Over a century of pollution from the Bor mines, Serbia

Bor is one of the biggest copper mine in Europe and has been known as one of the environmental hotspots in Serbia for over a century.


Description
The state-owned mines of Bor are located in the west Serbia next to the town Bor and six other villages. The mines were opened in 1904 for copper exploitation and have increased its production several times during the last century, including opening new mining sites and expansion of the factory. Currently, the company RTB Bor employs 5,000 people that work in nine mines, three flotation units, two foundries, electrolysis unit, sulphuric acid factory, factory of non-metal salts, and lime factory. In the beginning of the Bor mines explorations, the ore copper content was 17% and it was transported to France for processing. In 1935, as the copper content lowered, the company decided to establish a foundry in Bor. It was when the first protests against mines occurred. After an acid rain episode the farmers blocked the factory for 3 days demanding the compensation for the harvest loss. These demonstrations were stopped with military intervention and one person died. The Government of ex-Yugoslavia came with a solution to free the farmers from paying taxes for the next three years, which would be compensated from the fine prescribed to the factory. Besides, the government demanded from the company to install a sulfuric acid factory to reduce emissions. Two new foundries were opened in the 1960s and 1970s, while another big protest occurred in 1989 when the citizens pointed out presence of the radiation in Bor. The national Government denied such claims. Currently, Bor and 6 neighboring villages are experiencing air and soil pollution from production processes and slag dump sites, mainly sulfur dioxide accompanied with heavy metal particles; deforestation and land erosion from opening new mines; and water pollution from the industrial process. Besides the industrial waste water, the municipal waste water has been discharged into the Borska River and the Kriveljska River without any pre-treatment. Several wells for drinking water have been closed down due to the pollution. The farmers and beekeepers also reported negative effects on their production. Several time the company had to compensate the farmers for damage as decided in court cases. The detonations from one of the mining sites damaged houses in village Veliki Krivelj, located only 800 meters away. It was reported higher occurrence of respiratory diseases and cancer in local people. However, as there is no official studies on health impact, no juridical case based on the mines health hazard was ever processed. Local NGOs is promoting the case through public debates, petitions, protests, reporting to the environmental inspection and submitting appeals to the Serbian government. The environmental inspection started several juridical cases against the mines, but they have still not been processed. Several times, after the episodes of high air pollution, the foundry production was stopped but only for only few days. In 2007, the mine was intended to be privatized, without any success. Another severe pollution occurred in 2009, when the local government managed to make the national government to start the restoration project. The money for “Bor Regional Development Project” was provided from the World Bank loan. Among other things, the project included construction of new foundry and sulfuric acid factory by the end of 2014. The restoration project would allow for expansion of the production, including opening of new mine pits and construction of flotation unit. In addition to the restoration project, the construction of industrial and municipal waste water treatment plant was agreed among the Bor municipality and the German company "BDH Consulting Group" in March 2014. A new foundry was built in 2014 and opened in March 2015. Given that the old foundry continued with its operation, the pollution was nor reduced and the citizens of Bor organised a series of protests in October 2015. The old foundry was closed in November 2015. RTB Bor is in difficult economic situation and the decision on who will take over the management over the company will be decided in Jun 2016. The other activities planned by the restoration project has never started and the government had to return back the money to WB and pay penalties in May 2015. Any further work on environmental improvements will have to be paid from public money, such as the construction of a new collector to conduct Kriveljska river below the tailings Veliki Krivelj that currently represents a ticking ecological bomb threatening the region and beyond.
Basic Data
NameOver a century of pollution from the Bor mines, Serbia
CountrySerbia
SiteBor
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Mineral processing
Tailings from mines
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Metal refineries
Deforestation
Specific CommoditiesSilver
Copper
Gold
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
The value of mineral ore deposits is assessed to be 40 billion dollars. There is enough ore to keep mines open next 50 years with a yearly excavation of 26 million tonnes of ore.
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Project Area (in hectares)25,000
Level of Investment (in USD)360,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population56,000
Start Date1935
Company Names or State EnterprisesRudarsko-topioničarski basen Bor (RTB Bor) from Serbia - The polluter
BDH Consulting Group from Germany - Construction of the industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plant
Relevant government actorsThe Government of ex-Yugoslavia; The Government of Republic of Serbia; The Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Republic of Serbia; The Inspectorate for Environmental Protection; The Municipality of Bor
International and Financial InstitutionsWorld Bank (WB) - Provider of the credit for the restoration project
European Union (EU) - Investing in the industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plant
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEkoagenda 1935; Mladi istrazivaci Bora: http://mibor.rs/st/st1.html; Savez borskih mesnih zajednica; Ekoloski pokret Bor; Klub mladih Nove Srbije; Civil initiative ,,Ne ćutim jer imam decu“ Irena Živković
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
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Trade unions
Women
Local scientists/professionals
Beekepers
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Malnutrition, Infectious diseases
OtherRespiratory diseases, cancer.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Migration/displacement
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Development of AlternativesThe neighboring communities demanded compensation for the harvest losses as well as jobs in the mines for the unemployed. Additionally, they required assessments of the levels of soil pollution and quality of agricultural products from the region. The NGOs activists asked for free of charge use of public drinking water and free medical assistance for the elderly households. The local government demanded restoration of the abandoned open mine pits and implementation of afforestation activities to prevent further soil erosion. The Bor mine employs many families in the region therefore the closing down is not one of the solutions.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The activists’ actions lead to the implementation of the restoration project that is, by introducing end-of-pipe technologies, expected to lower the emissions. The restoration project was cancelled in 2015 due to the unsatisfactory implementation and results. Although the new foundry started operating in March 2015, the old one continued working and polluting until November 2015. The official measurements started at the same time should show if the level of pollution dropped down. Besides air pollution, the restoration project should have addressed increasing water pollution problems that could result in ecological catastrophe. In addition, the social conditions of the workers are at risk due to low work security and poor working conditions due to bad economic and management situation in the RTB Bor.
Sources and Materials
References

