Novak Djokovic deportation row erupts as Serbia REVOKES Australian mining giant's licences


The decision was taken shortly after Australia’s Immigration Minister deported the unvaccinated tennis star from the country, days before the Australian Open. The Serbian government revoked Rio Tinto’s lithium exploration licences in a move that will appease environmental protesters who are opposed to a mining project being undertaken by the company.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said she had been in agreement with calls from environmental campaigners to stop the £1.8billion ($2.4billion) Jadar lithium project.

If allowed to go ahead, the project would have put Rio Tinto in the top 10 producers of lithium.

Speaking about the decision, she said: “All decisions and all licences have been annulled.”

“As far as project Jadar is concerned, this is an end.”

Rio Tinto said it would be reviewing the legal basis for the move, adding that it was “extremely concerned” by the government’s decision.

Mr Djocovic was deported from Australia after judges in the country rejected a challenge launched by the tennis player to allow him to remain in the country, despite being unvaccinated.

The government cancelled his visa on “health and good order grounds”.

Speaking after the deportation, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison said: “We’ve made it very clear that the rules are the rules.”

READ MORE: ‘NoVax’ Djokovic becomes target of mocking memes after deportation sag

The Australian immigration department initially cancelled the unvaccinated tennis star’s visa, arguing that an acceptance of the player’s vaccination status could encourage anti-vaccine sentiment.

The decision meant the nine-time champion was not able to defend his title at the Australian Open, which began on Monday.

Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” but will “respect the Court’s ruling”.

He added: “I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.

“I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.”

Djokovic has previously lent his support to the environmental protesters campaigning against the mines.

Thousands of people blocked roads last year in order to protest against the government’s backing of the project.

In December, Mr Djokovic shared images on social media of demonstrators and green landscapes along with comments written in Serbian such as “clean air and water are the keys to health” and “nature is our mother”.

At full capacity, Rio Tinto’s mine was expected to produce 58,000 tonnes of refined battery-grade lithium carbonate per year, which would make it Europe’s biggest lithium mine.

But Ms Brnabic claimed that Rio Tinto had provided insufficient information to communities about the upcoming project.

Rio Tinto, however, claimed it had “always operated in compliance” with Serbian laws.


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