Chinese-invested steel plant in Serbia achieves sound development

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Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 29 replied to a letter from Serbian workers in HBIS Smederevo Steel Plant, encouraging them to make new contributions to the China-Serbia friendship.

Xi said the sound development of the plant is a striking epitome of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation between China and Serbia as well as a paradigm of their mutually beneficial cooperation.

“We are grateful to President Xi Jinping’s reply. His reply is a testament to the ironclad friendship between Serbia and China. We will take it as motivation to excel in our respective roles and make even greater contributions to the friendly cooperation between our two countries,” said Filic Nenad, an employee of HBIS Smederevo Steel Plant. “We warmly welcome President Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to Serbia,” Nenad added.

HBIS Smederevo Steel Plant stands approximately 60 kilometers southeast of the Serbian capital Belgrade, by an expressway. Established in 1913, it is hailed as “the pride of Serbia.”

Once on the brink of closure due to outdated equipment and poor management, the plant received a lifeline in April 2016. China’s HBIS Group invested in the mill and established HBIS Group Serbia, gradually rescuing the steel mill from its operational crisis.

On June 19, 2016, Xi visited the plant during a state visit to Serbia. When delivering a speech at the plant, he said Chinese and Serbian businesses have joined hands to usher in new chapters in industrial capacity cooperation between the two countries. This has not only carried forward their traditional friendship, but also demonstrated their resolve to deepen reform and achieve win-win results, he added. Chinese enterprises will surely be committed to working with the Serbian side.

Over the past eight years, HBIS Smederevo Steel Plant has gradually tackled its challenges and turned losses into profits. Not only has it preserved the jobs of over 5,000 employees, but it has also become a vital pillar of local economic development. 

According to Wang Lianxi, deputy general manager of the steel plant, since 2016, the plant has accumulated approximately 4.77 billion euros ($5.13 billion) in export earnings, ranking as Serbia’s largest exporting company for several years. In 2023, the plant contributed 795 million euros to the local economy, accounting for 1.15 percent of Serbia’s GDP that year.

“During the most challenging times, the steel plant was on the verge of shutting down. However, after taking over the operations, HBIS Group brought new changes to the plant, securing our jobs and livelihoods,” said Ivan Matkovic, the production manager of the hot rolling workshop at the steel plant. 

He led People’s Daily reporters to a central control room of the workshop. “The equipment here were recently updated, and the steel plant has achieved full automation in management, significantly enhancing safety levels and production efficiency,” Matkovic explained. “This year, we are confident in elevating the workshop’s performance to a new level.”

In recent years, HBIS Smederevo Steel Plant has been continuously improving its techniques and enhancing automation, recycling, energy efficiency, and green manufacturing practices in order to achieve its green development goals. It has implemented a project to make its production more environmentally friendly and efficient. 

In addition to the construction of a new sinter plant, several key projects such as heating furnaces and gas cabinets have been gradually put into operation. As a result, the plant has not only achieved zero emissions of blast furnace gas but also generated an annual benefit of nearly 30 million euros.

Guided by steelworkers, People’s Daily reporters arrived at one of the “new projects” of the steel plant – the sinter plant. 

Ljubica Drake, manager of the environmental department at the steel plant, told People’s Daily that the sintering process of iron ore fines, which involves agglomeration and removal of impurities, can easily cause environmental pollution. 

To address this issue, HBIS Group introduced advanced technologies from China and completed the construction of this new sinter plant in 2022. 

This new plant allows for the complete reuse of all dust generated during the sintering process, eliminating secondary pollution. As a result, the environment in the plant area has been improving day by day, Drake added.

The steel plant’s green and low-carbon development has gained widespread recognition. In 2023, HBIS Group Serbia was honored with the “Green Agenda” award jointly presented by the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme for an environmental protection project that helps reduce dust pollution with modern technologies.

In April this year, HBIS Group signed a cooperative agreement with Siemens AG from Germany to jointly build a digitalized and green plant. The collaboration aims to transform HBIS Smederevo Steel Plant into a leading green, low-carbon, and intelligent steel enterprise in Europe.

The city of Smederevo is known as the “steel city” as its industrial chain revolves mainly around HBIS Smederevo Steel Plant. With the continuous improvement in the efficiency of the plant, the economic condition of Smederevo has been steadily growing. It is reported that the plant creates 200 new jobs for the city every year, and currently, 1/5 of the city’s population work in the steel industry.



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