Concessionaire keeps numb on cleanup of arsenic from Lojane, authorities announce inspection


After Meta.mk’s article about the situation with the stockpiled arsenic and other toxic mineral raw materials in the tailing ponds of the former Lojane Mine and the deposits near the village of Tabanovce in relative vicinity, the Ministry of Economy of North Macedonia sent a request to competent inspectorates to conduct an inspection and to take measures if they find any irregularities.

The State Inspectorate for Technical Inspection and the State Environmental Inspectorate, which are authorized to issue fines, should inspect the locations. This comes as the aftermath of Meta.mk query to the Ministry of Economy, together with the information that both locations in Lojane and Tabanovce were not fenced off and no warning signs were placed that would have prevented entries in the locations where the arsenic had been stockpiled and should warn of the dangers of inhaling arsenic dust.

As a reminder, at a 100 m distance from the toxic hot spot in Lojane is the Rilindja Elementary School, with pupils from sixth to ninth grade from the villages of Lojane and Vaksince. Near the arsenic dump at the village of Tabanovce is the railway station and the former camp for migrants, so there is a huge danger that the children or non-informed people will come into contact with the arsenic.

For the past 10 days, Meta.mk has been trying to reach the representatives of the Turkish company Kaltun Madencilik A.Ş. in North Macedonia, which is the concessionaire for the exploitation of the waste mineral raw materials at the Lojane Mine’s tailing ponds.

Last week we tried to contact by telephone Mert Aydin, the representative of the concessionaire, but at the telephone numbers we called, we reached only some employees, who informed us that Mr Aydin is in Turkey and that we should send the questions to him by email.

Meta.mk 10 days ago sent questions in Macedonian to Mr Aydin by mail, and last week also in English, but to this day we didn’t receive any reply to our questions why the dump at the former mine wasn’t fenced of and why there are no warning signs.

We neither received a reply from the concessionaire nor an answer about the quantities of waste mineral raw materials that were excavated from the dump at Lojane and transported abroad. We also asked when are they planning to intensify the export of the stockpiled quantities located at the mine.

In anticipation of the inspections’ results in Lojane and Tabanovce, we remind that Meta.mk warned about the poisoning of the thousands of residents of these villages in the municipalities of Lipkovo and Kumanovo by the arsenic and other toxic minerals stockpiled at both locations. The mine for chrome, antimony and arsenic Lojane has seized operations back in 1979 and since then it has continuously been poisoning both people and animals and is polluting the air, the waters and the soil in Lojane, Tabanovce and Vaksince.

Despite the danger of inhaling arsenic dust, as anyone can access both locations, the people from the surrounding villages are planting new crops on locations full of arsenic and Meta.mk was a witness to domestic animals grazing near the Lojane mine. Agriculture is the main source of money for most of the population in these rural areas. Also, the local sources and rivers are polluted with arsenic.

This issue has been treated by the Macedonian media for the past several years but this environmental hot spot remains to be a major issue in the local population’s everyday life. Meta.mk asked the Ministry of Education and Science, and municipalities of Lipkovo and Kumanovo to dislocate the pupils from the current building that is located near the Lojane mine into other buildings in the villages of Vaksince, Lojane, or Tabanovce, but there was only a reaction from the Lipkovo Municipality which said there is no possibility of moving the pupils to another locations, since the number of elementary pupils attending school is very big.

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