Obradovic, Lj., Bugarin, M. and Marinkovic, V. 2012 The effects of mine facilities on pollution the surrounding surface waterways. Mining engineering No4, 185-196.
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Petrovic, M. and Vukelic, J. (Ed.) 2013 Environmental Protection in Pancevo and Bor: Challenges of participatory approach to environmental governance. Institute for Sociological Research, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade.
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STUDIJA PROCENE STANJA ŽIVOTNE SREDINE ZA SANACIJU JALOVIŠTA I DEPONIJA ZA ODLAGANJE RUDNIČKOG OTPADA U ZONI RUDNIKA BOR
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Serbia - Bor Regional Development Project REPORT
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Repor Bor CLR Review Independent Evaluation Group
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Links

Bor: Nova topionica do kraja godine
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Energana rešenje za zagađenje u Boru
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Okrugli sto o strategiji RTB Bora za zastitu zivotne sredine
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Istrazivanje o crnim ekoloskim tackama: Bor
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Ekološki protest u Boru
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Bor: Topionica po ekološkim standardima do sredine 2014?
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Potpisan ugovor o izgradnji fabrike za preciscavanje otpadnih voda
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Proizvodnja u rudnicima RTB-a Bor iznad planirane u vreme vanredne situacije
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Zavrsetak izgradnje topionice najvazniji zadatak RTB Bora
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RTB Bor: Rezerve vrede 40 mlrd $
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Agregati borske topionice zaustavljeni zbog zagađenja
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Bor grca pod 440 tona otrova
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Borani nisu mogli da dišu zbog zagađenja
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Posle pisanja „Pravde“: Prijava protiv direktora Topionice
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Veliki Krivelj ipak zagađen
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Sumpor-dioksid uništio zasade u Boru
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Detonacije sa kopa oštetile 40 kuća
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RTB Bor platio za stete na usevima
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Ekološka katastrofa u Boru
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U vazduhu završi 30.000 tona sumpor-dioksida
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Osnovano ekološko društvo u Slatini, jednom od najzagađenijih mesta u Evropi
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Zivimo u gasnoj komori
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Bor: Rudarski diznilend
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EDC Banka na gradilistu nove topionice
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Eko karavan: Zrtvovani
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Koncentracija sumpor dioksida u Boru hiljadu puta viša od dozvoljene
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Otpadne vode rudnika zagadile reku kod Bora
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Iz NIP-a 80 miliona dinara za ekološke projekte u Boru
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Stanovnici Bora krenuli u konacni obracun sa zagadjivacima vazduha
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U Boru zagađenje veće 40 puta
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Gasna komora
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Protiv RTB-a podnet zahtev za prekršajni postupak
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Bor: Rekordno zagađenje vazduha
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Pretkrivični postupak u Boru
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Otrov zaustavlja RTB Bor
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U Boru se “navikli” na zagadjenje
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Ugašena stara topionica u RTB-u Bor
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Bor, raste broj obolelih od raka: Arsena je u vazduhu bilo i do 100 puta više od dozvoljenog
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Ekološki protest – 6. Oktobar
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Oblaci sumpora truju Bor
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Zdravlje, zdravlje, gospodaru!
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Ekoloski protest u Boru
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ZASTRAŠUJUĆE: Na Bor 2006. iz topionice ispušteno 200 tona otrova!
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Bor: Održan drugi ekološki protest
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Intervju: Irena Živković, žena koja se bori za zdraviji Bor
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Mihajlović: RTB Bor će nastaviti da radi
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Vučić razmatra izveštaj Mekinsija o Boru, ima nade
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RTB Bor će štedeti na radnicima
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Borska ekološka bomba preti Srbiji
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Otkazi čekaju 1.500 ljudi u RTB Boru
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Svetska Banka: RTB Bor Ima Velikih Problema Sa Snabdevanjem I Ekologijom
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TORTURA U BORU: Otkazi za nepodobne stručnjake
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U RTB-u OTKAZI PLJUŠTE, MEDIJI I DALJE ĆUTE!!!
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Serbia mining: McKinsey analysis show copper company Bor needs cash injection
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Media Links

Bor: Veliko zagadjenje sumpor-dioksidom
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Eko karavan: Zrtvovani
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RTB Bor zagadjenost
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Eko karavan: Naselje u sredini
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Borani protestuju zbog zdravlja, RTB i dalje truje
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Srbija: Bor ima najzagađeniji zrak
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Bor: Održan treći ekološki protestni skup (VIDEO)
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Istina o RTB-u
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Stara topionica RTB-a Bor odlazi u penziju
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Zagađenje zemljišta opštine Bora radom Rudarsko-Topioničarskog Basena Bor (FOTO)
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Other Documents

Abandoned mine pit in Bor The polluted water accumulated in the abandoned mine pit in the Bor mine
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Air pollution in Bor is unbearable Tthe citizens of Bor are experiencing difficulties with breathing due to the air ollution orignated from the mines
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Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)gmail.com
Last update30/05/2016
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