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posted by janrinok on Monday April 04 2022, @02:17PM   Printer-friendly

Europe's Biggest Lithium Mine Is Caught in a Political Maelstrom:

Only red-roofed houses interrupt the vast carpet of fields that surround the village of Gornje Nedeljice, in western Serbia. To resident Marijana Petković, this is the most beautiful place in the world. She's not against Europe's green transition, the plan to make the bloc's economy climate neutral by 2050. But she is among those who believe Serbia's fertile Jadar Valley—where locals grow raspberries and keep bees—is being asked to make huge sacrifices to enable other countries to build electric cars.

Around 300 meters away from Petković's house, according to the multinational mining giant Rio Tinto, there is enough lithium to create 1 million EV batteries, and the company wants to spend $2.4 billion to build Europe's biggest lithium mine here. But Petković and other locals oppose the project, arguing it will cause irreparable damage to the environment. When asked about that claim, a spokesperson for Rio Tinto told WIRED that throughout the project, the company has "recognized that Jadar will need to be developed to the highest environmental standards." Petković is not convinced. "I want the western countries to have the green transition and to live like people in Jadar," she says. "But that doesn't mean that we need to destroy our nature."

Officially, the Jadar mine is not happening. After months of protests against the project, the government conceded, and in January it was canceled. "As far as Project Jadar is concerned, this is an end," Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić said on January 20, after Rio Tinto's lithium exploration licenses were revoked.

There is widespread suspicion, however, that the project was canceled to stop protests overshadowing the presidential and parliamentary elections on April 3, and could restart if the government is reelected. "This might have been a pre-election ploy," says Florian Bieber, a professor of southeast European history and politics at Austria's University of Graz. "I wouldn't be surprised if the government picks up this issue again once the elections are done, because they see the economic benefits." A Rio Tinto shareholder expressed a similar expectation to Reuters, adding they expect the mine to be renegotiated after the vote. Rio Tinto denies this is its intention and says it has not planned or implemented any activities contrary to the project's legal status.

Europe has big plans to phase out fossil-fuel cars. In July, the European Union proposed a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035. The bloc wants to replace those cars with electric vehicles, built with locally produced raw materials like lithium. The top lithium producers are currently Australia, Chile, and China. But Europe has ambitions to produce more of the materials it needs for electric cars at home. These materials "are extremely expensive to ship and are transported across the world several times over," says Emily Burlinghaus, a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Germany. "So it's much cheaper and much safer to have these operations close to battery manufacturing plants or auto manufacturing plants."

For Europeans it's also a security issue. "We cannot allow [the EU] to replace [its] current reliance on fossil fuels with dependency on critical raw materials," said Maroš Šefčovič, the commission vice president for inter-institutional relations, in 2020.


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  • (Score: 0, Troll) by fraxinus-tree on Monday April 04 2022, @02:45PM (2 children)

    by fraxinus-tree (5590) on Monday April 04 2022, @02:45PM (#1234765)

    The whole "eco" thing is Russia sponsored.

    • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @03:42PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @03:42PM (#1234784)

      It's just not tennis.

      Australia bans Djokovic, in retaliation Serbia bans one of Australia's largest companies.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05 2022, @07:34PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05 2022, @07:34PM (#1235062)

      You got your 'joke' backwards.

  • (Score: 3, Troll) by FatPhil on Monday April 04 2022, @03:01PM

    https://tradingeconomics.com/country-list/gdp-per-capita-ppp?continent=europe

    West: You have something we want, and we have lots of money
    Serbia: We're poor, but we want you to be like us
    West: Maybe you could use all the underpants you've collected as filters to reduce the pollution?
    --
    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Monday April 04 2022, @03:55PM (16 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 04 2022, @03:55PM (#1234787) Journal

    Someone, somewhere, is going to have their back yard dug up to supply you with your baubles. You have to have an iPhone, and that means one yard was dug up to extract lithium, another was dug up to provide the aluminum, the copper, the cobalt, chrome, nickel, iron. And, an electric car needs all of that and more, in much greater quantity.

    We're going to have to dig up a lot of earth to provide what people demand. But, no one wants their back yards to be dug up.

    Maybe it's time to lower our expectations?

    --
    ‘Never trust a man whose uncle was eaten by cannibals’
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @04:19PM (9 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @04:19PM (#1234796)

      Use other metals on the periodic table such as K and Na.

      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Monday April 04 2022, @04:24PM (7 children)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 04 2022, @04:24PM (#1234798) Journal

        You'll still have to mine them from somewhere. Unless we're expecting one of those mineral rich asteroids to gently land near an industrial center soon, so we can smelt it.

