Jugohrom Ferroalloys DOO Jegunovce (previously a state owned company Silmak from 1952) is located in the Macedonian village Jegunovce, in the Region of Polog valley, around 10 km from the city of Tetovo. Jugohrom produces ferro-alloy, particularly ferro-silicon and is the main employer in Jegunovce. In 2010, the company was privatized by the Russian company Camelot Group.
The company has a history of over 50 years of uncontrolled disposal of waste material containing chromium salts caused soil and groundwater pollution, including the River Vardar, an important trans-boundary river. However the greatest environmental problem is extremely high air pollution. As identified by experts and NGO activists, Jugohrom contributes almost 99% to the total air pollution in the Polog region. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, the concentration of particulate matters PM10 is eight times higher than permitted limits, and more than ten times in the winter, causing respiratory infections, heart disease, stroke, cancer and death. The inhabitants of the region are worried about their health and their agricultural production, while Tetovo is declared one of the most polluted towns in Macedonia. The air pollution was confirmed in measurements by The Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, however this actor argues that industry is only the third biggest source after transport and heating.
Macedonia became a candidate member of the European Union in 2005. Since then, it made some changes in the Law on Environment as part of the EU access environment reforms, including the measure of making polluters meet environmental standards (until the 1st of April 2014), in order to get the integrated environmental permit A. In the case of Jugohrom this requirement included the installation of air filters.
During the past nine years Jugohrom has requested several deadline extensions, stating as explanation the effects the economic crisis had on its production. Namely, in 2012 Jugohrom had to close 4 out of 6 furnaces and lay off 400 workers. The Macedonian government has been accepting these excuses, due to the importance of the metallurgy industry to the country’s economy. In the meantime The Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning adopted several plans and strategies to reduce the level of air pollution, such as the Third National Plan on Climate Change in December 2013. On the 1st of April 2014, once again Jugohrom did not manage to meet the deadline, however the company was granted with 6 more months to do so (until the 31st of October). In July 2014, Liljana Popovska, a parliamentarian and representative of DOM- The Democratic Renewal Party of Macedonia (a green political party) sent an official criminal charge against Jugohrom to the city of Tetovo's court. This charge was a result of years of unwillingness of Jugohrom's management to introduce environmental measures, even though the investment in filters would take only 1% of its total profit. Mrs Popovska expressed the fear that Jugohrom does not have any intention of changing the situation, and that the company plans to eventually close the factory and leave with the profit. There is no information on the case so far. Even though the Minister of Environment has promised to close down the factory by the 31st of October 2014, Jugohrom has been given yet another deadline prolongation for two more years, as according to the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs the company has already met 21 out of 29 requirements. During the next two years the company will keep working with 50 % of its production capacity that should reduce the emissions of pollution by 60-70%. Closing down is not an option as it would leave 1,250 workers without jobs. Most of the workers have been hired under three-month contracts, while many of them have reported experiencing political pressures and being in fear for their jobs.
Over the years NGO EcoGuerilla and citizens of Tetovo have organised many protests against Jugohrom. After the government's decision in November 2014 to grant the further extension, the citizens organised yet another protest emphasizing that they do not want the factory to be closed, but that the government put maximum pressure on the company to install filters and reduce pollution immediately, particularly since Jugohrom have been operating with a profit in last few years.
In October 2015, the Ministry of Environment announced closing the factory for not obeying rules. In January 2016, Jugohrom voluntarily shut down operations for two months with aim of decreasing air pollution in Tetovo. NGO Eco Guerrilla said that closing Jugohrom had positive results to air quality in the city. Namely, according to the measurements made by the country's environment ministry, the PM10 emissions in February 2016 decreased by 41% when compared with the levels measured in February 2015. For this reasons, Eco Guerrilla finds unjustified the plant reopening before all environmental standards are met. However, the workers of Jugohrom think differently and state that the air pollution level in Tetovo remain high despite of the plant closure. The factory relaunched production in March 2016. According to Jugohrom management, the installation of de-dusting equipment will be completed until the end of October 2016.