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Over a century of pollution from the Bor mines, Serbia


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

Name of conflict:Over a century of pollution from the Bor mines, Serbia
Location of conflict:Bor
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
Specific commodities:Silver

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.

For production of 3 kg of pure copper it is necessary to excavate 1 tonne of ore.

Yearly production is 200,000 tonnes of concentrate from which copper (purity of 99,99%) is produced.

The planned production for 2014 is 40,000 tonnes of copper, 1,300 kg of gold and 8,500 kg of silver, which is followed with excavations of 58 million tonnes of ore.

The annual production is planned to be expanded to processing of 400,000 tonnes of concentrate from which 80-100,000 tonnes of pure copper will be produced.

The maximum allowable concentration of sulfur-dioxide is 350 mg per m3. Severe pollution happened several times that reached concentrations of sulfur-dioxide even up to 38,100 mg per m3 (100 times more then allowed). The sulfur-dioxide concentration in air crosses the maximum allowable concentration sometimes even 250 days per year.

278 million USD cost construction of new foundry and sulfuric acid plant.

Project area:25,000
Level of Investment:360,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:56,000
Start of the conflict:1935
Company names or state enterprises:Rudarsko-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 actors:The 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 Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America - Provider of the credit for the restoration project
European Union (EU) - Investing in the industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plant
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ekoagenda 1935; Mladi istrazivaci Bora:; Savez borskih mesnih zajednica; Ekoloski pokret Bor; Klub mladih Nove Srbije; Civil initiative ,,Ne ćutim jer imam decu“ Irena Živković

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


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
Other Health impactsRespiratory diseases, cancer.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Development of alternatives:The 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain: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 & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Obradovic, Lj., Bugarin, M. and Marinkovic, V. 2012 The effects of mine facilities on pollution the surrounding surface waterways. Mining engineering No4, 185-196.


Serbia - Bor Regional Development Project REPORT

Repor Bor CLR Review Independent Evaluation Group

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.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Bor: Nova topionica do kraja godine

Energana rešenje za zagađenje u Boru

Okrugli sto o strategiji RTB Bora za zastitu zivotne sredine

Istrazivanje o crnim ekoloskim tackama: Bor

Ekološki protest u Boru

Bor: Topionica po ekološkim standardima do sredine 2014?

Potpisan ugovor o izgradnji fabrike za preciscavanje otpadnih voda

Proizvodnja u rudnicima RTB-a Bor iznad planirane u vreme vanredne situacije

Zavrsetak izgradnje topionice najvazniji zadatak RTB Bora

RTB Bor: Rezerve vrede 40 mlrd $

Bor grca pod 440 tona otrova

Borani nisu mogli da dišu zbog zagađenja

Posle pisanja „Pravde“: Prijava protiv direktora Topionice

Veliki Krivelj ipak zagađen

Sumpor-dioksid uništio zasade u Boru

Detonacije sa kopa oštetile 40 kuća

RTB Bor platio za stete na usevima

Ekološka katastrofa u Boru

Osnovano ekološko društvo u Slatini, jednom od najzagađenijih mesta u Evropi

Zivimo u gasnoj komori

Bor: Rudarski diznilend

EDC Banka na gradilistu nove topionice

Eko karavan: Zrtvovani

Koncentracija sumpor dioksida u Boru hiljadu puta viša od dozvoljene

Otpadne vode rudnika zagadile reku kod Bora

Iz NIP-a 80 miliona dinara za ekološke projekte u Boru

Stanovnici Bora krenuli u konacni obracun sa zagadjivacima vazduha

U Boru zagađenje veće 40 puta

Gasna komora

Bor: Rekordno zagađenje vazduha

Pretkrivični postupak u Boru

Otrov zaustavlja RTB Bor

U Boru se “navikli” na zagadjenje

Ugašena stara topionica u RTB-u Bor

Bor, raste broj obolelih od raka: Arsena je u vazduhu bilo i do 100 puta više od dozvoljenog

Ekološki protest – 6. Oktobar

Oblaci sumpora truju Bor

Zdravlje, zdravlje, gospodaru!

Ekoloski protest u Boru

ZASTRAŠUJUĆE: Na Bor 2006. iz topionice ispušteno 200 tona otrova!

Bor: Održan drugi ekološki protest

Intervju: Irena Živković, žena koja se bori za zdraviji Bor

Mihajlović: RTB Bor će nastaviti da radi

Vučić razmatra izveštaj Mekinsija o Boru, ima nade

RTB Bor će štedeti na radnicima

Otkazi čekaju 1.500 ljudi u RTB Boru

Svetska Banka: RTB Bor Ima Velikih Problema Sa Snabdevanjem I Ekologijom

TORTURA U BORU: Otkazi za nepodobne stručnjake


Agregati borske topionice zaustavljeni zbog zagađenja

U vazduhu završi 30.000 tona sumpor-dioksida

Protiv RTB-a podnet zahtev za prekršajni postupak

Borska ekološka bomba preti Srbiji

Serbia mining: McKinsey analysis show copper company Bor needs cash injection

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Bor: Veliko zagadjenje sumpor-dioksidom

Eko karavan: Zrtvovani

RTB Bor zagadjenost

Eko karavan: Naselje u sredini

Srbija: Bor ima najzagađeniji zrak

Borani protestuju zbog zdravlja, RTB i dalje truje

Bor: Održan treći ekološki protestni skup (VIDEO)

Istina o RTB-u

Stara topionica RTB-a Bor odlazi u penziju

Zagađenje zemljišta opštine Bora radom Rudarsko-Topioničarskog Basena Bor (FOTO)

Other documents

Abandoned mine pit in Bor The polluted water accumulated in the abandoned mine pit in the Bor mine

Air pollution in Bor is unbearable Tthe citizens of Bor are experiencing difficulties with breathing due to the air ollution orignated from the mines

Meta information

Contributor:Jovanka Spiric, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)
Last update30/05/2016



Abandoned mine pit in Bor

The polluted water accumulated in the abandoned mine pit in the Bor mine

Air pollution in Bor is unbearable

Tthe citizens of Bor are experiencing difficulties with breathing due to the air ollution orignated from the mines