Serbian Government has revoked the exploration license of Rio Tinto’s lithium, an Australian mining giant, a week after tennis Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic had his visa cancelled by the Australian Immigration minister.

In what is believed to be a tit-for-tat move in retaliation to Visa cancelling of the Serbian tennis player by the Australian Government, preventing him from defending his tittle as World number one tennis player at the ongoing Australian Open, triggering a diplomatic row between the two countries.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had earlier criticised the Australian court’s decision to dismiss Novak Djokovic’s visa appeal. He accused the Australian Government of physical and intellectual torture of the 9 times Australian open tittle winner, further discribing it as a ‘Witch Hunt’.

“Of cause, all of us in Serbia are very much dissapointed with court’s ruling in Australia and with it’s  decision against Novak Djokovic and his particupation at the melbourne tournament and also for the Visa cancelling regime.

“We believe that it was more political than the decision made by Australian judiciary. Anyway, it was very easy for Australian Authorities to say  from the very beginning that, Ok only vaccinated, only inoculated people could enter Australian territory,” President Aleksandar Vucic said in an interview with eurosport.

The Australian miner’s plan to build a $US2.4billion ($A3.3billion) new lithium project in Serbia have been thrown into disarray after the company’s mining permit was revoked by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. The project which, if completed, would have made Rio a top 10 producer of lithium – an essential mineral for solar and electric car batteries.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said her government agreed with calls from green groups to stop the Jadar Lithium project, citing environment hazards. Brnabic accused Rio Tinto of providing insufficient information to communities about the project. 

“We have fulfilled all the demands from the environmental protests and have put an end to Rio Tinto in the Republic of Serbia,” She said in a televised address.

Rio responded by saying ‘it had always operated in compliance’ within Serbian laws. And that it was ‘extremely concerned’ by Serbia’s decision and was reviewing the legal basis for it. 

However, thousands of people had protested last year by blocking roads, demanding the termination of the lithium project, and for Rio Tinto to exit country.

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