        --
        ‘Never trust a man whose uncle was eaten by cannibals’
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @04:34PM (4 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @04:34PM (#1234801)

          There's no shortage of sodium.

          • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Monday April 04 2022, @05:40PM (3 children)

            by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 04 2022, @05:40PM (#1234815) Journal

            There's no shortage of oxygen, either. But if you want pure oxygen, you have to separate it from all of earth's added impurities, and compress it. You want sodium? You're gonna have to extract it from the environment.

            --
            ‘Never trust a man whose uncle was eaten by cannibals’
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @06:12PM (2 children)

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @06:12PM (#1234820)

              And when you've finished with the sodium, you just toss it into the ocean, where it came from!

              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday April 05 2022, @02:35AM (1 child)

                by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday April 05 2022, @02:35AM (#1234909)

                Fishing with explosives is banned in most places...

                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05 2022, @12:10PM

                  by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05 2022, @12:10PM (#1234958)

                  Don't get between Runaway and his lithium salts.

        • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday April 04 2022, @06:53PM (1 child)

          by Freeman (732) on Monday April 04 2022, @06:53PM (#1234829) Journal

          The only parts of Asteroids that have gently landed on Earth are the miniscule amounts harvested and returned. (I forget, if any of those missions happened or were succesful.) There may be some tiny asteroid rocks that made it to the surface as well. We'll call those gently landed too, but definitely not in any quantity you would need. Also, wouldn't a Lithium rich Asteroid, burn real good? So, very unlikely to have had anything, but great fireworks shows or serious impacts.

          --
          Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
          • (Score: 3, Informative) by HiThere on Monday April 04 2022, @08:18PM

            by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 04 2022, @08:18PM (#1234852) Journal

            Pure Lithium, yeah. Lithium ore, probably not. Lithium is rather rare as elements go. Stars tend to burn it up as fast as they make it. So any Lithium you find in an asteroid will be mixed with lots of other things. I don't think Lithium Hydride is all that stable, but probably Lithium Oxide, perhaps Lithium Carbide. Maybe other more complicated things. But even if it's pure Lithium, it will be Lithium alloyed or amalgamated with lots of other stuff. Not likely to burn. (If it did, you'd get Lithium Oxide which is solid and quite stable.)

            --
            Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @08:14PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @08:14PM (#1234850)

        Come now! Writing stuff like this in response to Runaway? You know that he is going to think K and Na are agents of The Men in Black.

    • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Monday April 04 2022, @08:12PM (2 children)

      by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 04 2022, @08:12PM (#1234849) Journal

      Well, there have been a few comments recently saying that geothermal power plants (which ones? how many?) produce all the Lithium we could currently use in their effluent. And cleaning that up by extracting the Lithium should be a double win.

      Were those comments correct? Maybe. Why don't we check. If so, nobody who's objecting needs to get their back yard dug up.

      --
      Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday April 05 2022, @12:18AM (1 child)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 05 2022, @12:18AM (#1234890) Journal

        Well, there have been a few comments recently saying that geothermal power plants (which ones? how many?) produce all the Lithium we could currently use in their effluent.

        Who said that and where? When I searched [soylentnews.org] on lithium and geothermal, I got three hits. Your post above and two from 2015 and 2014. The one from 2014 mentioned lithium extraction from geothermal water:

        Even now, companies have developed improved methods for extraction, like this one that bolts onto geothermal power plants:

        " rel="url2html-7596">http://www.simbolmaterials.com/breakthrough_technology.htm
        " rel="url2html-7596">http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/10/05/could-ev-car-batteries-be-made-from-salt-water/
        " rel="url2html-7596">http://archive.desertsun.com/article/20140222/BUSINESS0302/302220055/Simbol-Materials-lithium-extraction-Salton-Sea

        So not seeing those few comments here FWIW.

        • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Tuesday April 05 2022, @03:26AM

          by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 05 2022, @03:26AM (#1234915) Journal

          Well, the first link produced a 404, but a secondary source is probably https://www.thinkgeoenergy.com/simbol-materials-succeeds-in-producing-lithium-from-geothermal-brine/ [thinkgeoenergy.com] . That claims that the first commercial plant will supply a bit less than 10% of the projected market. It didn't really say where that plant would be built. (The bit about the Salton Sea seems to be about the stuff they've already built. Of course, they could be planning on expanding in the same place, but it doesn't really say so.)

