Protesters invaded a highway and a bridge connecting the capital, Belgrade, to its outlying suburbs, chanting anti-government slogans while some held up signs criticizing the mine plan.
Smaller demonstrations took place in other towns and small skirmishes took place in Belgrade and Novi Sad between opponents and supporters of the project, according to local press.
They allow foreign companies to do whatever they want in our country, denounced Vladislava Cvoric, a 56-year-old economist who demonstrated in the capital.
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic shared a photo of the protest on Instagram with the following comment:
Clean air, water and food are the keys to health. Without it every word about health is obsolete.
Demonstrations had already been organized last week. Masked men had attacked a rally in Sabac, in the west of the country, sparking outrage on social media and accusations the government was using hooligans to quell the movement.
Large deposits of lithium, a critical component for car batteries, have been discovered near Loznica, where the Anglo-Australian company has started buying land, but is awaiting the state’s green light to begin mining.
Rio Tinto discovered deposits in this region in 2006. The company plans to invest $ 2.4 billion in the project, according to Vesna Prodanovic, director of Rio Sava, Rio Tinto’s sister company in Serbia.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has been widely criticized for the project, with his administration accused of paving the way for illegal land appropriations and of putting aside environmental concerns raised by activists.
The protests come months ahead of probable national elections. Opponents of the protest movements accuse their organizers of stirring up controversy to weaken Mr. Vucic and his administration.