Following an increase in requests for access to the Omarska mine complex during the 20th anniversary year of the tragic events in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ArcelorMittal Prijedor has announced a number of new dates when safe access will be facilitated during the coming months.
In addition to the annual Commemoration Day, which will take place as normal on August 6, the site will be open to visitors by prior arrangement on May 13 and 25, June 9 and 24, July 8 – 19 and 24 and August 19.
Commenting, Mr Mukherjee, chief executive officer at ArcelorMittal Prijedor said: “We continue to co-operate closely with local groups to safely facilitate the annual commemoration day on August 6. In the past, we have also been able to agree on additional requests for access from individuals and small groups. The frequency of requests and size of the groups in 2012 have both increased. As a mining company it is our number one priority to ensure the safety of our visitors. During these visits, normal working operations around the White House area and access roads are suspended so that people can safely visit to pay their respects to the victims of the 1992 conflict.”
“If there are other specific requests for visits on other dates, we will consider them constructively, as long as safety can be properly assured,” said Mr. Mukherjee. “Contrary to some reports, we have not altered our position or withdrawn our support for a memorial,” Mr Mukherjee continued. “The question of a memorial needs to be decided in consensus with all parties. We share the aim of finding a long-term solution and are always ready and willing to participate in discussions concerning this sensitive topic.”
Notes for editors:
ArcelorMittal and Omarska
ArcelorMittal’s mining operation at Omarska, near Prijedor in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, includes some areas where well-documented war crimes took place in 1992. It continues to be controversial, as demands for access to the site and a permanent memorial intensify during this 20th anniversary year. ArcelorMittal acknowledges the suffering of the victims of the conflict of the 1990s, and fully respects the feelings of survivors and relatives of those affected.
The tragic events of 1992 took place 12 years before ArcelorMittal became a major investor in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The company now employs more than 3,000 people at Zenica in the Federation, and a further 800 in Prijedor in Republika Srpska. As a major employer and one of the country’s top exporters, the company has an important part to play in the present and the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a mining and steel company, we are completely focused on this activity and the positive economic benefits it brings for all sections of the community.
When the company arrived in Prijedor in 2004, ArcelorMittal recognised the legacy of the site at Omarska, and accepted the responsibility that came with its acquisition of 51% of the company. Following the investment, the company commissioned and funded 'Soul of Europe', an international non governmental organisation that was given the task of finding a consensus solution to the question of a memorial at Omarska. The company announced that it was prepared to facilitate any such agreed solution, including financial support if it was required. Unfortunately, this project was unsuccessful because the many different parties involved could not reach a mutually acceptable solution. ArcelorMittal reluctantly cancelled the Soul of Europe project, but confirmed that it remained available to support any proposition that had the support of the whole community. It is a matter of regret that so far, no such solution has been found.
ArcelorMittal is not taking sides in this debate without engagement or prior agreement of the local communities and local / international stakeholders concerned. The company has always shared the aim to finding a long-term solution and will remain prepared to participate in discussions or co-operate fully with any agreed solution concerning this sensitive topic.
As a responsible corporate citizen, since arriving in Bosnia the ArcelorMittal Foundation has initiated and funded many local projects which are designed to support reconciliation and co-operation between all sections of the local community, and this important work continues, including more than 115 projects focusing on health and safety, education, and community development.