Feature: BRI creates jobs, improves life for locals in Serbia

(Xinhua) 14:59, October 24, 2023

BELGRADE, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Milan Milenovic, who moved to the eastern Serbian city of Bor in 2014 as a student, has fallen in love with the city thanks to the job opportunities and improved living conditions brought about by the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

"Since the arrival of (the Chinese mining company) Zijin (under the BRI framework), a lot has changed in the city, the standard of living is higher and the conditions are better," Milenovic said. He is now an engineer with the Chinese mining company, and also one of the hundreds of Serbians who have been attracted there to work.


The Bor District, where Bor is located and which boasts rich mineral deposits, has witnessed major economic and environmental improvements since the launch of the BRI projects.

"Since the arrival of the Zijin Mining Group in Serbia, we have employed around 2,800 workers. This year alone, there were over 200 new hires," Ivan Germanovic, assistant manager of human resources in one of Zijin's local branches, said.

"Many young people come from nearby cities... They come from the whole of eastern Serbia," Milenovic added.

The arrival of the Chinese investors also helped revitalize the city of Smederevo and its surroundings, offering high-quality employment and making production cleaner and safer.

Near Smederevo, a city on the river Danube, an entirely new sinter plant and blast furnace gas (BFG) reservoir offer cheaper and cleaner production at the HBIS steelworks.

Natasa Tijanic, executive director legal at HBIS Group Serbia, welcomed the changes in the steelworks in Smederevo as well as their positive impact on the city.

"One such investment project is the new agglomeration facility (the sinter plant), which contributes to the improvement of the environment and has an immense influence on Smederevo," she told Xinhua.

"I think that our factory, HBIS Serbia, is doing really well. We are well placed in the market," she said.

According to the Ministry of Finance of Serbia, in the first half of 2023, HBIS Serbia exported goods worth 374.3 million euros (398.6 million U.S. dollars) and was the country's third largest exporter.


Milan Dedic, also a mining engineer, said that Zijin's investments in the past five years have improved the employees' life and made the environment healthier.

"There is a drastic change in terms of ecology, air cleanliness and the presence of dust, considering that the city is on the edge of a mine and on the edge of a flotation plant and a smelter," Dedic said.

According to Ivana Jenic Komljenovic, deputy head of environmental protection at Serbia Zijin Copper, the situation was "critical" before the arrival of Zijin, but since then "extremely large funds were invested so that at every step one can see the progress achieved thanks to those investments."

"By the end of August 2023, about 219 million U.S. dollars had been invested in environmental protection, greening and recultivation. Close to 500,000 seedlings were planted and over 30 million square meters were greened," she said.

She listed the reconstruction of the smelter and refinery facilities as key projects to improve air quality. The greening of old tailings pond surfaces helped reduce dust generation and the building of new systems contributed to wastewater treatment.

One example of Zijin's contribution to environmental protection can be found in the village of Slatina. "There was once great fear among the people of Slatina of the pollution that mining actually brings," Vojkan Pavlovic, a local resident, said.

By now, Pavlovic and his neighbors have already noticed the difference. "Air quality is much better than it was before," he told Xinhua.

Over the years, Chinese investments have significantly increased in Serbia under the BRI.

"Certainly, this initiative (the BRI) is excellent and it motivates us to think about environmental protection, infrastructural development, cultural exchanges, economic development, not only of our country but of all the other participants," Tijanic said. (1 euro = 1.07 U.S. dollars)

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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