(Bloomberg) -- Serbia may soon let Rio Tinto Plc resume preparations for opening a lithium mine in the Balkan country, after the ruling party of President Aleksandar Vucic consolidated power in recent elections, the Financial Times reported. 

The $2.4 billion lithium project was shelved in early 2022 amid protests by environmental groups as the authorities sought to defuse public outrage over potential harm from Rio Tinto’s mining operation. Vucic, in power since 2014, has consistently supported the project as a boon for Serbia’s economy, and may oversee its official restart next month, according to the report.

The planned lithium mine in western Serbia may be opened in 2028, providing Europe with its first source of the material critical for making electric vehicles. Vucic also insists that any local production of lithium be complemented with manufacturing of batteries, and possibly EVs to add value to Serbia’s economy. 

The project potentially producing 58,000 tons of lithium a year may proceed only with firm guarantees from Rio Tinto that it would meet strict environmental standards in its Serbia operation, according to the report. 


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