Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Serbia to Give Green Light for Rio Tinto Lithium Mine

The Jadar site in the west of Serbia. Photo: Rio Tinto website
The Jadar site in the west of Serbia. Photo: Rio Tinto website
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Serbia to Give Green Light for Rio Tinto Lithium Mine

The Jadar site in the west of Serbia. Photo: Rio Tinto website
The Jadar site in the west of Serbia. Photo: Rio Tinto website

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is preparing to give Rio Tinto the green light to develop Europe's largest lithium mine two years after Belgrade called off the project, the Financial Times said on Sunday.
Vucic told the newspaper that "new guarantees" from the global mining giant and the European Union looked set to address Serbia’s concerns over whether necessary environmental standards would be met at the Jadar site in the west of the country.
Rio Tinto said in a statement emailed to Reuters: "We believe the Jadar Project has the potential to be a world-class asset that could act as a catalyst for developing an EV (electric vehicle) value chain in Serbia".
Regarded as a critical material by the EU and the United States, lithium is used in batteries for EVs and mobile devices.
"If we deliver on everything, (the mine) might be open in 2028" Vucic told the FT, adding that the mine was projected to produce 58,000 tons of lithium per year which would be "enough for 17% of EV production in Europe — approximately 1.1 million cars."
In 2022, Belgrade revoked licenses for Rio's $2.4 billion Jadar project after massive environmental protests. If completed, the project could supply 90% of Europe's current lithium needs and help to make the company a leading lithium producer.
In 2021 and 2022 Serbian environmentalists collected 30,000 signatures in a petition demanding that parliament enact legislation to halt lithium exploration in the country.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Saudi SAMA Explores Potential of Digital Currencies to Facilitate Payments Globally

The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
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Saudi SAMA Explores Potential of Digital Currencies to Facilitate Payments Globally

The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)
The Saudi Central Bank. (Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt)

With many consumers abandoning physical cash, and in light of the accelerating development of crypto-currencies, central banks in the world have started working to ensure a legal and safe cover for the use of digital currencies.

According to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), 135 countries and monetary unions, representing 98 percent of global GDP, are exploring digital currencies for central banks, compared to only 35 countries in 2020.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicates that about two-thirds of the countries in the Middle East and Central Asia are considering adopting digital currencies for their central banks as a means to enhance financial inclusion and improve the efficiency of cross-border payments.

The Central Bank of Saudi Arabia (SAMA) joined as a full participant in a multi-country digital currency initiative, known as the mBridge project, which was positioned as a potential alternative to the SWIFT payment system to enable faster and potentially cheaper international payments.

Head of Development at Binance in Saudi Arabia Bandar Altunisi told Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt that the mBridge project was a cooperative initiative led by the BIS to explore the potential of digital currencies issued by central banks to facilitate trade and instant cross-border payments.

The project includes the central banks of China, Thailand, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the five participating central banks, the project includes 27 other official entities with observer status, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and central banks in many countries, including Norway, South Korea, and Türkiye, according to Altunisi.

“The mBridge project, which was launched in 2021, represents an innovative solution to address the gaps and challenges of inequality in the current procedures used for cross-border payments,” he explained.

Altunisi believes that the success of this project will contribute to accelerating cross-border payments and reducing their cost.

As for the importance of this project for Saudi Arabia, he noted that it will provide new settlement solutions for oil and gas exports. On a broader scale, trade will become more efficient, ultimately benefiting all parties involved, including the final consumer, he remarked.

He added that additional expertise in the field of Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) provided by the mBridge project will give regulatory authorities in Saudi Arabia more comfort and ease in allowing broader regulation and application of crypto-currencies and other solutions based on Blockchain technology.

Altunisi spoke about the difference between digital currencies that central banks are considering adopting and encrypted ones, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. He noted that the latter are decentralized currencies that use encryption techniques to boost the security of transactions and rely on Blockchain technology to ensure transparency and immutability of transaction records.

Digital currencies are digital copies of paper currencies issued and regulated by central banks, Altunisi stated, adding: “Unlike crypto-currencies, these digital currencies are centralized and usually aim to improve the efficiency of payment systems, bolster financial inclusion, and provide governments with better monetary policy tools.”