The Minister of Environmental Protection visited the company “Serbia Zijin Copper doo” in Bor on Friday, 3rd of September in order to be convinced of the progress and dynamics of the projects that the company is implementing for the purpose of environmental protection. However, the facilities she visited and in the construction of which she was convinced, do not have a construction permit or environmental impact assessment study approval.
The citizens of Bor have been facing air pollution for many years, and the high concentrations of sulfur dioxide caused by the operation of the smelter within the industrial complex of the company Serbia Zijin Bor Copper often exceed the concentrations dangerous to human health. Therefore, only during August 2021, hourly exceedances of sulfur dioxide were recorded at several measuring stations in Bor: in Brezonik (suburban settlement north of the city) 5, in the City Park (city center) 6 and near the Institute (southern part of the city) 9 times. Sulfur dioxide pollution in Bor continued this weekend as well.
During her visit to Bor, the Minister of Environmental Protection specified that since the new system for collecting and desulphurization of flue gases within the smelter complex was put into operation the situation is noticeably better, and that this project is of utmost importance for her. The Minister was accompanied by the company’s representatives through the complex within the sulfuric acid industrial unit, including the desulphurization plant as well, which should contribute to the reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions.
However, what represents a precedent in the behavior of the authorities performing the entrusted duties is the fact that the facilities, whose functionality the Minister praised, were constructed without the approval of the competent authorities. According to publicly available data, the company Zijin Bor Copper has obtained solely location conditions for the phase construction, extension and reconstruction of a group of facilities within the complex “Serbia Zijin Bor Copper” d.o.o. Bor, aiming to increase the capacity of the copper smelter from December 2020. The environmental impact assessment procedure for the project of the copper smelter capacity increase within the complex has not been completed, i.e. according to the publicly available information, the company did not obtain the environmental impact assessment study approval, which is a precondition for issuing a construction permit. In fact, an environmental impact assessment study for this project has not yet been published.
“The facility is just one among numerous new facilities being constructed in the metallurgical-chemical complex. Inside the facility, metallurgy waste gas is absorbed with lime milk to produce gypsum. It is questionable what this product contains because the smelter waste gas, in addition to sulfur dioxide, contains mercury, arsenic, cadmium, nickel… Is gypsum a product for further use or hazardous waste for which the construction of a landfill is necessary, shall be defined by the environmental impact assessment study. In these processes, water resources from the Bor lake are used, which are generally intended for recreation and are an important resource for tourism development of this region. In this dry period, with the start of the facility activities, a decrease in water level in the lake is noticeable“- explains Toplica Marjanović, environmental protection engineer and a former employee of RTB Bor.
Due to the suspicion that the company Zijin Bor Copper is performing activities on increasing the capacity and reconstruction of the copper smelter without construction permit, RERI submitted request for initiating an extraordinary inspection surveillance procedure to the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, which specified that they would conduct field inspection on Monday, 13 September.
Parallel, RERI also addressed the Ministry of Environmental Protection and requested to determine whether the construction had commenced before obtaining the EIA approval and to prohibit the project and activities until the approval of the competent authority is obtained. To date, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has not acted on the request.
RERI and the Association of Young Researchers in Bor point out that it is the government that enables companies to behave irresponsibly and thus endanger the health of a large number of its’ citizens, because not only that Ministry does not sanction violations by privileged companies that are their “strategic partners” but also proudly participates in their promotion.