RERI and the Association of Young Researchers Bor (AYR Bor) submitted extraordinary inspection surveillance requests to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure due to the suspicion that the company “Serbia Zijin Bor Copper” doo Bor illegally constructed a mining wastewater treatment plant – without a construction permit and without approval on the environmental impact assessment study.
The Law on Planning and Construction prohibits construction before obtaining a final decision on a construction permit and notice of works, while the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment prohibits construction without the consent of the competent authority on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) study.
According to publicly available data, no construction permit has been issued for the project of the mining wastewater treatment plant, which is nevertheless almost completely constructed, nor has a decision been made approving the EIA study.
It was not until March 2022 that Zijin Copper submitted a request for approval of the EIA study, and to date the Ministry of Environmental Protection has not given its consent.
The study itself is of extremely poor quality and does not contain the mandatory elements prescribed by the law, and although it is stated that such facility will contribute to environmental protection, according to RERI and AYR Bor, it will not significantly reduce pollution, but rather contribute to a greater amount of extracted metals for the company Zijin Bor Copper.
Namely, mining wastewater that is generated in the mines Jama, Novo Cerovo and Veliki Krivelj, contains certain amounts of copper, which is why the company is extremely interested in their treatment in terms of utilization (recovery) of this metal. Unfortunately, environmental protection is cast aside. This was confirmed by the company when it opted for the outdated technology “slow sulfidation and separation of copper”, instead of the new one which would effectively contribute to the reduction of watercourse pollution.
“This is an outdated technology that is unsuitable for the treatment of mining wastewaters, such as those produced in the Bor mines, and it is not used in the construction of new plants, because it is neither environmentally, nor economically, nor technologically acceptable. During the reaction in the technological process, hydrogen sulfide, an explosive and poisonous gas is formed, which will be emitted into the air and increase the pollution of the already very polluted air in Bor.” – explains Toplica Marjanović, environmental engineer and former RTB Bor employee.
In addition, the company again resorted to the separation of the single project, so instead of considering the treatment of mining wastewater from all three mines (Jama, Novo Cerovo and Veliki Krivelj) that will all be conveyed to this facility, the company decided that the mining wastewater originating from the surface mine Veliki Krivelj will be assesed in a separate study (?!?). However, if these two projects were considered separately, it would not be possible to correctly assess the overall environmental impact of the project.
Finally, the EIA study did not include the waste disposal process or determine the characterization of the waste, which is an extremely important aspect, given that the operation of this plant produces waste sludge that may contain heavy metals. Depending on waste characterization, the manner in which it will be treated is determined, as well as environmental protection measures, so it is very important to identify whether the waste in question is hazardous or non-hazardous while assessing environmental impacts.
Unfortunately, such activities of Zijin Bor Copper are not the exception but the rule. RERI and AYR Bor repeat that the lack of reaction of the competent authorities to sanction the illegal activities of this company, represents a kind of support to Zijin, almost encouraging them to continue violating the laws of the Republic of Serbia, established to eliminate or reduce the negative impact of the project on the environment.
RERI and AYR Bor emphasize that in a situation where a facility is being constructed without a construction permit, the competent construction inspection has the authority to order the suspension of works and removal of the facility, as well as the duty to file criminal charges for construction without a construction permit. Furthermore, the competent inspectorate for environmental protection, when determining whether the facility is being built without prior consent on the EIA study, has the authority to prohibit the implementation of the project and activities until EIA approval is obtained.