The Golden Age of Vares and hope for a better future
30 June 2020
Interview with Grga Vukancic who discusses The Golden Age of Vares and hope for a better future.
I would like to thank you for your time and for speaking about your experience and your job in mining for the first issue of Eastern Mining Bulletin, which is a part of the “Living History Project”.
First of all, tell us something about yourself?
My name is Grga Vukančić. I was born in Donja Borovica. I completed primary school in Vareš and then industrial school in Vareš Majdan where I received a title of locksmith. Two years later I also completed mechanical school in Sarajevo, part time. My first job was in 1969 in Vareš Mine and Ironworks, to be precise in the central mechanical workshop. I worked there until I got a job in “Energoinvest”, that is, in the Veovača lead, zinc and barite mine.
You are retired now, but you are still active and perform a role of the President of the Local Community of Borovica?
I used to be the President of the Local Community of Borovica before the war and I resumed that role again after the war. I perform that role voluntarily, with a great devotion and affection for my people. It is very demanding to be a president of a local community but I want to help Borovica and my people in that way. Many positive changes, reconstruction projects on restructuring of the local community itself are behind us and we wish to improve many other things.
What was your first job?
As a beginner I worked as a locksmith in the mechanical workshop in Vareš, before military service.
You’ve mentioned that, following the job in the mechanical workshop, you worked in “Energoinvest” Veovača Lead, Zinc and Barite Mine. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes, when I came to “Energoinvest” I became a manager of the equipment installation until all the equipment had been installed and the Veovača Mine had been opened. We worked together with a crew from Bulgaria. Once the equipment had been installed and the mine opened, I became a manager in the flotation plant where I worked until the mining activities at Veovača activity ceased.
How many people were employed in the department where you worked?
There were 150 people under my supervision. They were mainly young people, their average age was 26. In that period one generation of unemployed grammar school graduates retrained due to the lack of manpower and started working at the flotation plant.
How responsible was the manager’s position?
Taking into consideration that all employees were young people, being the manager was very challenging, all those young people had to be trained to work in production. I have to emphasize that our processing and lead, zinc and barite flotation circuit at that time was very complex and demanding.I think it was one of the most complex lead, zinc and barite separation processes in Europe, for sure.
Do you know how many people worked in the Veovača Mine at that time?
More than 300 people worked in “Energoinvest” mine.
Did any of your family members or relatives work in the mine?
None of my relatives have ever worked in mining.
Were there any female employees in the Veovača Mine when you worked there?
Yes, of course. There were many female employees, especially in the laboratory that tested the dosage of reagents required for flotation. The majority of the employees there were female.
What did you like the most in the mining industry, and why did you like your job?
It was especially challenging to work in the Veovača Mine when it was opened because its technology was brand new and cutting edge, and hadn’t existed before in the region. As a matter of fact, that was what attracted me the most, I wanted to learn and understand that process that was very complicated, to perfect it and to master the technology. It was very interesting to do that job. I have very nice memories from that period of my life because I have achieved my goal and mastered that whole production process.
Can you compare the life in the area of the municipality of Vareš before and now?
The period when I worked for Energoinvest was the golden age for Vareš because approximately 9,000 people were employed, and today Vareš doesn’t even have as many inhabitants. Life was good and active, more or less everyone had a job. In my generation you didn’t have to wait to find a job, people got jobs as soon as they completed school.
It is very important to say that people were educated in accordance with the needs of the industry – locksmiths, turners, tinsmiths etc. One or two months after they completed their education they would start working. It was easier to start a family, people had security that they do not have today. Life in Vareš before and now is very different.
How did Vareš look like when it was at the peak of its power- when the Veovača Mine was working?
At that time, local inhabitants were employed, life was very progressive and active. Salaries were regular, everything was much better. People had steady and regular income so they could plan trips to the seaside, skiing etc. We had quality and enjoyed life.
Do you have any message for young people who are starting to build their careers? Both in mining sector and in general.
Although many young people left Vareš, and went all over the world looking for job, I would send a message to young people who still live in Vareš, that they should stay here, to find themselves here. I am certain that they have future with Eastern Mining, which grows and develops from day to day and I believe that, in two to three years, they will start production. I think it is an ideal opportunity for them to stay here where they were born and find their place under the stars.
The only bright spot and hope for Vareš is the Veovača and Rupice projects that Eastern Mining are activating. Since the current situation in Vareš makes it a “black hole”, I believe that the future mine is a golden opportunity for our town, especially for young upcoming generations and for our town to regain its previous glory.
Thank you very much for your time, with the hope that this cooperation will continue and improve.
The most important thing to say is that the efforts and commitment of Eastern Mining to comply with global and European codes and standards related to environment protection are noticed and that is most important for local population. I hope that such practice will continue in the future.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank Eastern Mining for all their help and efforts on many projects in the area of the municipality of Vareš and their commitment and involvement in all aspects of life. We hope our good and successful cooperation will continue in the future.