ArcelorMittal steel production factory, Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The citizens of Zenica are not convinced with the ArcelorMittal steel factory claims about the intentions to seriously invest in environmental improvements given that the Zenica’s air is still one of the most polluted in B&H.

The steel factory ArcelorMittal Zenica is owned by the world largest steel producer – the ArcelorMittal Corporation. The factory, originally state-owned was privatized and Arcelor-Mittal is now the main shareholder, with the government owning a symbolic share. In July 2008, the factory restarted integrated steel production after the facilities were damaged and closed down during the Yugoslavian civil war in the 1990s. ArcelorMittal Zenica produces hot rolled products (rebars, wire rod, mesh, lattice girders, and classic construction armature) mainly for the Balkan, EU and North African markets. The town is located in a small, narrow valley – 14 kilometres from Janić to Vranduk, and is in between two mountains that are less than 2 kilometres apart. Because of this from November to February, a toxic cloud forms over the city which traps all the substances rising from the chimneys of steel plants and the other factories. Since 2008, the analyses of air quality showed that pollution in Zenica was exceeding EU and Bosnia and Herzegovina standards, often reaching alarming levels. An increase in the number of cancer diseases among the population of Zenica has also been recorded according to a 2011 report on the population's health, conducted by the Cantonal Institute for Public Health. The report revealed some alarming statistics: In the period between 2002 and 2011, tumors have become the second leading cause of death among residents with a striking 20%. According to the report, the number of cancer patients increased from 892 persons in 2002 to 1,888 in 2010 and 1,774 in 2011. The number of cancer patients has increased by the hundreds each year, and especially from 2007 onward, i.e. since the full production of steel was resumed [1] however there are diverging opinions about how much of the epidemic can be blamed on the steel plant. In December 2012, after a several years of sending demand letters for installation of filters in the plants, the citizens of Zenica organised a large protest attended by several thousand people. Citizens demand filters for the smoke stacks to reduce toxic gases and heavy metals; as well as an independent, publicly- controlled center for monitoring emissions led by the local university and the local government. The latter would be supplemented by a public mechanism of measuring the emissions as well as an alarm system that would alert the population whenever emissions exceed safety limits [2]. On the 15th of November 2013, ArcelorMittal, has finally installed a filter in blast furnace and proudly announced this would lower their emissions below the acceptable levels. In this way the company admitted they have been breaking the law over the years. They did this at the official ceremony attended by representatives of cantonal and local authorities in charge of making and enforcing those laws. Citizens considered ArcelorMittal should not be acknowledged for installing the filter, as the damage has already been done. However, the company failed to give an apology to the citizens for doing so. The citizens wonder why this was not done before, as the investment of 12 million BAM ($ 8,500,000) for the filters represent a low level investment to ArcelorMittal, having in mind it is a third most profitable company in Bosnia. Even though the installation of the filter should have kept the pollution within the prescribed legal norms, on 17th of December 2013, the measuring station in Zenica have recorded 1,392 mg of SO2 in the air. According to Environmental Protection Department of the Municipality of Zenica, citizens have great impact on the elevated concentrations of SO2 in the air and they were advised to minimize burning coal for heating, and use of the family vehicle. Samir Lemeš from EJO Eko Forum has responded that citizens of Zenica burn coal as the alternative to central heating as ArcelorMittal (who provides heating for the municipality) has the highest heating costs in the region. The Municipality claims they cannot control the pollution coming from ArcelorMittal as it is in jurisdiction of the federal environmental inspection. In 2015, NGO "Eko forum" filed a criminal charges against the company and the relevant federal authorities given the continuous high level of air pollution and the fact that their comments and suggestions in the process of ArcelorMittal environmental permit renovation were ignored. This is the first charge for environmental crimes in B&H. The plant was operating without some of the required environmental permits since December 2014, other permits expired in November 2015. In January 2016, another lawsuit was filed against the Federal ministry of Environment and Tourism of B&H, this time by the authorities of the city of Zenica.  
Basic Data
NameArcelorMittal steel production factory, Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
CountryBosnia and Herzegovina
ProvinceZenica-Doboj Canton
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Metal refineries
Specific CommoditiesSteel
Central heating
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Production capacity= 1,000,000 tonnes of steel
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Project Area (in hectares)50,000
Level of Investment (in USD)280,000,000
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population150,000
Start Date2008
Company Names or State EnterprisesArcelor Mittal from Luxembourg
Relevant government actorsThe City of Zenica; Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Ministry of Environment Protection of Bosnia and Herzegovina
International and Financial InstitutionsEuropean Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) - In 2005 approved a 25 million euros loan to ArcelorMittal for improving its production.
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEko forum Zenica; Farmers association of the Zenica-Doboj Canton; Czech NGO "Arnika"
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
On line petition, social media activism
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Air pollution
Potential: Groundwater pollution or depletion
OtherThe pollution in Zenica is easily perceived as the city’s windows and balconies are constantly covered in black dust. PM 10 and SO2 have repeatedly exceeded 'alert' levels where according to the The Federation of BiH’s air pollution legislation, the acceptable concentration of sulfur-dioxide in the air is 350 micrograms, and Zenica’s air reached 1,392 mg per cubic meter. In addition to these harmful pollutants Zenica citizens are most concerned about carcinogenic air pollutant benzene and volatile organic compounds.
Health ImpactsVisible: Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
OtherIn the industrial district of Zenica the number of tumors have increased alarmingly over the last ten years.

