Protesters blocked Serbia’s main roads on Sunday and demanded the government cancel plans to build a lithium mine in the west of the country.
The main north-south highway running through the capital, Belgrade, was targeted by environmental activists, bringing traffic to a standstill for an hour. Traffic on several other roads, including a border crossing with Bosnia, was also halted.
Protesters are calling on the government to halt plans by global mining giant Rio Tinto to invest $2.4 billion (2.1 billion euros) in a lithium mine project.
How did the government react?
Belgrade’s ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, told Reuters news agency that a decision on the mine would be taken after the country’s general election on April 3.
The protests against the mine have been going on for weeks and take place every Saturday. Activists have vowed to continue until their demands are met.
The government has withdrawn two laws described by activists as facilitating the development of mines after thousands of people took part in similar protests several weeks ago.
Serbia is one of Europe’s most polluted countries after years of neglect and is expected to spend billions to clean up and meet environmental standards set as a condition of EU membership.
Protesters said they would continue to block roads until their demands are met
What did the protesters say?
“Rio Tinto will not only pollute Serbia, but it will pollute everything else, the whole system, everything,” a protester told The Associated Press.
“We don’t want to be silent. … We want this country to be safe for our children,” another protester in Belgrade told Reuters.
Some drivers reacted aggressively to the protests, with several minor incidents reported on Saturday.
In one case, a man was injured in the western town of Sabac after angry drivers tried to force their way through crowds of protesters.
ab/sms (AP, Reuters)