Mining is based on its own resources and employs the local population. This always has a positive effect on the development of secondary branches of the economy.
The Geological and Mining Association of Serbia (GRAS) represents the majority of foreign companies that are active in the mining sector in Serbia. We talked with Branko Zečević, Chairman of the Board and President of GRAS – Metalfer Group, about the changes in the law regulating mining, the impact of the pandemic, but also the development of the mining sector in Serbia.
The adoption of the new Mining Law is in progress. You took part in drafting this law. What issues did you want to see covered by this law and what changes should this law bring about?
GRAS has been involved in the work on the amendments to the Mining Law since the beginning of the public debate because as a professional association, we have a large professional capacity and our members have plenty of experience. We insisted that the law should not contain ambiguous provisions and should provide continuous legal security for geological and mining companies that are investing large funds in this economic branch. Thanks to our well-explained stances based on the experience of the real sector, we have contributed to harmonizing the text of the amendments to the Mining Law which has substantially improved the law and will make Serbia an even more attractive investment destination.
The pandemic has slowed but not completely stopped investments in mining worldwide
Mining and Energy Minister Zorana Mihajlović has announced significant reforms in the energy and mining sector. What do you think should be done to improve the mining sector in Serbia?
The faster development of the mining sector is hampered by the various procedures which need to be completed to obtain approvals and permits of various types. There is a lot of inconsistency between the different laws that are implemented and investors are forced to turn to different state bodies to collect documentation which slows down and complicates the whole process. A change that would significantly facilitate this process would be for investors to have the possibility to apply only in one place that is in charge of geological and mining matters. Otherwise, mining has a significant development potential that can contribute to a noticeable increase in GDP. Mining is based on its own resources and employs the local population. This always has a positive effect on the development of secondary branches of the economy in the areas where the mines are located.
How did the pandemic affect the operations and development of the mining sector in Serbia and other countries?
The pandemic has slowed but not completely stopped investments in mining worldwide. In the past year, there was a drop in metal prices and that had a negative impact on the entire mining sector. However, the recovery of our sector and the growth of metal and mineral prices are already taking place as a result of the increased economic activity in the whole world. Serbia follows global trends.
By definition, mining uses non-renewable resources. What else needs to be done to ensure that the exploitation of minerals is in line with the environmental protection postulates?
Mining has changed a lot compared to what the average person thinks about it. Almost all mining companies today are much more concerned with protecting the environment and the impacts that their operations can have on both the immediate and distant environment, as well as on local communities. Modern mines are planned by starting from the end of mining operations, i.e. mine closure. Each mine has its own estimated lifespan because they exploit non-renewable resources. We need to think about that moment and what remains after mining operations subside. That site must be rehabilitated and its condition reinstated so that it can be used for other purposes and be safe.
How does GRAS contribute to the development of mining in Serbia? Which activities would you single out?
GRAS is a professional association through which our members realize their interests, exchange experiences and receive advice and guidance. Almost all mining companies in Serbia, whether domestic or foreign, are members of GRAS. By acting together with third parties, we ensure that our opinion is heard and respected. We actively cooperate with all relevant state bodies, as well as international professional associations. Our strategic interest is to improve and develop mining in Serbia, which we wholeheartedly support.