A rendering of the proposed Jadar project. (Photo: Rio Tinto)

The Serbian government has revoked the licenses to explore and mine lithium at Rio Tinto’s Jadar project, according to Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. Brnabic said the spatial plan for Jadar no longer exists and stated that all administrative acts related to Rio Tinto were annulled, which included all permits, resolutions and decisions.

“We have never had contracts with Rio Tinto,” Brnabic said.

According to her, the decision on the formation of the Working Group for the implementation of the Jadar project, a potential $2.4 billion investment by Rio, from 2021 was revoked. She added that they fulfilled the demands of environmental protests and put an end to Rio Tinto in Serbia. “With this, as far as the Jadar project and Rio Tinto are concerned, everything is over,” she added.

Protests against the project have been ongoing for months.

Rio Tinto has been in Serbia since 2004, when it received the first decision allowing investigative actions. The Mining Law was amended in 2006, introducing the principle of continuity, which means the explorer has the exclusive right to exploit, and in 2012, Rio Tinto received a decision on the construction of large diameter wells.

Rio Tinto said it was “extremely concerned” by the prime minister’s statement. Its share price tumbled on the Australian markets, closing 4.1% lower after its worst intra-day drop since August 2021, according to Reuters.

“Understandably, there are significant concerns about the potential impact of the mine on the local communities of the Jadar valley and we understand that we need to show that these concerns can be addressed and managed,” the company said. “We believe in Jadar, a world-class project with the potential to play an essential role in the transition to a low carbon future and are working through what this means for the project and our people in Serbia.”

The company said it was also considering the “legal basis” for the decision.