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Overhauling Serbia’s mining policies: Towards sustainable resource governance

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The contrast between Serbia and Norway in terms of resource management is stark. While Norway commands a significant share, ranging from 27 to 78 percent, of the total value of oil and gas production, Serbia’s mining royalties pale in comparison, ranging from three to seven percent. This discrepancy underscores the need for a reevaluation of Serbia’s mining policies. Ana Brnabić’s recent assertion that Serbia could attain Norwegian living standards through the Jadar project overlooks the intricacies of Norway’s revenue model derived from natural resources. In Norway, the state retains a substantial portion of oil and gas revenues through concession agreements, a stark contrast to Serbia’s current arrangements. The absence of a robust concession model for mining exploration and exploitation in Serbia is evident. Proposed laws on concessions, concession fees, and technical oversight, submitted to the Serbian Parliament over a year ago, remain pending. These laws, inspired by Croatia’s concession model, could significantly enhance Serbia’s resource management framework. Implementing these proposed laws could yield substantial revenues, as evidenced by the potential returns from companies like Zijin and NIS. With proper legislation, local communities could benefit significantly, with allocations earmarked for various social and developmental initiatives. Beyond the issue of royalties, Serbia’s mining sector faces regulatory gaps. Outdated regulations fail to account for emerging minerals like lithium and boron, hindering their extraction. Moreover, the ownership of geological data by private entities poses challenges to effective resource management. The historical context further complicates matters, with past privatizations granting extensive control over geological data to private companies. This undermines Serbia’s ability to leverage its resources for sustainable development. The need for reform is evident. Serbia must adopt modern mining policies that prioritize transparency, equitable revenue sharing, and environmental sustainability. Failure to do so risks squandering the nation’s valuable resources and perpetuating socioeconomic disparities.
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