Serbia: A neoliberal blast on mining
The results of the operation of modern mineral raw materials business arrangements are visible, and the good will not come by itself, it should be summoned. So let’s get rid of the misconceptions and pull the manual until we became just a hired labour force on our land with our mineral resources.
In liberated Serbia, Majdanpek was the first mine to start production in 1847. Significant funds were invested and high hopes were laid, the idea was to create the basis for the industrialization of Serbia by the production of iron and copper in Majdanpek. No goal was achieved in a decade of work, the attempt was unsuccessful. The same happened to the Kucajn, Avala and Kosmaj mines. Following these experiences, a decision was made to issue concessions and invest in private geological exploration and ore mining.
Coal as an energy source becomes significant with the invention of the steam engine, and by the end of the first half of the 19th century, the first coal mines were opened in Serbia – Miliva, Vrdnik, Misača and the particularly important Senj mine, the state mine to date, for the supply of coal to Topolivnica in Kragujevac, and later for the supply of the railway with the construction of the Belgrade – Nis railway. In addition to the railway and Topolivnica, the gradual increase in interest in coal in Serbia is influenced by the construction of the first industrial steam-powered plants (mills, sawmills, breweries, etc.), and especially the emergence of steam ships on the Danube.
In the middle of the second half of the 19th century, coal mining began in Kostolac, and was used to supply ships on the Danube, in brick factories and was exported to Vojvodina and Romania. With the growth of coal demand, new mines are being opened: Vrška Čuka coal mine – Avramica, Aleksinac and others. At the end of the 19th century there was the discovery of a rich “red gold” mine in Bor, the opening of an antimony mine and other non-ferrous and precious metal ores and raw materials for cement production.
The arrival of young educated professionals in the country in the second half of the 19th century, though not sufficiently numerous, had a striking effect on the opening and development of mines, on planning and directing mineral exploration, on establishing geoengineering standards in the construction of structures (railways, roads, bridges, etc.). ), to modernize mining legal and normative regulations, to modernize and establish a functional organization of the state administration for mining, and especially important – to lay the foundations of school and scientific development of mining, geological and Serbian engineering, to form a Serbian knowledgeable society from which the Serbian royal academy originated.
To summarize the development of Serbian mining in the 19th century, it ranged between the initial setbacks and the efforts of the state to revive and initiate mining and significant results in the last decades.
At the beginning and during the first half of the 20th century, the started trends continued. Serbia with a modest economy has shown no desire to adequately evaluate its mineral resources. There was an interest only in the exploitation of ores of gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc and antimony. All major mines were in the hands of foreign capital, whose basic business principles were contained in an effort to maximize the benefits with investments. In these circumstances, mining functioned during the first half of the 20th century.
A strategic support
After the Second World War, the mines were nationalized in a demolished and ravaged country. In such an environment, great investment and professional efforts were being made to revitalize and revive mining. The shortage of experts was quite visible, aware of that fact, the state was responding and deliberately moving to the opening of educational and scientific institutions with the task of providing engineering and scientific support to development.
Mining was a strategic pillar of the economic and general progress of Yugoslavia and Serbia, as a republic with the strongest mineral economy, on which the development of the extraction industry, namely energy, metallurgy, mechanical engineering, building materials industry, electronic and electrical industry, agriculture, water management, was based. chemical, pharmaceutical, etc. Mining had a very important function in addressing demographic and social issues as well as regional development issues, then a very significant position in the country’s foreign trade balance and potential to reduce the sensitivity and dependence of the national economy on geopolitical and other external influences.
In the second half of the 20th century, the Serbian mineral resource complex made a huge contribution to the whole national being, direct and indirect effects were over $ 200 billion in profits and an immeasurable contribution to the independence and sovereignty of the country. Even in the years of great decline at the end of the millennium, mining with agriculture was the most reliable economic pillar of the country. During the economic and political sanctions and isolation of Serbia, the country survived thanks to agriculture – food production and mining, above all the exploitation of energy mineral resources.
All mining contributions are not quantifiable or metric, and they relate primarily to road, rail, housing and water infrastructure construction, industry incentives, investments in health, education, culture, science, research, publishing, sports, tourism, to extremely significant support for archaeology. In the second half of the 20th century, Serbian mining went through three development stages.
