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Slideshow: Resettlement issues at the Kolubara lignite mine in Serbia

Kolubara: Blocked road

A blocked road by the mining operations in Vreoci. Villagers are not notified ahead of time about road blockages or other Kolubara mining activities.

Kolubara: Children in school

Children playing at the schoolyard of Vreoci. The Vreoci school is only 400 metres from the open pit of the mines. Some students have left, while others await resettlement.

Kolubara: Coal fires

Coal fires in the open mine in Vreoci. This phenomenon called “spontaneous combustion” is an oxidation reaction that occurs naturally. Coal fires are highly hazardous to the health of the communities around the mine and emit a range of gases, including toxic substances, carcinogens and heavy metals.

Kolubara: A man showing his cracked house

Simic in front of his house in Radljevo, which is damaged by tremors from the nearby mining activities. Tremors and heavy noise are every day occurrences in the villages around the Kolubara mining complex.

Kolubara: Coal excavator

A coal excavator in the open mine field in Vreoci. The EBRD’s recently financed project, Environmental Improvement to the Kolubara Plant, justifies its success by reducing 200,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. However, the coal reserve intended for use in the coming years at the Kolubara Plant represents 500 million tonnes of CO2 that will be released into the atmosphere, dwarfing the environmental improvements.

Kolubara: Demolished house

These are the remains of a demolished house in Vreoci. The Electric Power Industry of Serbia (EPS) has delayed relocation of the villagers. Some houses have been removed and the families’ resettled, while other families remain without running water or telephone lines, waiting indefinitely.

Kolubara: Financier EBRD

With its headquarters in London, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is an international financial institution owned by 64 (mostly European) countries. Its mandate is to promote private sector development and open market economies.

The EBRD has given millions in loans to the Electric Power Industry of Serbia over the past decade and is considering financing a new lignite-fired power plant, Kolubara B. Development banks like the EBRD and the World Bank have been criticized in recent years for continuing to finance large coal projects while also committing to tackle climate change.

Kolubara: Last gravestone on Vreoci cemetary

This is the last gravestone left from what used to be a cemetery in Vreoci. The Electric Power Industry of Serbia conducted exhumation of the local cemetery to make way for coal extraction at the nearby Kolubara mine without the consent of the villagers. Vreoci cemetery lies on an estimated 50 million tonnes of lignite coal and its exhumation was a precondition for digging an additional 600 million tonnes of lignite lying under the Vreoci municipality. Local police had to protect the exhumation from upset villagers, who had demanded the EPS first give them a plan for collective resettlement before removing their dead.

Kolubara: Grid at night

The Serbian energy sector is presently in disastrous financial shape. With widespread poverty, a struggling industrial sector, lack of energy efficiency measure, and claims of poor management, the EPS is currently unable to recover their costs of electricity supply.

Kolubara: Mine workers

Kolubara mine workers cleaning the road. Despite growing distrust of the EPS and ongoing health problems in the community, the majority of Vreoci citizens depend on the Kolubara mining and power plants for employment.

Kolubara: Railroad

Railroad tracks in Serbia. Serbia is a middle-income country and one of only a handful of European states that remain on the OECD list of countries eligible for official development assistance, or aid. With unemployment at 27% and rising daily, job creation is an urgent priority.

Kolubara: Old couple in garden next to mine

A Serbian couple stands in front of their home, which sits only 40 metres from the open field of the coal mine. Without running water or a telephone line, and both on medications, they have been waiting three years to resettle. Their house is the only one left in the neighbourhood.

Kolubara: Angry villagers

Vreoci residents in front of the open mine, only 40 metres from their home. Citizens are constantly exposed to the vibrations, dust, noise and fumes from the mining. The local water supply works only every two hours and pollution is unabated; The problem of pollution in Vreoci is even more enlarged because of preparatory work on the extension of the open pit, and heavy equipment is always present in the settlement.

Kolubara: The waste water lake

A Vreoci resident stands by the pool of waste water that ends at the center of the village. Waste water from the coal processing flows out untreated and uncooled. In the waste water can be found traces of heavy metals. Underground water is unusable.

Kolubara: Waste water in the river

Waste waters from the coal processing plant are not piped, but streamed in open channels to the Kolubara River without any preliminary treatment or purification.

Kolubara: The open pit mine field

A resident of Vreoci looking over the vast open pit mine. Kolubara is the heart of Serbia's coal-dependent energy sector. For the last 8 years, the EPS has been actively attempting to remove the Vreoci settlement, which is located directly above of the most important deposit of the best quality lignite in the whole basin. Already in 2003, the local community protested with roads and rail blockades, staged in Vreoci and on major transport corridors passing near by.

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