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27 Sep 2021

Sebastian Shehadi,
Investment Monitor

Public health crisis in Serbian village as air pollution raises to alarming levels; locals blame Chinese copper mine

“My laundry turns yellow outside”: How Chinese investment is polluting a Serbian town, 13 September 2021

A Chinese-run mine in Serbia is spewing high levels of pollution over the town of Bor. Why has it taken the Serbian government so long to react?

The Serbian town of Bor is synonymous with its enormous copper mine. However, an unfolding public health crisis is generating much darker associations...

“Problems with air pollution were pre-existent [in Bor]. However, China’s takeover has exacerbated these issues to alarming levels,” Tena Prelec, a research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations, told Investment Monitor in an interview earlier this year. “The Chinese have increased production capacity to levels that exceed the ability of the plants to keep pollution under control.” Pledges to make plants more eco-friendly have tended not to bear fruit yet, Prelec points out.

“Sulphur dioxide from the mine is visible to the naked eye,” [Irena Zivkovic, a resident of Bor] added. “It looks like fog, scratches the throat, makes you cough, burns your eyes. So [we] put handkerchiefs over our mouths, take shelter in a closed space, close the windows. Sulphur dioxide causes [or aggravates] bronchitis and asthma. During 2019, many children received asthma medications from doctors.”...

Unfortunately, the situation in Bor is part of a broader issue across Serbia – and the Balkans for that matter. Several other towns, such as Smederevo (where it sometimes rains red toxins), are also being crippled by unchecked heavy industry, often run by other Chinese companies that have been given carte blanche by complicit Serbian authorities...