          I'm afraid I don't consider a link to foxnews to be even worth investigating. I'd as soon trust the National Enquirer or the Weekly World News.
          I didn't check, but from the link title I assumed the third link was another report on the same projection.

          This is quite encouraging, but not very certain. This seems to be (so far) pre-pilot plant, and early projections have a long history of being overly optimistic. Things not mentioned include "Is this only at the one plant, or do many geothermal plant waste brines contain lots of Lithium?". (OTOH, perhaps the "demonstration plant" is really a pilot plant rather than a large scale laboratory demonstration.)

          --
          Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
    • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Monday April 04 2022, @08:19PM

      by fustakrakich (6150) on Monday April 04 2022, @08:19PM (#1234853) Journal

      Maybe it's time to lower our expectations?

      Not at all. Let's mine the stuff arthroscopically with those tunnel boring machines, could create a bunch of sinkholes though

      --
      La politica e i criminali sono la stessa cosa..
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Phoenix666 on Tuesday April 05 2022, @01:07PM (1 child)

      by Phoenix666 (552) on Tuesday April 05 2022, @01:07PM (#1234965) Journal

      And, an electric car needs all of that and more, in much greater quantity.

      That's a meme that's making the rounds in certain circles online now. It's said as if gas-powered cars do not need those things. Anything that uses electronics and catalytic converters, which all gas cars do now, uses those same commodities, if not necessarily in the same proportions.

      Also, you can't talk about all the externalities involved with manufacturing EVs while hand-waving away all those involved with manufacturing ICE vehicles.

      Personally, the thing I like best about EVs is that they hold the promise that we can stop being entangled with oil-producing places like Russia and the Middle East forever.

      --
      Washington DC delenda est.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05 2022, @04:29PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05 2022, @04:29PM (#1234996)

        Catalytic converters use other precious materials, such as palladium (which is why there's a rash of idiots stealing them). Lithium is mostly not a concern for anybody not building rechargable batteries with strong power/weight requirements. Regular car batteries are based around lead.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by cmdrklarg on Monday April 04 2022, @06:29PM (1 child)

    by cmdrklarg (5048) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 04 2022, @06:29PM (#1234823)

    recognized that Jadar will need to be developed to the highest environmental standards.

    Spokesperson-speak for "environmental standards that we will do a shitty job of following, or ignore completely".

    --
    The world is full of kings and queens who blind your eyes and steal your dreams.
    • (Score: 2) by Joe Desertrat on Monday April 04 2022, @11:56PM

      by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Monday April 04 2022, @11:56PM (#1234887)

      Spokesperson-speak for "environmental standards that we will do a shitty job of following, or ignore completely".

      You forgot to add that the shell company runs the trashing of the place will be the only instance of "leave no trace" when all is over.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Mojibake Tengu on Monday April 04 2022, @06:41PM (2 children)

    by Mojibake Tengu (8598) on Monday April 04 2022, @06:41PM (#1234826) Journal

    I expect Serbians will be carefully mining their lithium, making some nice batteries of it and selling them to you on their own.

    Instead of continuing to be an appendix colony of the West, like other Central and Eastern European states..

    You have no power to wring Serbia anymore!

    --
    Respect Authorities. Know your social status. Woke responsibly.
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @08:41PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @08:41PM (#1234858)

      Um, I expect that once China will come to mine it, these emotional comments relating Serbia to a colony will cease.

      Russian/Chinese trolls do always the same: acting against the West, sowing strife.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday April 04 2022, @09:00PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 04 2022, @09:00PM (#1234861) Journal
      Technically, Tesla's motherland was the Austria-Hungary Empire. Today where he was born and the places where he lived until he was 24 (according to Wikipedia) we're all in modern Croatia. I see no evidence he ever lived in the region designated by modern Serbia.

      But I guess that is what happens when you conflate ethnicities with countries.
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @09:05PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04 2022, @09:05PM (#1234863)

    That's a pretty shitty company. Check out their record for how they look after the environment. There are many exploration/mining companies that do a lot better.

    • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Monday April 04 2022, @09:19PM

      by MostCynical (2589) on Monday April 04 2022, @09:19PM (#1234865) Journal

      they look after the environment exactly to the standard required by their contracts and the rules imposed by courts, years later, often as fines..

      --
      "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it." -Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05 2022, @11:01AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 05 2022, @11:01AM (#1234947)

    ...we will build you schools and McDonalds and Cokeacola plants to offset any environmental damage.
    Act now, and we will throw in some Cloud data centers and Crypto mining companies.
    AND every resident will receive NFTs of what the area looked like before extraction!!!

    Act now, operators are standing by!

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