Announcements about the opening of a lignite coal mine in the village of Bistrica and locality of Bukova kosa, both in the area of Potkozarje in the municipality of Prijedor, have caused uncertainty and concern among the local population, who are appealing to the authorities not to allow it, pointing out that the consequences will be catastrophic, both for the health and the lives of the locals, it was warned today at a press conference held at the Center for the Environment.

Those are private mines, for which, in both cases, self-initiated offers for concessions were submitted by the company “Drvo-Ekport” d.o.o. from Teslić.

According to Dragan Ostić, Assistant in the Energy and Climate Change program in Center for the Environment, Bistrica case started few years back, when Božo Marić started buying land from the locals, presenting the idea of ethno village, saying that the land will be used for the purpose of tourism development.

“After that, another company, “Drvo – Export” submits an independent initiative to the Government of Republika Srpska for concessions for the exploitation of coal at that location. Even without the Government’s decision on the granting of concessions, or the approval of the relevant ministries, without a concluded concession agreement, practically without any paper. . , and all this speaks in favor of the fact that this investor is arbitrarily trying to start exploitation. Less than a month ago, machines arrived in the village. They started to dig. Out of nowhere, the story about the coal mine is spreading through the village. A coal mine in a village called Bistrica (srb. clean) is a paradox of paradoxes. The machines are unmarked. People are against the mine. In Bukova Kosa also, people are not in favor of the mine. In Bukova Kosa, the investor still buys the land. Although people generally do not sell their land, investor is spreading misinformation in order to soften other people, so that they would believe that the village had been sold, so that they would also give up their land and sell it for nothing.”

Residents of Bukova Kosa organized citizens’ gatherings, while the residents of the Bistrica also organized protests against the opening of the mine.

“Nobody asked us anything. Everything in Bistrica is endangered: from the spring that supplies a dozen households, not far from it is another spring that supplies about fifty houses. My question is: what will happen when 50 houses run out of water? Who should we complain to? No one has yet declared who is doing all this. It would be fair if whoever is behind those digging steps out. It’s funny that this can happen in a state of law. I don’t know what else to say, except that we locals are disappointed in everyone. Everyone is with us, everyone is on our side, it must not be like that, but there is no progress. There was no progress neither in 7 days nor in 10 days, now we are slowly entering the second month of those events”, said Danijel Lazić, a resident of the Bistrica Local Community.

Lazić: “If they do not feel bad for walking on dead bodies, they will not find it problematic to walk on the living ones”
“I couldn’t even predict that our country will sell us this cheap. I thought people from Bistrica are worth much more. Whoever was in Bistrica, they saw the monument. Those people died for this country. I have to say with emotions, first when I see how disappointed my father is, the man who got shot in the war. My son is the fifth generation of my family who is born there. I ask myself: should he be in that place, or should we sell everything? Everything we earned, we made it with our hands, and everyone who lives there knows that. Should I sell my land and move to a foreign country and continue to live there and raise my children there? We are very disappointed. I cannot believe that someone is so arrogant, and that for the benefit of one or two, 500 people should suffer. I don’t see the point – this greed for money, that you are ready for these things. As my colleague said, about what is happening in Bukova Kosa: you have no problem walking over the dead people, but I see you have no problem walking over the living either.”

He stated that they organized an informal meeting, a gathering of citizens and a peaceful walk, and that they did not go outside their place, but that the dissatisfaction was huge.

“We will take more radical measures. There are over 200 of us who share info in Viber group. People share their ideas. We are reconsidering what to do. Maybe blocking the main road, maybe to go and protest in front of the Government building!”.

Miroslav Curić, who spoke at the conference as a representative of three local communities: Crna dolina, Veliko Palančište and Gornja Puharska, explained that their problem has been going on since January, and that at the first meetings it was said that ground research would start and that digging will start as soon as possible.

“They bought land from owners who do not live there. So far, they have bought about 20-25% of the area. “Vehicles are often seen on the field and thus create a kind of insecurity, some kind of unrest,” said Curić.

He mentioned that there was already a mine there, in the Second World War, and that after that a research was carried out, which determined that the sulfur content in coal has a high percentage – between 8 and 12%. That is a low-quality coal. Using this coal would greatly endanger the environment and the health of the citizens.

As he points out, there are many reasons against the opening of the mine.

“We have water sources that will certainly be endangered. Also, at that location is the execution ground of Jezerine, where 102 villagers were slaughtered in two days during the war. On that particular location they are planning a dump, which is very sad – for those people to be buried once again. If they come and open the mine, the only thing we can do is to move out. All that noise, sulphur, running out of water… and the main road to Kozarska Dubica would be destroyed. From the beginning, we insist that it is not just a problem of Veliko Palančište and Bukova Kosa, and that is why we are trying to introduce the City of Prijedor. But also Kozarska Dubica. Because exploitation will be done with a huge number of machines. Our institutions should take care of that. We have promises, but nothing has been fulfilled yet”.

