Top Macedonian exporter Jugohrom faces shutdown over air pollution

Top Macedonian exporter Jugohrom faces shutdown over air pollution
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje November 1, 2016

Jugohrom Ferroalloy, one of Macedonia’s top exporters, is facing closure after it failed to install a dust collection system by the October 31 deadline set by the government. 

Jugohrom is located close to the northwestern city of Tetovo, which is ranked the third most polluted city in the world after Kabul in Afghanistan and Accra in Ghana on the latest Pollution Index published by crowd-sourced global database Numbeo. Jugohrom Ferroalloy is considered to be one of Macedonia’s main polluters. 

Macedonia’s state inspectorate for the environment has recommended the closure of the Jugohrom Ferroalloy plant because of its failure to install a dust collection system, local media reported on November 1.

The final decision will be taken by the government. Two years ago, the government postponed the deadline for Jugohrom to install a dust collection system until end-October 2016. However, the company has failed to meet the deadline. 

“It is important for the plant to be out of operation during the winter considering that it poses a serious threat in terms of pollution for all citizens in the Polog region,” Tetovo mayor Teuta Arifi was quoted as saying by news agency MIA, after being informed of the decision. 

Jugohrom is located in the village of Jegunovce near Tetovo in the Polog region. It produces ferrosilicon which is used mainly in the steel industry. The factory, which employs around 1,100 workers, accounts for 7% of the country’s total exports.

A local court launched a bankruptcy procedure against Jugohrom in 2015 due to its financial problems but the management believes that the company will be reshuffled not liquidated.

Jugohrom’s management is currently seeking another postponement of the deadline for an additional 18 months.  

Director Vasko Skenderovski said that the plant has started work to install a dust collection system, but wasted a lot of time obtaining the needed building permits.

However, the Economic Chamber of Macedonia said in August that Jugohrom had obtained a license to install the system in July. Installation was expected to start soon after that, but reportedly this did not happen.

The plant was shut down for two months in winter 2015 due to the high pollution level in Tetovo, but the company’s management and the trade union representing its workers think that Jugohrom has little or no impact on the air pollution in Tetovo, due to the high level of pollution from other sources.

In 2015, Tetovo topped Numbeo's list of the most polluted cities in the world, and it is still the most polluted in Europe, with the Macedonian capital Skopje holding third place in Europe and 53th place worldwide.

At the end of January 2016, the level of harmful particles in Tetovo reached 16 times the recommended safe level. Air pollution in Skopje is also very high, but not much has been done by the authorities to address this.

Steel mill Makstil in Skopje was also considered one of the biggest polluters in Macedonia, but in 2014 the company invested around €11mn to install a new filter system. Despite this, the pollution level remained high in the capital.