Chronic pneumonia and bronchitis, sarcoidosis.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood
OtherHeavy metals (lead, cadmium and arsenic) have been found in vegetables and milk produces in Zenica. Many people in this area live form selling vegetables.
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (undecided)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesThe citizens of Zenica demand emissions monitoring by third party, and installation of filters on the plant according to the current legislation that proclaims use of the best available technology (BAT) in order to comply with environmental standards and to obtain a proper environmental permit. The closing of the plant is not being considered as it supplies Zenica with heating and provides employment to number of people from the area.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The claims of the company from 2008, that the plant will comply with EU environmental standards by 2012, never came true. Finally, on 15th of November 2013, ArcelorMittal, has installed a filter ($ 8,500,000) in blast furnace. However, on 17th of December 2013, the concentration of SO2 in the air reached a record 1,392 mg. The pollution continued in 2014 and 2015, while company claims that the delay in improvements of its ecological performance is caused by the fact that it inherited very old equipment and huge technological challenges hard to overcome fast. In addition, in the past years steel plants in Europe faced serious market challenges, which further hinders investment in environmental improvements. The entire process is helped by the fact that implementation and compliance with the Environmental laws in B&H is at a low level.
Sources and Materials

Laws in the field of environment protection, Bosnia and Herzegovina
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Pročitajte Smajlovićevo pismo Ministarstvu okoliša
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Integrisani registar zagađivača
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Citizens of Zenica protest Mittal pollution
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CEE Bank Watch network: Hundreds to protest against ArcelorMittal in Bosnia and Herzegovina
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CAR lines Dec 2013, pg. 13
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BUKA Foto priča: Opšta opasnost u Zenici
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Bosnians Protest Against Mittal Plant Pollution
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Hiljade Zeničana u protestu: 3000 dana bez čistog zraka!
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[3] Arcelor Mittal Zenica page
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ArcelorMittal: Going nowhere slowly. A review of the global steel giant's environmental and social impacts in 2008-2009, pg.17
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[2] Zenica, Bosnia’s heart of steel
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[1] Dying of Pollution in Zenica
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Blog Jasmin Mujanović-The Demands of the People of Bosnia-Herzegovina (English), Zenica
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MITTAL OBEĆAO ZENIČANIMA: Od ponedjeljka prestajemo sa kršenjem zakona
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Zabrinjavajuće zagađenje zraka u Zenici: Rekordne vrijednosti sumpor dioksida
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Teška industrija u Zenici i Tuzli zagadila prehrambene artikle
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Zenica: I jedu i prodaju zagađene špinat, mrkvu i salatu
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Air Pollution is Choking Bosnia, Experts Warn
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Smajlović podnio tužbu protiv ministarstva okoliša i turizma FBiH
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Patria donosi detaljnu analizu: Životi Zeničana žrtvovani zarad profita ArcelorMittala
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ArcelorMittal Zenica Bosnia & Ostrava CZ with severe pollution issues with local communities
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Zagađenje u Zenici: Rješavanje problema tek nakon oboljenja?
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Najveći zagađivači u Bosni i Hercegovini: Željezara ArcelorMittal i termoelektrane Elektroprivrede BiH
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ArcelorMittal Zenica nastavlja trovanje građana bez važećih okolišnih dozvola
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Međunarodni izvještaj otkrio da je teška industrija u Zenici i Tuzli ozbiljno zagadila prehrambene artikle
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ArcelorMittal Zenica: Novi ekološki projekat trebao bi poboljšati kvalitet zraka u gradu (FOTO)
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U Zenici dijalog o rješavanju problema zagađenja okoliša iz industrijskih postrojenja
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Biggest polluters of Bosnia and Herzegovina: ArcelorMittal steelworks and Elektroprivreda power stations
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Najveći zagađivači u Bosni i Hercegovini: željezara ArcelorMittal i termoelektrane Elektroprivrede BiH AND Građani će napokon saznati ko zagađuje zrak u Bosni i Hercegovini
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ArcelorMittal Zenica: Naša kompanija nije jedini krivac za velike količine zagađenja
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Zenica: Zagađenje zraka ponovo se mjeri crvenim brojkama
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ISTRAŽIVANJA DOKAZALA: Kompanija Arcelor Mittal je najveći zagađivač u Zenici!
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Media Links

On pollution in national news 2
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On pollution in national news 1
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Photo Gallery
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Arcelor Mittal Zenica Zagadjenje
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Zenica zagadjenje inserti
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Photos Arcelormittal Zenica
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Zenica: Najava tužbe zbog zagađenosti zraka
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ArcelorMittal Zenica
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Krivične prijave za katastrofalno stanje okoliša u Zenici
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Other Documents

Zenica Mittal Protests From Balkan Insight
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Zenica on 17th of Dec 2013 Alarmingly high concentration of 1,392 mg of SO2 recorded on display connected to pollution measuring station
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Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)
Last update24/05/2016