The Commercial Court in Zaječar convicted and fined the company “Zijin Bor Copper” for starting the construction and expansion of the copper smelter in Bor without prior approval of the study on environmental impact assessment (“EIA”). For that offense, the company was fined only 200 thousand Serbian dinars (≈ €1.700), and the responsible person within the company was fined 30 thousand Serbian dinars (≈ €255).
In the same procedure, the Company was also found responsible for carrying out activities without an integrated permit, the most important permit in the field of environmental protection, for which it was fined a modest 250 thousand Serbian dinars (≈ €2.130), while the responsible person within the Company was fined 30 thousand Serbian dinars (≈ €255).
The Zijin company and its representatives fully admitted to committing the acts that RERI indicated to the prosecution in reports from September and November 2021, while the representative of the company Zijin stated that the facilities were put into operation without the necessary permits because that was required. In addition, the representatives of the Zijin company stated in the Court that they were well aware of the violation of the Law when putting the facilities into operation. In addition to the prosecution, the Ministry of Environmental Protection was also, on several occasions, informed by RERI about the stated illegalities. Despite being aware of the breaching of the key laws that ensure environmental protection, during her official visits to Bor, the Minister of Environmental Protection praised the construction of the facility of a company that was operating without an integrated permit at that time.
“A fine of only 450,000 Serbian dinars couldn’t be satisfactory, however, according to our knowledge, this is the first time that a company has been fined in court proceedings for the construction and carrying out activities without an environmental impact assessment. Such procedures shouldn’t be initiated by civil society organizations, but rather by relevant authorities, primarily the inspection within the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which once again failed to act in accordance with its powers“, said RERI’s lawyer, Ljubica Vukčević.
RERI reminds that, for each act individually, the penalty is envisaged in the amount from 150 thousand to 3 million Serbian dinars (≈ €1.280 – €25.560), and the company was fined only 200,000 and 250,000 Serbian dinars. The purpose of the sanctioning is jeopardized with such low fines because it is obvious that these amounts do not deter companies from repeating the act, on the contrary, they motivate them to continue with illegal and harmful practices, while encouraging other companies to behave in the same manner.
The continuance of the ignorant activities of the inspection authorities of the Ministry of Environmental Protection is particularly worrying, which, despite being aware of illegal practices, persistently refuse to initiate proceedings that would result in the sanctioning of the Company.
The EIA procedure represents a preventive mechanism of environmental protection, in which the impacts of specific projects on the environment, health, and well-being of people, as well as ways to prevent, reduce or neutralize these impacts, are identified. On the other hand, integrated permits ensure comprehensive protection of air, water, and soil from pollution, as well as that the large polluters operate in accordance with high standards of environmental protection and in a way that does not cause harm to health and the environment.