Serbia's green activists rally against lithium mining

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A sign adorns the building where mining company Rio Tinto has their office in Perth, Western Australia, November 19, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray

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BELGRADE, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Serbian environmental activists on Thursday blocked Belgrade's city centre, demanding a ban on all lithium and borates mining and exploration in the Balkan country.

The anti-mining protests that started last November pose a problem to the ruling Serbian Progressive Party and its leader, populist President Aleksandar Vucic, ahead of an April 3 general election, as they erode their popularity.

Last month, bowing to popular dissent, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic's government revoked the exploration licences of global mining company Rio Tinto (RIO.L). read more

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But protesters led by the Kreni-Promeni (Move-Change) civic group say they want the parliament to ban all mining of lithium and borates by Feb. 15, or they will continue with rallies, camp in front of Serbia's presidency building and try to disrupt voting in April.

"We would continue with the radicalisation of protests, we will initiate protests in all of Serbia, we will time them, if they (demands) are not adopted to coincide with the election campaign," Savo Manojlovic, the protest leader, told Reuters.

To bolster economic growth and revenue, the Serbian government has offered mineral resources to foreign investors including China's Zijin copper miner and Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto.

Green activists have repeatedly warned the mining projects will cause more pollution to Serbia which is one of Europe's most polluted countries.

If it wants to join the European Union, Serbia will need billions of euros to meet environmental standards.

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Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade Editing by Matthew Lewis

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