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Lead smelter in Zajača, Serbia


The mines of Zajača are located in western Serbia near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and have been an essential source of Serbian Antimony production ever since 1890. The factory is situated in Zajača village (700 inhabitants) just 100-700m away from houses and the village primary school. Most citizens of Zajača are employed at the mine. In 2006 the mines and a smelting factory were privatized by the Serbian company Farmakom mb that focused its work on recycling and refining old lead. Between 2006 and 2011, the annual production of Zajača has increased from 4,000 tonnes to 26,000 tonnes of crude lead. In 2007, Farmakom mb installed air filters; however the environmental inspection closed the factory two times in 2007 and 2008 because of air filter failure. The factory emits air with high lead concentrations, which has lead to lawsuits in which the judge made the factory pay a monetary fine. Besides, the company has a historical dump site of antimony production, and a new dump site from lead refining, that are as well sources of pollution to village Zajača. Zajača citizens claimed that the manufacturing endangers their health. In the summer of 2011, n a citizens' request , laboratories in Serbia and Brussels did a medical investigation to measure lead concentration in children's blood, which showed an excess of lead concentration of 50-150% of the maximum allowed concentration.

Citizens contacted municipal and national governments asking for support in pressuring Farmakom mb to deal with its air emissions and toxic wastes.

The medical research was repeated in December 2011, this time with support from the Ministry of Health of Republic of Serbia, and the results of this investigation confirmed an excessive lead concentration in children's blood. The village was visited by a representative from the Health Ministry who suggested stricter hygiene measures, while no medical treatment for children was prescribed as the concentration was not higher than 45 mg per deciliter of blood.

In January 2012 disappointed citizens announced protests and road blockade that were not organised given that the Health and Environmental Ministry offered to install a continuous air monitoring station in the primary school yard, while Farmakom mb agreed to look for professional solution for pollution. In June 2012, Farmakom mb proposed an old underground mine to be used as a toxic waste landfill. In April 2013 the company miners went on strike for not receiving payments for previous 6 months. Meanwhile production decreased due to the company's economic crisis, which resulted in a reduced environmental impact. The analysis from August and December 2013 showed lower but persistent lead concentrations in children's blood. As per agreement between Farmakom mb and the Serbian Government, it is the Government's responsibility to construct a toxic waste landfill to solve the problem of the former antimony production dump site. Farmakom mb stated that they paid for the toxic waste landfill construction and shift responsibility to the government to implement it. However, the company did not comment on possible solution for the new dump site originated from lead refining process. In January 2014, the critical environmental situation was aggravated when the state forestry company Srbijašume logged 16 ha of forests located in the entrance of Zajača village. In February and March 2014, Farmakom mb workers went on strike again, this time organised in front of the Serbian government building in Belgrade. The protests and road blockades escalated to a hunger strike that was ended with an agreement between the workers and the company's owner. In March 2014, the regional water quality lab announced the presence of heavy metals and pathogen micro-organisms in the village's tap water and marked it "not safe for use". Citizens have been supplied with water by mobile water tanks. A proposed solution was the expansion of water system from the closest city Loznica to the village Zajača.

In 2015, the company declared bankrupt and announced the sale of the mine and smelter. The owner was charged for not paying taxes. Although announced for March 2014 by the Ministry of Environment, the remediation of the landfill from the smelter Zajača started in March 2016.  

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Lead smelter in Zajača, Serbia
Location of conflict:Zajača
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Metal refineries
Manufacturing activities
Specific commodities:Lead
Recycled Metals

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The historical dump site of antimony production is 1,5 hectares large and stores 600,000 tonnes of antimony slag.

Between 2006 and 2011, the annual production of Zajača has increased from 4,000 tonnes to 26,000 tonnes of crude lead.

