Center for Environment has filed a lawsuit against the Decision of the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Civil Engineering and Ecology of the Republic of Srpska for approving the Environmental Impact Assessment for the  open pit mine Gacko – Centralno Polje. The final version of the EIA was approved in January followed by the environmental impact assessment procedure for the project of coal exploitation at the new open pit mine in Gacko. The investor (RiTE Gacko) is currently in the process of obtaining an environmental permit for the above mentioned mine and citizens can submit their comments to the competent ministry by March 4th.

In the denied decision and the mentioned study, it is disputable that during this process the neighboring countries were not consulted, according to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (ESPOO) which was ratified by Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2009. The negative impacts of this project in the cross-border context mostly relate to the regime of underground and surface water stream in Gatačko polje, especially the water stream of the river Mušnica, which partly springs as Trebišnjica and ends in the Adriatic Sea.

Considering that RiTE Gacko mine has been carrying out illegal activities and exploiting coal at the mentioned site for more than three years before the process of EIA and obtaining permits, the regime of these waters has already been significantly changed. This was, among other things, the reason and argument of the Complaint to the Energy Community Secretariat, which Center for Environment submitted to the Secretariat in July last year. The study does not mention the specific effects of transformation of the landscapes and riverbeds on the environment, especially on the endemic species from the red list – gatačka gaovica (Telestes metohiensis) and protected brown trout (Salmo trutta) according to the Regulation on protected wild species in Republika Srpska. For this reason, it is necessary to assess the damage already done to the environment of this area.

“State-owned companies like Gacko mine and power plant are constantly treated with benefits, because they perform activities of so called public interest that are proclaimed by the Government. Therefore, they are implicitly allowed to violate the law in the context of the environment and are thus protected by the competent ministries, inspections and other authorities, that should actually protect the interests of the public and not the polluters. We call on the public to get involved in this case, among other things by reacting in a timely manner and submitting comments on the request for an environmental permit”, said Majda Ibrakovic, assistant in the Energy and Climate Change Program. She emphasizes the expectation of the competent authorities to react urgently to the harmful exploitation of coal in the Mine and Power plant in Gacko, which is currently taking place outside of the procedures and laws.

“All illegal activities on coal exploitation must be adequately sanctioned, primarily by suspending them, repeating the EIA procedure and determining responsibility, the damage caused and  more severe measures for environmental protection.”