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News 11 May 17

Bosnian Serbs Protest Mine Sale to Israelis

The Serb entity government’s plan to sell its stake in the Ljubija ore mine to Israelis is meeting opposition in the Republika Srpska. 

BIRN Team
Banja Luka
Photo: Klix.ba

Some 500 Bosnian workers for the iron-ore mine operator Arcelor Mittal Prijedor took to the streets of the main city in Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, on Thursday, to protest against the government’s decision to sell the Ljubija iron-ore mine to Israeli Investment Group.

Bosnian Serb politicians should not support the sale of the mine to the Israelis, the chairman of the union at the Prijedor-based company told BIRN. “We don't want Israeli Investment Group as our employer. We are happy with our current employer,” Milanko Stojnic said.

ArcelorMittal’s own bid for the mine fell short of the 47 million euros that was offered by the Israelis. As a result, in April, the entity government announced that it had selected Israeli Investment Group to buy the state’s majority stake in the company.

Workers for ArcelorMittal Prijedor are concerned about their future rights and status as the Israelis look set to gain an indirect share in their own company, because ArcelorMittal Prijedor is a joint venture of ArcelorMittal and RZR Ljubija.

Stojnic noted that by expressing support for ArcelorMittal, the workers hope to encourage MPs in the assembly of Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity to stop the deal from going ahead. “We hope the MP's will realise they need to consider all the facts again,” he added.

During Thursday’s protests, the workers, who plan to lodge a petition with the entity assembly, carried banners with slogans reading: "Do not send us to the streets while you remain in office".

The CEO of ArcelorMittal, Mladen Jelaca, told BIRN that his employees have the support of the company management. “It is their right, as workers, to express their thoughts on issues that they consider important for their future,” Jelaca said.

He claimed that the sale of Ljubija had been politicised, while the crucial economic side of things was being ignored.  “This is a very important economic issue for Prijedor, the RS and for the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It should have been considered from a professional standpoint rather than a political one,” Jelaca said.

Media reports said the leaders of the opposition Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, Vukota Govedarica, and the head of PDP, Borislav Borenovic, attended the rally.

On Thursday, the assembly’s committee for economic affairs urged the RS government withdraw the sale of Ljubija from the National Assembly’s agenda.

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