BELGRADE – SERBIA

500+ participants / 80+ speakers / 20+ panels
BSC2023

11-13 OCTOBER / HOTEL HYATT

New Scramble for Resources

October 31, 2022 by BSC
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Olivia Lazard, fellow at Carnegie Europe, opened the session with a presentation about global warming saying: “Compared to pre-industrial times earth is 1,3 degrees warmer”. She emphasizes the transition from fossil economy to mineral economy and that: “the green transformation for decarbonization is in the heart of geopolitical struggle, geo-economics and democracy”. Lazard mentions examples from Madagascar and Central-Africa Republic, describing the consequences of having big companies extracting raw materials for green tech.   

Ann Maest,Senior Technical Advisor at The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), warned about the dirty processes of extracting raw materials needed for green tech, saying that she doesn’t use the expression green tech, anymore. Ann agrees that it is a big problem when companies extract deposits of rare earth minerals without the local consent, stating that: “Without community consent there is no security of supply”. 

The Moderator of this Panel, Marton Dunai from the Financial Times, was interested in the current situation regarding Rio Tinto in Serbia, as an infamous example of the malevolent business practices. Marta Szpala, Senior fellow at Center for Eastern Studies, explained the outgoing situation in Serbia about Rio Tinto and its attempt to extract the lithium in Serbia. “Serbia isn’t in the EU, and environmental rules aren’t applied”, she stated. Marta continues saying the biggest interest for the Serbian government is with the investors and not the people of Serbia. Also, she explained that Serbia exports raw materials, without transforming these materials, which means that Serbia doesn’t reap the full profit from the raw materials.   

Olivia Lazard stated that she was surprised with the “the level of polarization regarding this topic in Serbia”, and to overcome this problem trust amongst all actors is necessary. The panel agrees on the fact that there is a big deposit of raw materials, which creates a big potential for Serbia in both using the leverages of having the deposits to affect the terms of extraction is Serbia and create a technical discussion about the mining in Serbia. Olivia Lazard pointed out that with the public mobilization in Serbia, the things are moving in a positive way, towards cooperation between all involved actors. One of the main messages of this Panel is that these raw materials are mostly located in countries with fragile institutions and a weak state capacity, so the big powers and companies can take advantage of their materials. In order to cope with this problem, mobilization at local level is necessary – like the one we saw in Serbia – and even further its agreed that cross-country collaboration is a good idea.