NATO troops seize mining complex

By Sara Flounders

Claiming they were concerned about controlling air pollution, some 3,000 NATO soldiers stormed a lead smelting plant in Zvecan at 4:30 in the morning of Aug. 14. The plant was the only functioning industry in the vast Trepca mining complex in northern Kosovo, a few miles from the city of Mitrovica.

At 6:30 a.m., in a further attack that had nothing to do with air pollution, NATO soldiers closed down and confiscated the equipment of Zvecan's Radio S--the only station that dared to report information critical of NATO.

The northern part of Mitrovica is the only remaining multi-ethnic part of Kosovo. Thousands of Serbs, Romani people, Slavic Muslims, other nationalities and peoples of mixed backgrounds have been driven out of other areas by Kosovo Liberation Army thugs and vigilante groups. Many have fled to the north side of the Iber river.

There, with the local Serbian population, they have resisted more than a year of KLA attacks in an economically devastated region.

The surprise attack by NATO shut down the only radio station and the main source of employment for the local population.

The mines, with their smelting, refining and power centers, once constituted one of Yugoslavia's leading export industries and a main source of hard currency. It was the major source of jobs in the region.

Defending the pre-dawn attack, Bernard Kouchner, the head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said, "As a doctor and chief administrator of Kosovo I would be derelict if I allowed a threat to the health of children and pregnant women to continue for one more day." UNMIK is the police force set up by NATO to administer Kosovo.

Kouchner has never had a word of criticism for the environmental havoc NATO created throughout the entire region with the use of depleted uranium weapons, the bombing of chemical plants and the use of cluster bombs.

If you find it hard to accept that NATO is suddenly concerned with pollution, it's worth looking for what is really at stake.

'Most valuable piece of real estate'

On July 8, 1998, New York Times reporter Chrisopher Hedges wrote, "The sprawling state-owned Trepca mining complex is the most valuable piece of real estate in the Balkans." Hedges described glittering veins of lead, cadmium, zinc, gold and silver.

The Stari Trg mine is ringed with smelting plants, 17 metal treatment sites, warehouses, freight yards, railroad lines, a power plant and the country's largest battery plant. It is the richest lead and zinc mine in Europe. There are also 17 billion tons of coal.

It was George Soros, the multi-billionaire financier, who wrote Kouchner's script.

Paris-based journalist Diana Johnstone, in a Feb. 28 report, described a policy paper by the International Crisis Group. This is a think tank set up by Soros to provide guidance in the NATO-led reshaping of the Balkans.

The think tank publicly called on Kouch ner to take over the management of Trepca and to use the pretext of environmental hazards to shut the Zvecan smelter down.

The Soros group stressed that the takeover should happen before new elections in Yugoslavia so that the opposition could blame Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for the loss of Trepca. The elections are now six weeks away.

At the time this proposal was made there was no pollution--the lead smelter was not even in operation. It was closed for several months after the NATO bombing.

Production in this state-owned industry started again only two months ago, at great sacrifice and expense. The hard currency it could have earned was desperately needed to rebuild Yugoslavia's ravaged economy.

Skimming the profits

With the seizure of the smelting plant in Zvenca, NATO will control the entire Trepca complex.

Proving once again that NATO is the military arm to insure primarily U.S. corporate control, the first move after seizing the complex was to turn it over to a consortium of private mining companies. This consortium--ITT Kosovo Ltd.--is a joint venture of U.S., French and Swedish companies.

The most interesting partner in this deal to control Trepca is the U.S. company Morrison Knudsen International. On July 7 Morrison Knudsen merged with Raytheon Engineers and Constructors, a major military contractor that makes Patriot missiles and radar equipment for the Pentagon.

This is an enormously lucrative deal. ITT Kosovo Ltd. will administer Trepca, appoint executives and a board of directors, develop the investment strategy and skim the greatest profits from every possible deal.

Those in the Albanian population who hold illusions that control by these corporations will mean the return of the thousands of well-paid, secure jobs with benefits that existed before the war should read the plans multi-billionaire Soros has in store.

Once NATO has control of the whole industrial complex, according to the International Crisis Group, foreign investors will develop a very modern, highly profitable facility with a small workforce.

In this outright theft of an industry that was built by the efforts of all the peoples of Yugoslavia, Soros's think tank recommends that the management and administration be made up of foreign executives "in order to prevent corruption"!

Copyleft Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not allowed.

First published in Workers Wold Newspaper, August 24, 2000.


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