Costs of landfill remediation = 1.94 million USD

Project area:1,230
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,800,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:700
Start of the conflict:2007
Company names or state enterprises:Farmakom mb from Serbia - Owner of Zajača factory
Relevant government actors:The Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Republic of Serbia; The Ministry of Health of Republic of Serbia; Municipal government of Loznica
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Vojvodjanska zelena inicijativa,

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Hunger strikes and self immolation


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsLead poisoning. Concentrations of 40 milligrams of lead in one deciliter of blood was detected in kids of Zajača.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Company bankruptcy and mine and smelter closure
Proposal and development of alternatives:The local community asked the company to decrease the annual production of 26,000 tonnes of crude lead, repair the air filters and restore the sites of antimony and lead production dump sites. The factory owner asserted that the main problem was the historical pollution and pointed out that its main activity was recycling.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:No agreement on changing the production technology or decreasing the production levels was made. The company went bankrupt and the mine and smelter were closed resulting in reduced pollution. Even though the government announced the remediation of the historical antimony dump site from the smelter Zajača for March 2014, the works did not start until March 2016. Local people are not convinced that this will really be accomplished.

Sources & Materials

Serbian children exposed to lead

Saznaćemo čime nas truju samo ako pitamo

Olovo u krvi je u redu?

Siva magla u olovnoj dolini

"Sprečiti zagađenje Zajače olovom"

Napušteni rudnik za otpad

Zajača decenijama crna ekološka tačka

Rudari u Zajači u štrajku već četvrti dan- Moguća radikalizacija protesta

Ombudsman: U Zajači olovo truje decu

Svi da adekvatno reaguju u slučaju zagađenja u Zajači!

Farmakom mb website

Djeci u Zajači povišen nivo olova u krvi

"Olovna deca" i dalje ugrožena

Olovo u krvi dece

Mihajlović: Iz budžeta 285 miliona dinara za Zajaču

Rudari Zajače blokirali magistralni put Šabac-Loznica

Meštani Zajače odustali od najavljene blokade puta ka Loznici

Prekinut štrajk rudara u Zajači

Loznica: Selo truju i glasine

Rezultati analize krvi dece iz Zajače

Život pored topionice olova

Zajača: Nepoverljivi prema rezultatima analiza krvi

Protest radnika Rudnika i topionice Zajača ispred vlade

Rudari iz Zajače ponovo blokirali put

Loznica: Rudari na barikadama počeli štrajk glađu

Radnici "Zajače" prekinuli blokadu

Reducing Environment & Security Risks from Mining in South Eastern Europe

Bogićević: Farmakom ne truje olovom

Bagerima protiv jalovišta, za rudnik Stolice se čeka rešenje

Rudnici i topionica "Zajača" zvanično u stečaju

Pravosnažna optužnica protiv Bogićevića, uskoro suđenje

"Farmakom" ponovo prodaje "Rudnik i topionicu ad Zajača" - Početna cena ostala 200 miliona dinara

NAJZAD BEZ OTROVA: Počeli radovi na sanaciji jalovine iz rudnika Zajača

Депонија јаловине из рудника Зајача биће затворена

Kod polovine testiranih ljudi iz Zajače u krvi manje olova


Zajača, teški metali i bakterije u vodi

Bogićeviću oduzeli rudnik "Zajača" - Poreska uprava rešila da naplati dugove vlasniku kompanije "Farmakom"

Zajača se snabdeva vodom iz cisterni i čeka izgradnju gradskog vodovoda

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Olovo u krvi djece iz Zajače, AlJazeera

Povišen nivo olova kod djece u selu Zajača, AlJazeera

Documentary by Vojvodjanska zelena inicijativa

Saša Janković o trovanju olovom u Srbiji, AlJazeera

S06 E07 Zajača - Kad mi tamo a ono međutim, 2015.

зајача 2.03.2014 Дали је ово политички или неко штити богићевића Други део

зајача 2.03.2014 Дали је ово политички или неко штити богићевића Први део

Meta information

Contributor:Jovanka Spiric, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1321



Zajača lead smelter site

The Zajača factory is located only 100 m from some of the houses in village Zajača

Water in village Zajača was not for use.

The village Zajača tap water was not use due to the heavy metal pollution and presence of pathogen micro-organisms. Citizens had been supplied with water by mobile water tanks.

Zajača miners' strike

Miners of Zajača organized a hunger strike in the mine shaft