Statement from London Mining Network member group Earth Thrive. The original statement is in Serbian.

In September 2021, a Complaint was filed with the International Convention for the Protection of Flora and Fauna against the proposed ‘Jadar’ lithium mine. The Convention’s Bureau recently decided to put the Complaint on ‘standby’, announcing that they will carefully observe the further development of the situation around the project, ready to open the dossiers if the Jadar project is officially revived.

Concerned about the huge threat of destruction that the proposed Jadar lithium mine would pose to Nature in Serbia, the international organisation Earth Thrive, which deals with the rights of Nature in Europe, worked with local organisations Protect Jadar and Radjevina and the international Earth Law Center partners on a Complaint to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Flora and Wildlife Habitats, based on the potential endangerment of protected species in the area of the proposed mine.

You can read more about this here.

The Secretariat of the Berne Convention received, reviewed and accepted the Complaint as legitimate and then forwarded it to the competent department of the Government of the Republic of Serbia – the Ministry of Environmental Protection – to respond to the allegations in the Complaint. The government had until the end of January 2022 to send its answers, which it did just before the end of January.

Since the Government of Serbia, a few weeks before the deadline for submitting a response to the Secretariat of the Berne Convention, officially “put an end” to the Jadar project, Earth Thrive sent a letter to the Secretariat to inform them of its doubts about the sincerity of this decision. Earth Thrive previously analysed the response of the Government of Serbia, which is incomplete and unclear. With this in mind, this is the first official statement of the Government at the international level confirming that the project has been stopped, at least at the level of the Spatial Plan and the impact analysis necessary for the project.

At the company’s Australian annual meeting in Melbourne in May this year, Rio Tinto’s general management, answering a question from Earth Thrive about Rio Tinto’s further intentions regarding the mine, confirmed that they want to continue with the project.

According to the protocol, the Secretariat submitted the Complaint and Response of the Government of Serbia to the Bureau of the Berne Convention, which met on April 6 and 7, where the Bureau considered the arguments of both sides and decided whether to open a misdemeanour file or not.

The Bureau’s decision on the Complaint was recently forwarded to Earth Thrive and the Ministry of the Environment. The Complaint is in readiness (on standby) – ready to be opened if the story about the mine starts again.

The Complaint, which is currently the only international legal action filed against the Jadar Project, was submitted at the end of September 2021 to the Secretariat of the Berne Convention, which is one of the few international conventions that signatories are legally obliged to respect.

Serbia signed and adopted the rules of the Convention in 2008, when they entered into force in Serbia, and is obliged to adhere to it, and to implement activities aimed at preserving European wildlife and natural habitats, as well as to prevent any activities that lead to to endanger, harass or destroy them. This convention has protected dozens of plant and animal species in the region of Jadar, Radjevina and Cer.

This is also a pioneering Complaint because it was based on arguments of the Rights of Nature to exist, live, flourish, develop and evolve naturally and, as far as Earth Thrive is aware, it is the first official international complaint of its kind.

In addition to putting the dossier on standby, the Bureau of the Berne Convention also instructed the Government of Serbia to submit regular reports on the status of the project and any changes in this regard – with specific details to be attached.

Earth Thrive, as the bearers of the Complaint, will also have to submit reports, which do not have strictly defined items as Government reports, but which should set out the latest details about the project and any changes related to it.

Earth Thrive comments, “‘We are pleased with the Bureau’s decision, which is the best possible decision the Bureau could have made at the moment and which we consider a small victory given the overall situation around the mine.”

This is a small legal step forward towards the permanent protection of that area from mining, which is our ultimate goal. Local communities and solidarity organizations across the country and beyond are closely monitoring the situation on the ground, bearing in mind that the company has made it clear that it will continue to try to implement the project, although it is unclear on what procedural basis. In addition to all of us, the Berne Convention Bureau is now closely monitoring what is happening in Jadar. With this kind of care and support, we think that profit has no chance and that the Right of Nature to live freely without destruction and the Right of people to a healthy environment will jointly prevail.