Redžib Skomorac, legal advisor of the Center for the Environment, pointed out that there is no legal basis for granting concessions.

“In the current legislative framework in the Republika Srpska, the awarding of all concessions refers to the Document on the policy of awarding concessions of the Republic of Srpska, which was adopted back in 2006. In this document, the locations for granting concessions, as well as public goods for the disposal of individual municipalities, were foreseen. In that Document, which was valid until 2007, the exploitation of coal in Prijedor was not foreseen. The concessions that were possible were iron ore, clay, stone and mineral water. It is a strategic document that is adopted by the National Assembly, and to which the Government responds with its actions. The question is why that document was not revised and updated after 2006, although the Law on Concessions regulates that it should be revised every three years?

Therefore, in the best case, we have a legal gap that the Government is abusing, because you do not have an accompanying decision of the legislative body that would make the policy of granting concessions legitimate. For this reason, we filed a lawsuit against the Government’s decision, which initiates the procedure for granting a concession for coal exploration at the Bukova kosa site. That court proceeding is still ongoing and the Government should not enter into a harmful concession-legal relationship before the final decision of the competent court”.

Skomorac: “Coal mining in Prijedor is not possible!”
Here we have water assets, agricultural assets, we have locals. We have a National Park. Do we need one living wound next to the National Park? I leave that to the authorities to answer. Finalization of these projects is not possible. It has no legal basis. The document on the policy of awarding concessions is missing. Coal mining is not possible in Prijedor. Why was it not initiated by the Commission for Concessions? We do not know.

Skomorac emphasized that from the moment of filing a lawsuit against this decision of the Government, which challenges its legal basis, the Government and other administrative bodies would have to stop their actions at the request of the interested party, and such a request was sent by the Center for Environment.

“We tried with several letters and demands of that kind, according to the Commission for Concessions and the Ministry of Energy and Mining, as well as the Government, but the public authorities still have not responded. The Concessions Commission officially refused to act on such a request. “We have an abuse of authority by the competent authorities, because according to the Law on General Administrative Procedure, a conclusion had to be reached on the termination of the procedures carried out with the aim of awarding the contested concession,” he added.

In the case of Bistrica, he stated, there was a flagrant violation of the human right to a healthy environment, the right to property, the right to peaceful enjoyment of property and a peaceful and family life, as well as public order and peace, because unmarked vehicles, without information boards about works are making a serious encroachment on the area and access roads are built, roads are widened, without a single permit. And no one reacts.

“All the actions taken do indicate that the locals are left alone to fight, as nor the police or inspectors did not stop the illegal works. It is simply not understandable. If you have a legitimate concession policy, then the Government cannot be guided solely by the self-initiated offers and interests of private investors, because that is not the idea of having a legitimate government. During the Government Meeting on June 15, the proposed decision on the initiation of the concession award for Bistrica was considered, but we have information that it was not adopted, because the documentation was not fully completed. We were forced to file a criminal complaint against Unknown Individuals, due to the seizure and arbitrary exploitation of public goods. It is a procedure that is clearly aimed at exploitation. There’s coal there, that’s for sure. The location of the planned excavation coincides with the location of the crime. It is up to the Prosecutor’s Office to initiate the proceedings. We received a response from the special department of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Republika Srpska, who deals with the suppression of corruption, organized and economic crime, that they forwarded the criminal complaint to the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Prijedor. However, I believe that the Department for Organized Crime certainly has elements and reasons for acting in this case, and it is not enough to just forward the subject. We do not want to influence the Prosecutor’s Office, but we hope that the police will protect the citizens, because it is evident that we have an extraordinary management of property that significantly affects all the lives of the locals”.

Redžib Skomorac announced that the Center for the Environment, in the event of publication of the Government’s Decision on the initiation of the procedure for awarding the concession in the Bistrica location, will file a lawsuit against it and request a court decision.

“It is necessary for the authorities to urgently revise the previous actions, to urgently make conclusions on the suspension of administrative proceedings until the final decision of the court, and finally to make decisions on invalidating the decisions made by the Government regarding both cases. Otherwise, we have a huge source of legal uncertainty in a state that is trying to be a legal state.”

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There is no ongoing projects in "Our space" programme at the moment.

Besides projects defined by programmes, Center for environment is actively working on other topics in the field of environment and on networking with other organizations at the regional and international level. In the section "Other Projects" we are presenting projects which are not related to the specific program.

Ongoing project and activities Completed projects and activities

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