Environmental activists block roads in Serbia over lithium mine plans

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Environmental activists block roads in Serbia over lithium mine plans

BELGRADE, Jan 15, Reuters - Hundreds of environmental activists blocked several main roads in Serbia, including a border crossing to Bosnia, in the latest protests against Rio Tinto's plans to develop a $2.4 billion lithium mine.

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told Reuters that the protests have become a headache for Serbia's ruling coalition ahead of an April 3 general election. After the vote, a decision on whether to let the project proceed would be made.

The government has offered mineral resources to foreign investors, including China's Zijin copper miner and Rio Tinto, in an effort to boost economic growth, but green activists say the mining projects will cause pollution.

Ivana asked not to give her full name, who was among a group of protesters blocking a highway in a neighbourhood of Belgrade, because they wanted the country to be safe for our children.

Many of the protesters carried banners. Save nature one of the placards read, stop investors.

A crossing point to neighbouring Bosnia was blocked along with roads near the towns of Cacak and Sabac.

Since November, the anti-mining protests have been held every Saturday with a break for the New Year and Orthodox Christmas holidays.

Soon after the demonstrations began, conservative President Aleksandar Vucic asked the parliament to rework an expropriation law to allow the state to quickly acquire property for potential development. The legislation was opposed by environmentalists. Serbia is one of Europe's most polluted countries and will need billions of euro to meet the European Union's environmental standards if it wants to join the bloc.

Rio Tinto has said it will adhere to all domestic and EU environmental standards at its lithium mine in Serbia.