Final Arguments in the Trial of ‘Zijin’ for the Criminal Offense of Environmental Pollution Scheduled for Early September

In the Basic Court in Bor, a procedure has been ongoing for over a year against the company “Serbia Zijin Copper doo Bor” and a responsible individual, according to the indictment of the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Bor, for the criminal offense of Environmental Pollution. The defendants 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 increased, leading the Regional Institute for Renewable Energy and the Environment (RERI) to file a report to the prosecutor’s office in Bor. Environmental associations in Bor and Zajecar are also following this legal procedure as part of the “Environmental Response in Timočka Krajina” project funded by the EU, implemented by the Association “Za Drinking Fountains” and partner organizations from Zajecar and Bor.

Emila Tosic, a republican inspector for environmental protection, was summoned as a witness at the last main hearing on April 17, 2024, where she stated that she stands by her statement given during the hearing at the Prosecutor’s Office. Based on multiple reports of increased concentrations of sulfur dioxide during the mentioned period, she filed reports against Zijin for economic offenses, which also led to judgments in the Economic Court in Zajecar.

The defendants’ lawyers requested the judge to summon an expert witness and a proposed expert advisor for the next hearing, to which the prosecutor objected, stating that it would further prolong the proceedings, and since the facts have been established, Judge Milanka Stojanovic, after a break, rejected the defense’s proposal and scheduled closing arguments for the defense and the prosecutor for September 3 at 12 o’clock.

Representatives of RERI, the complainants against the company Zijin, emphasize that this hearing also passed without establishing relevant facts, which, according to Ljubica Vukčević, RERI’s lawyer, may be sufficient for the court to render a lawful judgment.

Vukčević added that the judge stated that there is a dilemma as to whether this criminal matter pertains to a previously adjudicated issue, considering that the Economic Court in Zajecar has already issued final judgments related to the period of pollution covered by this indictment in this criminal proceeding. Therefore, if “Zijin” has been definitivelyconvicted of an economic offense, it cannot be definitively convicted in this criminal proceeding.

However, RERI argues that these are two completely different situations because the economic offense concerns unlawful actions and violations of the Air Protection Act regarding the maintenance of technical and technological processes at the company, resulting in the company being convicted of an economic offense, while RERI is addressing the consequence of the economic offense, namely environmental pollution to a greater extent.

It is particularly important to note that the subject of the economic offense, as confirmed by the environmental inspector, is actually sulfur dioxide pollution, while the subject of this criminal proceeding is pollution with heavy metals, as determined by the Institute of Chemistry and Metallurgy at the University of Belgrade.

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.