June 12, 2024
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HomeUncategorizedSerbia: Extension of Zijin’s Mining waste management permit denied

Serbia: Extension of Zijin’s Mining waste management permit denied

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Ministry rejected the Chinese company’s request in November last year, but only released it in April in response to an FOI request – stoking fears that it has been operating without guidelines or a permit for over a year and a half.

Serbian Ministry of Mining and Energy rejected a request from China’s Serbia Zijin Mining company for an extension to its permit to manage mining waste. The company’s license for managing mining waste expired on December 31, 2022.

The ministry rejected the request in November 2023 but it wasn’t made public until the ministry answered an FOI request of a regional think tank focussed on environmental protection, energy and urban development, Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute, RERI, and submitted the decision in April.

The ministry did not respond to two previous inquiries from BIRN requesting the decision and asking whether Zijin still has a valid permit to manage mining waste.

Zijin did not answer BIRN’s request for a comment on the decision. On March 29 it told BIRN that it was “in the process” of updating its permit and had meantime updated its waste management plan in 2022 and 2023, and was acting according to that plan.

The ministry rejected the company’s request because Zijin had not filed all required documents and data, as can be seen in the decision which RERI published. It writes, for example, that Zijin planned to open five new landfills but didn’t give enough information on the category of waste which would be placed there.

Zijin received a licence to manage mining waste from Serbia’s mining and energy ministry in October 2021, which expired in December 2022 and has not been renewed. Zijin filed a request to extend the permit on December 20 2022.

RERI filed a misdemeanour report with the public prosecution in Bor against Zijin for operating without a valid waste management permit. This was rejected in November 2023 because Zijin had already sought an extension to the permit and because prosecutors assessed that there were no harmful consequences from the disposal of mining waste.

Ljubica Vukcevic, lawyer of RERI, said it was very worrying if the company was still disposing of mining waste without a permit.

“This economic offence is very serious if we now conclude that the company has been disposing of mining waste for a year and a half without a permit… institutions simply let them dispose of the waste as they dispose, without any guidelines, without a permit, and that for a year and a half a disaster is occurring environment.”

Vukcevic added that RERI will analyze the consequences of dumping waste without a permit. “Once we have analyzed what the consequences are, we will consider filing new applications for a more difficult qualification against the company,” she said.

Zijin earlier told BIRN that its landfills were built using “the best and world-recognised technological solutions” to prevent potentially harmful substances from seeping into the soil.

“Only 10 per cent of tailings are disposed of at the tailings dump, which is covered with water, which prevents harmful substances spreading through the air but also from forming acidic leachate,” it said.

The Serbia Zijin Copper company, operator of Serbia’s sole copper complex, plans to expand its mining operations despite concerns over their impact on the environment and the health of residents in the eastern town of Bor, as BIRN reported.

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