A lake in western Serbia turns red: the locals suspect Rio Tinto mining company

Residents of the village of Gornja Nedeljica, near Loznica, suspect that Rio Tinto secretly started excavations, which led to changes in the lake's colour. Company officials deny the allegations.

Late last week residents of the village of Gornja Nedeljica discovered that a small lake has turned red from a substance of unknown origin, Danas reported.

The characteristic red colour of the turbidity prompted citizens to suspect that the redness was a sign that Rio Tinto had secretly started excavations, aka operations within the lithium mine which is planned nearby. The appearance of the lake itself, which was recently formed from groundwater on a farm, has caused the locals’ concern previously.

The locals belonging to the in the Ne damo Jadar citizens’ association alerted the public about their fears.

Rio Tinto denies the allegations. In a press release, representatives of Rio Tinto’s Serbian subsidiary, Rio Sava Explorations (RSE), say that from 2007 to 2018 there were 15 exploration wells near the disputed lake, but that none of them was hydrogeological. They therefore reject the possibility that the wells were the cause of either the accumulation of water or its red colour, N1 reports.

Company representatives also stated that they don’t plan to start excavations in the next five years, adding that the mine project has only reached the phase of preparing a feasibility study.

Citizens from the Ne damo Jadar, however, don’t trust the words of the representatives of Rio Tinto and demand from the competent state institutions to investigate this phenomenon, as well as to investigate the existing environmental consequences of the activities of the Australian company and its domestic contractors. They emphasized that they live in constant fear that the health of their families is in danger.

In a recent public address, locals are appealing to the Serbian Ministry of Environmental Protection to respect citizens’ requests and send inspections to the field, and to judicial bodies, including the Constitutional Court, to start processing the lawsuits filed against Rio Tinto.

As N1 reports, the locals also claim that Rio Sava is in fact acting as if the Jadar Project has already been approved, despite making a public appearance that they are waiting for all the necessary permits. 

Only four days ago, despite a civil protest in Loznica, a spatial plan of the city was adopted, which enables further development of the Jadar Project.

I.K.

Translation: Iskra Krstić

This article was ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in Serbian on Aug 2, 2021.

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