During the fifty-year production, the Nikšić Steel Factory, a public-owned enterprise, produced in total 7,568,577 tonnes of crude steel.
Since 1992, the factory has been unsuccessfully privatized three times. Experts say that iron in the Nikšić Steel Factory is produced without any environmental protection mechanisms, such as filters on the smoke stacks. Accordingly, the air in Nikšić is characterized as one of the most polluted in Europe.
As confirmed in UN environmental reports and by the Center for Ecotoxicological Research (CETI), besides high levels of total airborne particles and dust, the factory generated 2 million tonnes of waste (stored on the factory’s landfill), as well as discharged waste-water in neighboring rivers and streams without pre-treatment.
The residents of Nikšić have been for years protesting and signing petitions to close the factory. Even though, the factory management promised to install filters various times, this has never happened. The most probable reason was that paying the low penalties for polluting were more cost-effective to the factory than investing in an environmental protection system.
In 2007, old military tanks were melted down in the steel factory in Nikšic and the money eared from selling the steel was used to provided finance for reducing surplus of ammunition in Montenegro. In 2008, after years of appealing to the authorities, seven families from Rubeža, the Steel Factory nearest settlement, sued the state and the municipality of Nikšić, for putting their lives are at risk due to high amount of air and water pollution coming from the factory.
In 2010, as a part of the requirements for obtaining the operation permit, the factory published the “EIA Report of modernization and reconstruction of Nikšić Steel Factory AD” containing plans to install new furnaces with dust removal and water treatment. However, the NGOs criticized the report for not respecting the Law on EIA, and for choosing equipment that does not meet the latest environmental standards. Finally, the factory was declared bankrupt in 2011, this followed its “segmentation” and sale to various foreign investors in the 1990s and 2000s in an attempt to save it. In 2012, Toscelik, a member of TOSYALI GROUP, and one of the leading steel producers in Turkey, bought the Zeljezara Niksic Company for the amount of around 20 million USD. The new owner invested in dust separator and has announced plans to open new working places, increase the production, and further invest in environmental protection. Citizens of Nikšić welcomed technological improvements that were made so far as they resulted in reduced pollution. However, the new owners is struggling with employees dissatisfaction with firings, low salaries, and poor working conditions including overtime and lack of safety measures.