Proposed 400,000 tonnes/year kraft pulp mill in Svetlahorsk, Belarus, decried by citizens over environmental concerns

LOS ANGELES , January 24, 2012 () – A number of citizens in and around Svetlahorsk, Belarus, have voiced strong opposition to a proposed pulp mill in the city, citing environmental concerns, while its chief engineer said it would not be harmful, Naviny.By reported on Jan. 24.

The 400,000 tonnes per year proposed Svetlahorsk Pulp and Cardboard Mill would be built by a Chinese company. The bleached sulfate pulp mill would be located 600 meters from the River Berezina.

About 500 residents met with representatives of the Svetlahorsk District Executive Committee on Jan. 23 to discuss the project. Those opposed fear that the project would further aggravate environmental problems in and around the industrial city of Svetlahorsk, home to some 70,000 people in the Homyel region.

Officials at the meeting said the mill would have an “insignificant” impact on the local environment, but did not specify what effect it would have.

The chief engineer of the project said he had visited a similar facility in China and he denied that the proposed mill would be harmful.

Vadzim Bolbas, a Belarusian Popular Front member who once worked with Svetlahorsk’s environmental monitoring laboratory, said not one attendee at the meeting supported the project and that most of the residents flatly oppose it, “as it will be a harmful facility, while the environmental situation is already bad in our city.”

On Feb. 16, the Belarusian Telegraph Agency (BelTA) reported that the mill would be built by the Republic of Belarus and that the country’s First Deputy Minister Vladimir Semashko said the decision to go forward with the project had been made. He also said that the credit line was opened, the contract signed and the credit agreement prepared.

BelTA reported that 250,000 tonnes/year of output would be exported and the rest sold on the domestic market.

On June 14, Reuters reported that Belarus had secured a loan to build the $700 million mill, included as part of a deal for more than $1 billion overall being loaned by China to Belarus to finance industrial and infrastructure projects. Deputy Belarusian Prime Minister Anatoly Tozik said the government was discussing the possibility of repaying the loan by supplying extra pulp to China.

The primary source of this article is Naviny.By in Belarus, on Jan. 24, 2012.

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