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ArcelorMittal steel production factory, Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina


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

Name of conflict:ArcelorMittal steel production factory, Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Country:Bosnia and Herzegovina
State or province:Zenica-Doboj Canton
Location of conflict:Zenica
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 commodities:Steel
Central heating

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Production capacity= 1,000,000 tonnes of steel

Employees= 3,000 people

The plant produced 700,000 tonnes in 2012.

ArcelorMittal acquired 51 per cent of BH Steel in August 2004. As part of the agreement with the government of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Kuwaiti Investment Agency, ArcelorMittal agreed to invest $80 million in new share capital, $65 million in working capital and a further $135 million on new plant and equipment over ten years.

Data from the Register of plants and pollution of the Federal Ministry of Environment and Tourism -made publicly available in 2016 in a joint activity by several B&H's NGOs including Eko forum-, show that Mittal factory sent a total of 815,098 tons of coal in in 2014, which resulted in 4.5 million kilograms of CO2 released into the atmosphere. This is 40 times bigger amount of coal than used for households heating in Zenica and 29 times more than a total amount of coal from all sources (households and other industrial polluters).

Mittal release in the atmosphere around 375,000 kg of SO2 monthly.

Project area:50,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project280,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:150,000
Start of the conflict:2008
Company names or state enterprises:Arcelor Mittal from Luxembourg
Relevant government actors:The City of Zenica; Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Ministry of Environment Protection of Bosnia and Herzegovina
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) - In 2005 approved a 25 million euros loan to ArcelorMittal for improving its production.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Eko forum Zenica; Farmers association of the Zenica-Doboj Canton; Czech NGO "Arnika"

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-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
Other Environmental impactsThe 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
Other Health impactsIn the industrial district of Zenica the number of tumors have increased alarmingly over the last ten years.
Chronic pneumonia and bronchitis, sarcoidosis.
Socio-economical 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
Other socio-economic impactsHeavy 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
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (undecided)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:The 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain: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 & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Laws in the field of environment protection, Bosnia and Herzegovina[1].pdf

Pročitajte Smajlovićevo pismo Ministarstvu okoliša

Integrisani registar zagađivača

[1] Dying of Pollution in Zenica

[2] Zenica, Bosnia’s heart of steel

[3] Arcelor Mittal Zenica page

CEE Bank Watch network: Hundreds to protest against ArcelorMittal in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Citizens of Zenica protest Mittal pollution

BUKA Foto priča: Opšta opasnost u Zenici

CAR lines Dec 2013, pg. 13

Hiljade Zeničana u protestu: 3000 dana bez čistog zraka!

Bosnians Protest Against Mittal Plant Pollution

Blog Jasmin Mujanović-The Demands of the People of Bosnia-Herzegovina (English), Zenica

ArcelorMittal: Going nowhere slowly. A review of the global steel giant's environmental and social impacts in 2008-2009, pg.17

MITTAL OBEĆAO ZENIČANIMA: Od ponedjeljka prestajemo sa kršenjem zakona

Air Pollution is Choking Bosnia, Experts Warn

Smajlović podnio tužbu protiv ministarstva okoliša i turizma FBiH

Patria donosi detaljnu analizu: Životi Zeničana žrtvovani zarad profita ArcelorMittala

Zenica: I jedu i prodaju zagađene špinat, mrkvu i salatu

ArcelorMittal Zenica Bosnia & Ostrava CZ with severe pollution issues with local communities

Međunarodni izvještaj otkrio da je teška industrija u Zenici i Tuzli ozbiljno zagadila prehrambene artikle

ArcelorMittal Zenica: Novi ekološki projekat trebao bi poboljšati kvalitet zraka u gradu (FOTO)

ArcelorMittal Zenica nastavlja trovanje građana bez važećih okolišnih dozvola

ISTRAŽIVANJA DOKAZALA: Kompanija Arcelor Mittal je najveći zagađivač u Zenici!

ArcelorMittal Zenica: Naša kompanija nije jedini krivac za velike količine zagađenja

Najveći zagađivači u Bosni i Hercegovini: željezara ArcelorMittal i termoelektrane Elektroprivrede BiH AND Građani će napokon saznati ko zagađuje zrak u Bosni i Hercegovini

Zenica: Zagađenje zraka ponovo se mjeri crvenim brojkama

Zabrinjavajuće zagađenje zraka u Zenici: Rekordne vrijednosti sumpor dioksida

U Zenici dijalog o rješavanju problema zagađenja okoliša iz industrijskih postrojenja


Biggest polluters of Bosnia and Herzegovina: ArcelorMittal steelworks and Elektroprivreda power stations

Zagađenje u Zenici: Rješavanje problema tek nakon oboljenja?

Teška industrija u Zenici i Tuzli zagadila prehrambene artikle

Najveći zagađivači u Bosni i Hercegovini: Željezara ArcelorMittal i termoelektrane Elektroprivrede BiH

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

On pollution in national news 1

Arcelor Mittal Zenica Zagadjenje

On pollution in national news 2

Photo Gallery

Zenica zagadjenje inserti

Krivične prijave za katastrofalno stanje okoliša u Zenici

Zenica: Najava tužbe zbog zagađenosti zraka

Photos Arcelormittal Zenica

ArcelorMittal Zenica


Meta information

Contributor:Jovanka Spiric, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1131



Zenica on 17th of Dec 2013

Alarmingly high concentration of 1,392 mg of SO2 recorded on display connected to pollution measuring station

Zenica Mittal Protests

From Balkan Insight