A third protest this year has been held in Bor in eastern Serbia over excessive air pollution that has been intensified since China’s Zijin took over copper miner Rudarsko-Topioničarski Basen (RTB) in late 2018.
Since January 2019, Bor has been struggling with excessive air pollution, with sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels topping 2,000 micrograms per cubic meter in the past several months, up from the maximum allowed 350, resident Katarina Vasković said at the protest held on October 14, Bor 030 reported.
Protesters demanded that the city government urgently adopt a short-term plan so that the line ministry and state inspectorates can react to the alarming pollution levels in Bor.
— Web Tim ''Bor 030'' (@Bor030) October 14, 2019
Protesters handed the demands to Zijin, the city government, representatives of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and the Bor administrative district, giving them 10 days to respond.
Bor Mayor Aleksandar Milikić reacted during the summer over excessive SO2 and harmful particulate matter (PM) pollution, saying that air pollution is “unacceptable in Bor.”
A reaction from Serbia Zijin Bor Copper followed in September.
The company said in a press release at the time that environmental problems in Bor had been ignored for more than a century and that RTB had neglected to implement the necessary flue-gas desulfurization measures during the construction of the new copper smelter, also noting that the smelter equipment is outdated.
According to the press release, Zijin is already taking measures to reduce air pollution and plans to build a flue-gas desulfurization facility, as well as to take other steps to improve the smelter’s efficiency and the stability of the production process.
Fire erupts at newly built smelter in 2015
Insajder’s journalists have investigated the deal that the Serbian government concluded in 2010 with Canada’s SNC-Lavalin for the construction of the new smelter.
The investigative series called “A Debt Mine” looked into how the investment cycle in Bor in 2009 led to uncontrolled spending and the suspension of the Public Procurement Law, allowing for major deals to be agreed in direct talks with investors.
The biggest of these investments was made in the construction of the new smelter, and its value tripled over three and a half years, from EUR 100 million to EUR 300 million.
SNC-Lavalin was contracted for the project in direct negotiations with the Economy Ministry, at the time headed by Mlađan Dinkić, and RTB’s management led by former top man Blagoje Spaskovski, Insajder recalled in the March 2019 article.