After the liberation in the devastated country, strategic priority was given to the mineral resource complex as a basic industry branch, and in very scarce financial, technical, technological and personnel conditions, the reconstruction of existing mines and the opening of new mines began. Well-designed and guided activities, supported by enthusiasm, renunciation and percussion, have produced results and initiated the exploitation of mineral resources, which is entering a new development phase in the 1950s. Advanced and safe exploitation technologies with a focus on surface exploitation are introduced, highly mechanized production is multiplying, production results and technological results were achieved that place our mining at the top of the most developed mining economies in the world.
Progress continued until the last decade of the 20th century, when the break of Yugoslavia, sanctions and economic isolation, the destruction of the country by NATO bombing, transition and privatization that ravaged the country and destroyed its economy. Consequences of this did not bypass mining, there was a decline and disappearance of progressive power, a fall in production or a complete shutdown of the mine, a technological and technological backlog and collapse, and the suspension of investment in geological exploration (reminder- in the period 1980-1990. more than $ 15 million invested was, as much as $ 18.5 million in one year).
A devastated economy
There have been job losses, a large drop in salaries and staff outflows, especially by experienced highly educated professionals. Social turbulence and political turmoil further complicate relations and adversely affect personnel topology in state-owned mines. Human resources were positioned according to the criterion of political eligibility rather than proven expertise, due to ignorance and lack of expertise, mistakes are made, omissions and great harm were done.
This situation also affects the situation in research and education. Devastated mining industry, in its struggle to survive, loses its absorption power and interest in implementing scientific and technical innovations, which causes a drop in turnover in the market for engineering and creative services, and is evident in reducing the need for scientific, applied and innovative research services. This is reflected in the decline in personal income, the outflow of people from the faculties, institutes and the emergence of interest groups, autistic incarceration to avoid public and professional criticism, the emergence of unfair competition and tendering, the collapse of criteria and the erosion of the level of scientific and professional evaluation. The result is improvisation and a decline in the quality of engineering and creative solutions, the application of which causes additional damage and complicates the difficult situation in the mining industry, etc.
The final outcome of this process, which in a short time devastated the Serbian economy and its mineral resource complex, was the generation of an environment conducive to colonial predating on our resources.
This prospecting flight over the course of mining from the distant past to the present has been necessary because of the response to the puzzles over the objectives of the business arrangements that are being offered to us today, and which are insufficiently perceived without protecting our mineral resources as real high value capital, without protecting our national interests, our and the future of our descendants.
In regulated, strong, organized and enlightened states with clearly defined property relations, state or mixed but not completely private, mining was the industry of most (strategic) importance to the state, privileged status with precise regulation and rules protecting mineral resources, economic interests, security and sovereignty of the state.
In contrast, in a poorly organized state such as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with privately owned mines, or in times of war and enslavement, mineral resources are exposed to looting, with visible or disguised indications of slavery as a phenomenon occurring with the transition from traditional to modern society. In medieval Serbia, at that time mining superpower, slavery did not exist. These facts must not be overlooked, they are very important for thinking about today’s entitlements for geological exploration and exploitation of mineral resources.
Today, in a time of liberal ideology that presents itself as something universal and an inevitable consequence of the historical experience of Western society in the era of modernism, the processes that liberalism generates are not accidental, as is the case with the imposition of sanctions, bombing, a transition that has devastated the country economically and prepared for its emergence, business predators on the mineral and other resources of Serbia, which not hijack openly but covertly offer “modern” arrangements for starting businesses.
The rhetoric used to camouflage colonialist intentions convinces us that we do not have the knowledge and material resources for geological exploration, that billions of dollars that we do not possess are needed to open mines, that the probability of success in mining is similar to gambling, that of 500 explorations one mine is opened etc. The meaning of such nonsense has been programmed to calculate the domestic scientific and professional memory and masking the predators’ entrepreneurial intentions for mineral resources.
The merits of domestic wit
It is not said how the documentation from geological funds – collected through decades of geological research into which Serbia (the state and the mining industry) has invested more than $ 1 billion – has come into the hands of predators. It is undesirable to know that the documentation collected in this way serves to navigate not how “expensive geological exploration of millions of dollars is invested”, but rather to navigate possible explorations of known sites.
