Delaying Tactics Employed in the Judicial Process

For over a year now, proceedings have been ongoing against the company “Serbia Zijin Cooper Bor” and its responsible individual at the Basic Court in Bor, based on the indictment of the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Bor, for the criminal offense of Environmental Pollution. The accused are charged with being responsible for air pollution in Bor from June 2019 to November 2020, during which concentrations of pollutants in the air were significantly elevated, leading the Regional Institute for Renewable Energy and the Environment (RERI) to file a report with the prosecutor’s office in Bor. In the previous hearing, the accused pleaded not guilty.

For the latest hearing on January 24, 2024, witnesses who had already provided statements to the prosecution were summoned, along with an expert. However, Judge Milanka Stojanović noted the absence of environmental protection inspector Emila Tošić in the courtroom, so only Dušanka Miljković, the longtime head of the Environmental Protection Service at “Serbia Zijin Cooper Bor,” was heard. Among other things, she stated that during instances of air pollution exceeding limits, there were occasional shutdowns at certain units, including complete production stoppages at the Smelter. However, when asked by the prosecutor when this occurred, she claimed not to remember.

Commenting on the trial, RERI’s lawyer Ljubica Vukčević stated that this witness provided no useful information because the prosecution simply wasn’t interested in asking questions, while the defense directed questions to responses favorable to the accused and the defense.

Besides RERI’s lawyers, environmental associations in Bor and Zaječar are also monitoring this legal process as part of the “Environmental Response in Timočka Krajina” project funded by the EU. Environmental activist Toplica Marjanović, commenting on the hearing of January 24, stated that much has changed in the past 3 years, including the construction of a new Smelter with a desulfurization system for flue gases. However, he highlighted that the current issue is dust pollution containing arsenic and other heavy metals. He emphasized that since the new Smelter began operating, Bor has had a constant presence of arsenic, and the concentration of cadmium is steadily increasing, which poses even greater risks to public health. This indicates that the air pollution problem in Bor has not been resolved, and this trial demonstrates both the readiness and capability of our judiciary to work independently on one hand, and on the other, the extent of their legal, moral, and ethical responsibility towards protecting citizens’ air quality.

The continuation of the trial in Bor is scheduled for April 17, 2024, at 12 p.m.

Association “Za Drinking Fountains”

This text was produced within the project “Environmental response to mining expansion in Timočka Krajina” funded by the European Union, and implemented by the Association “Za Drinking Fountains”, the Association of Young Researchers Bor, Civic Library “Europe” Bor and Children’s Center Zaječar. The content of the text is entirely responsibility of these associations and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.