In today’s public discussion regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Study for the open-pit mine “Centralno polje” in Gacko, Center for Environment has, next to a series of issues related to decades of environmental degradation due to mining, pointed out that the mining in this region has been ongoing without any of the required permits, including the environmental permit as well.
The object of this analysis which the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Construction and Ecology, if it accepts the Environmental Impact Assessment, will only now be permitting, is the open-pit mine “Centralno polje” in the city of Gacko, with a surface of 375 ha, situated right next to the settlement. Satellite imagery shows permanent degradation on a vast scale in the mining area, outgrowing the settlement itself, while spanning out of the area within which it’s operation was allowed.
“A public hearing is a place where the wider population can have their say on the effects the mine has on all aspects of the society and the environment, but it seems that in this case the public hearing was just a pro-forma, since the citizens have had their voice taken away from that a long time ago. The negative impact this company has on the surrounding area has been present for years, and it unfortunately continues without any meaningful sanation process or any measures to protect the people or the environment in the upcoming time”, stated Majda Ibraković, Energy and Climate Change Program Coordinator.
She continued to add that this example is yet another proof of the monopoly which one public company has, through which it can, at broad daylight and in front of the authorities and the local community, profit from a public good and for free, at the expense of the environment, the local community, as well as the public budget. The environmental study is still available for public for the following thirty days, so we would like to invite everyone, especially the citizens of Gacko to read the Environmental Impact Analysis and send in their comments. Center for Environment is preparing a set of comments, and is offering help to all those interested in attaining more information on this project.
The presentation of the Environmental Impact Assessment, which was made by the “Institute for protection and environment of Republika Srpska” Banja Luka, was attended by the representatives of Ministry of Spatial Planning, Construction and Ecology, who were in charge of its organisation, as well as by the representatives of Gacko municipality and of the Mine and TPP Gacko.
A local journalist and an activist, Milanka Kovačević stated the following: “It is very important to notice that this public presentation was not visited by the citizens other than those which were here due to their job description. To me this shows that the citizens are on one hand blackmailed or afraid for some reason to insist that the environmental processes are upheld, while on the other hand they’re silently agreeing to the continuation of mine and TPP’s operations even though they themselves will pay with their health and environment”
One of the basic issues with this project is the continued and unchecked pressure on the environment and the population of this area. Gatačko field is a unique area, known for its karst landscapes abundant in underground and open streams which have been exploited and polluted for years, while receiving a minimal amount of attention in this Environmental Impact Assessment. The long lasting coal exploitation in this area has created a permanent damage to the complete scenery, the ecosystem, agricultural area, pastures, forests, streams and animals, and this study has, while not providing an adequate estimate of impact or recommendations for its mitigation, failed to answer the question: what is the purpose of such an environmental impact assessment, when the coal is already being illegally exploited for decades?