It is undesirable to hear that Serbian mining and geology in the second half of the last century was raised by the domestic intelligence to the highest technical and technological levels and that the realized production and economic results were measurable by the criteria of the most developed mineral economies in the world. These achievements should be forgotten and erased from memory in order to create conditions for a mist of illusions and a romantic idea of the emergence of “rescuers” interested in investing in geological exploration and exploitation of Serbia’s mineral resources.
Have these kinds of business events happened in the past or are they only happening today? The answer is decisive: nothing happens today that is unknown to mining history, only new players are new with a new entrepreneurial spirit and the skill to perform in a modern sense. The equivalence of today’s events in the mineral resource complex with the events of certain periods in the past is indisputable, and it is undeniable that the outcome of such processes in the past has always been devastating to the economy and national interests.
The rhetoric used to camouflage colonialist intentions convinces us that we do not have the knowledge and material resources for geological exploration, that billions of dollars are not needed to open mines, that the probability of success in mining is similar to gambling, that of 500 explorations one mine is opened etc.
Missing one of the elements of statehood – territory, population, natural resources and government – there is no state. What kind of sovereignty is it when mineral resources belong to foreigners, carrying with them parts of the territory in which mineral resources are exploited. A state whose budget depends on the mercy of foreign “investors” is not capable of managing its resources, hindering the exploitation of mineral resources, devastating the environment, independently enacting legal and normative regulations on geological research and mining, etc. In that case, Serbia would become a regulatory state instead of a developmental state, which in a neoliberal sense means a neo-colonial economic system.
In addition to the targeted destruction of the country’s economic and economic potential, the combined effects of sanctions, bombing, devastating transition and tycoon privatization, which could not bypass the mining economy as part of the country’s economic system, there are numerous mistakes we have made and can make, even under pressure from different sides from the outside, to avoid or at least minimize their negative effect.
The Mineral Resources Management Algorithm is provided by the Mining and Geological Survey Act, which ambitiously integrates all (broad) areas of mining and geology with a highly dispersed problem orientation. In the conglomerate of errors is the positioning of the state administration above the profession, formalization of procedures for the allocation of investigative or exploitation rights on the basis of submitted project documentation – without the possibility of rejecting objects if they are “paperwork” correct, payment method and fees for the exploration area or exploitation field, fees for the use of mineral the raw materials, organization and enforce-ability of inspection control of geological and mining works, etc., are only parts of the legal construction that has allowed the creation of an environment suitable for “modern” arrangements for the initiation of operations in geology and mining. The results of this approach are visible, no comment is needed.
The assumption of a homemade attitude towards the mineral resource complex of Serbia, above all, implies the revitalization of awareness that it is a non-renewable, highly valuable resource of the highest national importance, capital that nature has subverted to us, which must not be left to the element and will of private, especially foreign capital driven solely by profit. Changing the relationship to the mineral resource complex means changing the control and management mechanisms.
Surveillance mechanisms should ensure – complete, stable and reliable state supervision of geological exploration and exploitation of mineral resources, and management mechanisms – professional, timely and efficient actions that should prevent the use of deposits, frauds related to the production and arrival of mines, play out warranty obligations for reclamation and arranging mining operations for degraded landscapes, hiding data and documentation of geological surveys, etc.
Establishing a host relationship to the mineral resource complex is not unknown experimentally and historically, and has always started from the understanding that mineral resources for the country have the highest strategic importance. Given our reality and the limits of the feasibility of ideas, changing the understanding of the functional importance and lack of revenue mechanisms such as concessions, mining rents, fees for exploration and exploitation law, etc., and establishing an effective supervisory-management mechanism by partnership between the state and private capital, the state invests in its business its capital – mineral raw materials, and the investor his funds for geological exploration, start-up and organization of production.
The partnership does not endanger the nature of investors’ financial interests, but it does provide a stable view of the business, provides immediate and effective restraint on the use of beds, inaccurate reporting, concealment of relevant data, environmental devastation, etc. The assumption of the realization of the partnership between the state and private capital implies a fundamental reconstruction of legal and normative regulation, logical and physical topology of the state apparatus in charge of mining and geology.