Serbia/ Bor/ 2010 / Serie title: RTB BOR; The long road to privatisation of state-owned enterprise/ Image: Restroom in a copper mine about 450 meters underground. / Photo: Mark Nozeman
One of the largest copper mines in Europe is located in Bor eastern Serbia. The complex is in operation since 1903. The state-owned Mining and Smelting Bor (RTB) runs two open pit mines and one underground and employed about ets. 5000 workers. Since the mid-1990s and during the time of sanctions on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, production in this mine dropped significantly from the very prosperous 1970s and 1980s. This has been due to both diminishing reserves and the inability to obtain new equipment that would most efficiently gather the remaining ore no longer of high grade. With stringent environmental (EU) regulations now in place, upgrade of industrial lines of the RTB company started in 2014.
Copper mining and smelting is the key base of Bor's economy and the effects of decreased production can be seen all over the town. During the last two decades significant impacts on local rivers, wildlife and the atmosphere have been observed. For decades Bor and surrounding villages are suffering air and soil pollution due to production processes and slag dump sites, mainly sulfur dioxide accompanied with heavy metal particles; deforestation and land erosion from opening new mines; water pollution from the industrial process. Besides the industrial waste water, the municipal waste water has been discharged into the local rivers without any pre-treatment. The farmers and beekeepers also reported negative effects on their production. Despite the investments exceeding 300 million euros, recent modernisation of the copper foundry and smeltery the mine complex is still generating losses. Above all pollution didnât drop significant, making RTB even today not comply with occupational health and safety standards.
However, from 2007 onwards all attempts to find a buyer were unsuccessful. In summer 2016 state owned RTB Bor got approval of itâs restructuring plan including writing off 1 billion euro debt. More recently Serbian government urgent privatisation and restructuring state owned companies to fit the IMF conditions for a 1.2 billion euro loan. October 2016 the IMF agreed Serbia had a further six months to resolve difficulties at the indebted RTB Bor copper mine. The so called surplus manpower in the company, is estimated 1, 500 to 2, 000 in the administration. This could be the next chapter of Serbiaâs ongoing dilemmaâ
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