UN to restore huge mining complex in Kosovo

Officials of the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) have signed an agreement with an international mining consortium to bring the Trepca mining and metallurgical complex back to environmental and economic viability.

The group taking over the mine, ITT Kosovo Consortium Ltd, will produce an environmental mitigation plan, and a financial viability study, and will take remedial actions, including repairing or replacing safety and production equipment. The consortium is a joint venture of TEC-Ingenierie of France, Bolidan Contech of Sweden and Morrison Knudsen International of the US, and, according to the UN, is part of a wider effort to regenerate Kosovo’s industrial power base.

By employing a force of about 2000 workers from all communities in the region in northern Kosovo, the revived mining complex could alleviate tensions in the area, said the Head of UNMIK, Dr Bernard Kouchner. “Now we can get to work to bring Trepca back to life and back to the people of Kosovo,” said Kouchner.

In a dramatic step on 14 August, the UN used force to take control of a smelter in Zvecan, included in the Trepca complex, which has increased levels of led in the atmosphere to 200 times internationally accepted standards, according to UNMIK. The UN is reported to have been forced to replace 40 British soldiers with their French counterparts when they came under attack from a crowd of 400 Serbs at the smelter.

According to the UN, smelter workers were informed that they would continue to be paid pending a retrofit at the plant, including the installation of air control filter, though, after touring the smelter, Kouchner said that the state of disrepair was far worse than he had expected. “This will be a huge task,” he said. “This factory is in a desperate state.”

Blood tests of soldiers of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) serving near the smelter were taken in early August found lead levels to be unacceptably high, says the UN.

“We are not acting against the Serbs, but in favour of the Serbs,” said Kouchner. “We will refurbish this very old dinosaur and we will re-open it as soon as possible for them.”

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