Delayed Gratification: Trouble in Trepca

Trepca

Ramadan Gjoshaj, one of the miners who went on strike in 1989, still works down the Trepca mine today ©James Hill

In October 2016 I went to the divided northern Kosovar city of Mitrovica to do a story about Trepca, a football team that had once competed in the Yugoslav First Division but who, since the war, had split into two teams: KF Trepca in the ethnically Albanian south, and FK Trepca in the Serbian north. The two share the same colours and crest. But the teams got their name and identity (and the city got its wealth) from the Trepca mines; a sprawling complex of tunnels that once employed 25,000 people.

Today the mine, which was once the scene of a strike that crippled the Yugoslav economy and was the point of no return for many of the country’s constituent republics looking for greater autonomy from Belgrade, is a shadow of its former self. Serbia claims that it has the right to some of the mineral wealth. The government in Pristina has nationalised it, claiming that the wealth is theirs.

I went down the Trepca mine with James Hill (who took some amazing photographs) to discover that many of the issues that led to war still rankle, and that Mitrovica is just as divided below ground as it is above it.

You can read my story for Delayed Gratification, about the Trepca mine and how it has become a key issue in Serb/Kosovar relations, here.

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