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Branko Zečević, President Of The Geological And Mining Association Of Serbia (GRAS)

New Mines Bring New Technologies

If the version of amendments to the Law on Mining is finally adopted, we will receive one of the best laws in Europe and the world. This is one of the preconditions for Serbia to be able to fully utilise its capacities in this area and enable intensive momentum for mining

Rest assured that no one will open a new mine in Serbia tomorrow using twentieth-century technology – says Branko Zečević, president of the Geological and Mining Association of Serbia (GRAS). The foreign companies that are coming to Serbia apply the latest technologies and solutions in mining, which relate to both the efficient exploitation of ores and a positive relationship towards environmental protection.

In your opinion, to what extent will the announced amendments to the Law on Mining impact on improving procedures in this area?

In the past few weeks, GRAS has been working intensively with the Ministry of Mining and Energy on a proposal to amend the Mining Law. I think that, in the end, we reached a jointly harmonised version that will satisfy both the state and investors. If this version of amendments to the Law on Mining is finally adopted, that will mean Serbia receiving a law that can be considered one of the best in Europe and anywhere in the world.

How can it be ensured that the shortening of procedures still satisfies the large number of conditions for the entire process to be led transparent and responsibly?

The introduction of e-government to the process of submitting applications and issuing solutions will speed up the process itself, as well as rendering it more transparent. However, a large number of steps and necessary permissions, approvals and other documents exist that are not issued by the Ministry of Mining itself, so it remains for us to see what these changes will mean in practise.

Serbia must redevelop its base industry to a much higher level than it is at today, and I’m hopeful of some practical steps in that direction

Is this enough, or will it be necessary to make changes to some other laws and regulations?

This is an essential first step. After that, work should continue with other ministries and administrative bodies on the harmonisation of laws and regulations, in order for us to ease and accelerate the issuance of permits and approvals. The process is complex and there is still a lot of work ahead of us.

Although we always consider mining as being an extremely labourintensive activity, we are witnessing the grad entry of Industry 4.0. and digital transformation into this sector. Where are we in this; and what can we hope for in the coming period?

The vast majority of mining and geological companies that are active in Serbia monitor the latest advances in our industry. Some of them are also world leaders in their fields, so mining will certainly be in step with world trends.

The planning of new mines is today done with the world’s highest environmental standards in mind, while production itself is envisaged in accordance with the latest technological achievements. Rest assured that no one will open a new mine tomorrow using twentieth-century technology.

To what extent are local experts and other resources engaged in this revival of mining as a branch of industry?

I believe that all existing professional resources in Serbia are already included in the development of mining. Mining has become an increasingly attractive branch of the economy in recent years, so the existing number of experts are constantly being joined by new generations of geologists and mining engineers. I hope that even more young people will opt for a career in this field, because it offers the prospect of fast employment with the possibility of advancement for those who are ready to keep learning and follow the latest achievements worldwide.

Mining must be environmentally and socially acceptable, and that means that it mustn’t harm local communities, rather it should include them in the process itself, in such a way that local communities see their own advantage from mining projects

Countries with valuable raw materials very rarely manage to retain the added value because, apart from mining the ore, they lack the processing capacities. Where are we in this equation and what could we realistically do to produce higher value products in this sector?

Serbia can’t be viewed as a country that only has ores and lacks expert personnel or an industry that can utilise such resources for the production of goods with a higher level of processing. It is true that a lot of the potential and capacities of the base and metallurgical industries has been lost during transition, but we are also witnessing investments by major world players in new plants (Zi Jing, Rio Tinto). It is also noticeable that the state has a desire to attract more investments in this area, in order for us to make the optimal use of our resources.

Serbia must redevelop its base industry to a much higher level than it is at today, and I’m hopeful of some practical steps in that direction.

What are the fundamentals of sustainable mining today, and what are the essential prerequisites for that?

Sustainable mining is something of an awkward notion, because mining by definition exploits non-renewable resources. This means that every mine is destined to stop working at some point, because the resources will be depleted. As such, planning the work of a mine must start from the end, i.e. from how the operations of a mine will end and what will be left behind. It is quite possible to carry out land reclamation and construct facilities that can be very attractive. Mining must be environmentally and socially acceptable, and that means that it mustn’t harm local communities, rather it should include them in the process itself, and should do so in such a way that local communities see their own advantage from mining projects. Mining must use resources in the most optimal way, so that they yield the highest possible value for the wider community.