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Environmental protesters demanding the cancelation of plans for lithium mining in western Serbia took to the streets again this weekend, blocking key roads and for the first time a border crossing. Traffic on the Balkan nation’s main north-south highway was halted for more than an hour in Belgrade, the capital, along with several other roads throughout the country, including one by Serbia’s border with Bosnia.
Minor incidents have been reported with angry drivers trying to push their way through the crowds. Environmental groups want Serbia’s populist government to halt the possibility of lithium mining in western Serbia. Activists have pledged to press on with blockades until their demand is met and the Rio Tinto mining company is “expelled” from Serbia. Thousands joined similar demonstrations several weeks ago, forcing the government to withdraw two laws that activists said were designed to speed up the country’s mining plans.
Environmental issues have become a public concern in Serbia because the nation of 7 million people is facing bad air pollution, poor waste management and many other environmental problems that have accumulated after decades of neglect. Serbia must tackle those environmental issues to advance in its bid to join the 27-nation European Union.