MAC: Mines and Communities

The Balkan brown coal blunder

Published by MAC on 2015-10-01
Source: Nostromo Research

Brown coal - aka lignite - is among the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Mining it from open pits can create profoundly negative impacts on soil, vegetation, water, air - not to mention the health, safety and livelihoods
of people in neighbouring communities.

Such has already been the experience of those dwelling close to lignite mines in Germany.

However, nowhere is it more self-evident than in the Balkan states of Kosovo and Serbia, whose Kolubara Mining Basin is one of the largest sources of lignite anywhere in the world.

Mining here has continued relentlessly for over fifty years - although interrupted by the vast country-wide floods of 2014. Burning this lignite provides the majority of Serbia's electricity, through the state-owned company, EPS.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), along with German state development bank, KfW publicly commit to the “de-carbonisation” of European Union economies and thus a marked reduction in their current over-dependence on fossil fuels.

Despite this, in 2011, both banks invested in a programme, ostensibly designed to “improve the environment “of the Kolubara basin, and a “better” use of lignite, so as to lower Serbia's overall CO2 emissions.

But this programme did little more than improve mechanisation at the mining site - effectively increasing the amount of lignite extracted, and adding to the country's toll of greenhouse gas emissions.

Consequently,several hundred families living within the mines' huge “footprint”, already suffering from ill-health and environmental deterioration caused by lignite extraction, have found themselves “between a rock and a hard place”.

Faced with increasing danger, damage, and threats to livelihoods, the people united in making demands that they be resettled as integral communities. They invoked rules, laid down by the EBRD itself, to ensure that this process be c arried out justly, completely, and that their chosen economic means of survival would, at the least, be equivalent to what it was before relocation.

Their struggle is far from ended - as graphically depicted in a new report by Nostromo Research, published last week by CEEBankwatch, with the
backing of Serbian social justice and environmental protection organisations.

Among its conclusions:

In fact, at the end of next month (October 2015) the board of EBRD is due to consider providing another, 200 million euro "restructuring" loan, to
Serbia's EPS.

In all good conscience, the banks cannot wash their hands of the mess and misery for which they have been significantly responsible in the first

The report mentioned above can be downloaded at:


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