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Serb Villagers Defend Wildlife from UK Mining Giant

February 1, 2005

Wary over mining-related environmental disasters (such as the one referred to yesterday), residents of two Serbian villages vowed to fight the arrival of British company European Nickel, which won a license last year to explore in advance of potential nickel mining in two places – including a protected national park.

According to Tanjug, their efforts were successful in at least the case of Mokra Gora, a protected national park, when on 25 January Dinara Nickel of Belgrade “officially abandoned the project.”A day earlier, Reuters had reported that European Nickel (the owner of Dinara Nickel) has been given the go-ahead by the government to start exploring in Lipovac, in central Serbia, as well as in the village of Mokra Gora near Mount Tara, “a protected natural park in southwest Serbia.”

While the government states that the exploration is “completely benign,” and that the British company’s new acid leach process would not harm the environment, villagers begged to differ. (As do some environmentalist groups).

Villagers were bolstered by the pledge of a celebrity – filmmaker Emir Kusturica, who set his latest movie in Mokra Gora and has since moved there – to fight the mining giant.

“Somebody granted the exploration rights against the law and will be held accountable,” Kusturica told Reuters. “We’ll do whatever it takes to defend this virgin land from those who want to destroy the environment, take the money and run.”

In fact, despite the Ministry of Energy and Mining’s having given permission to European Nickel, another official agency – the government-run Institute for Nature Protection – had originally rejected the venture, considering Mokra Gora’s natural park status, “…but their decision had been overturned.”

The institute’s head, Lidija Amidzic, told Reuters that nickel mining was harmful and that the natural wildlife and organic food “…can bring a lot more dollars than nickel.” Serbia has great agricultural potential and indeed the desire for organic farming has been meeting with increasing favor over the past few years.

 

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