June 15, 2024
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Serbia: How lithium price decline reflects to Serbia?

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After allegedly ‘putting an end’ to Rio Tinto in Serbia, the government once again counts on lithium exploitation and announces that it will be decided by some future government. Meanwhile, the price of this ore is dropping. Experts state that this doesn’t change anything for Serbia, but it’s crucial to have a strategic goal in line with the environmental agenda.

The price of lithium has fallen by over 80% in the past year to $13,200 per ton, the lowest level since 2020, after an excessive supply hit the market, as reported by the Financial Times.

Lithium, like many strategic raw materials, is a commodity traded on the stock market and is subject to price fluctuations depending on supply and demand. This latest drop is due to China slowing down the production of electric vehicles. China is one of the largest users of lithium for batteries,” says Dušan Vasiljević, an international expert in strategic environmental planning.”

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“The consequences have forced miners—mostly in Australia, which produces 40% of the world’s supplies—to limit production as the slowing demand for electric vehicles leaves stockpiles of semi-processed material throughout the supply chain. Other companies worldwide are also reevaluating their operations. Although lithium has not dropped as low as it did in the 2019-2020 period, when it reached a record low of around $6,000 per ton, the profitability of many producers is at a similar level,” writes the Financial Times.

The question of the profitability of lithium exploitation is for companies, not the countries enabling them, explains an international expert in strategic environmental planning.

The fate of Rio Tinto in Serbia, on which the prime minister allegedly put an end, is questionable, as the president of Serbia announced that the topic will be reconsidered.”

Rio Tinto is almost more powerful than our country in financial terms. If they decide something, they have no reason to give it up,” says Vasiljević.

He believes that changes in the lithium market do not affect Serbia because, even if exploitation exists, the income goes out of the country, while only a portion related to mining royalties remains within the country. The main question, he says, is what Serbia’s strategic goal is.

“What should the state of Serbia emphasize? Industry, services, tourism, what? Because every day we see a new cable winding factory, underwear factory, then a mine, then IT, then we’ll make cars, then we won’t, but we’ll make planes and who knows what else. That’s a waste of resources,” says Vasiljević.

He also believes that lithium mining would have numerous negative effects on the environment.

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