to take part, said: “I am angry, distraught and grieving for the huge amount of nature that we have already lost.”

She added that “ordinary people should not have to do this and risk prison”.

Any disruption is microscopic to the suffering of millions of people who are dying now across the world due to this crisis.”

Insulate Britain said it was not involved with setting up the event, which began after more than 200 supporters of the imprisoned activists gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the afternoon.

One campaigner, Gully, told the crowd: “Make no mistake, these are political prisoners and they will not be the last.”

The group then walked from the courts to Westminster, chanting “power to the people”.

Insulate Britain began a wave of protests in September and blocked the M25, other roads in London, Birmingham and Manchester, and near the port of Dover in Kent.

The nine protesters were sentenced at the high court on Wednesday after admitting breaching an injunction by taking part in a blockade of the M25 during the morning rush hour on 8 October.

Source:

Harry Taylor at The Guardian