Iron ore mines “Ljubija” and “Mittal Mines Prijedor”, as iron ore producers, are located in the western part of the Republic of Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Three built mines: “Ljubija”, “Tomašica” and “Omarska” are located southwest, southeast and east of the city of Prijedor, at a distance of 14 to 25 kilometers. The ore-bearing area, i.e. the Sanko-Unski Paleozoic, with an area of about 1200 occupies the area between Novi Grad – Prijedor – Bronzani Majdan, Sanski Most and Budimlić Japra. This area is under-researched and represents the basis for further research. Until 1992, the “Ljubija” mines were the main supplier of iron ore for the steel production capacity in Yugoslavia.
Mining of iron ore and production of iron in the area of Ljubija has been going on since the very beginning of the Iron Age, a period of over two thousand five hundred years. At least five centuries before Christ, the Phoenicians, searching for gold and silver, and then for iron, went along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to all areas rich in ores, and that’s how they arrived in our region. They built mines and smelters, the technology of which was primitive, but suitable for the time
It is interesting that the Phoenicians were merchants who took advantage of other people’s wealth, so the local population served as their workforce. The ore-bearing areas were rich in forests and watercourses, and mining settlements were created next to them. Slag deposits and traces of ancient mining were found in many localities of this region, such as: Kamengrad, Sasina, Bronzani Majdan, Stari Majdan, Stara Rijeka, Briševo, Ljubija, Vidrenjak, Budimlić Japra, Čelopek, Blagaj, Tevanovići, Tomašica, Mrakodol. This is a testimony that iron ore has been mined here since ancient times and iron was produced. The oldest Phoenician settlement in the Mediterranean was Crete, from which the Greek civilization developed. In terms of technical skills, the Phoenicians were the teachers of the Greeks, and iron from Ljubia, thanks to their skills, was already traveling to Greece and the Greek colonies.
Beginning of industrial production
After the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878, the Austro-Hungarian authorities declared all mineral treasures in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be state property. They began investigative work, in order to determine the reserves and examine the possibilities of exploitation. Among the experts, the geologist Dr. Kacer stood out, who pointed out the considerable amount of iron ore in the area of Ljubija and the benefits of its exploitation. It is estimated that the reserves amount to about 20 million tons, and that the Ljubija ore contains few harmful impurities and melts very easily in furnaces. Due to the great importance of this ore, a dispute arose between Austria and Hungary about who will have the right to exploit it. A polemic developed whether to build an ironworks in Prijedor, which was Austria’s position, or to export raw ore to Hungary, which was Hungary’s position. However, the First World War hampered all the accounts of the “partners” and the construction of the steel plant did not take place, but due to the great need for iron, the forced opening of an industrial iron ore mine occurred. The mine was opened in 1916 due to the wartime needs of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy on Javorik hill near Ljubija. The year 1916 is taken as the year of the beginning of industrial exploitation of iron ores in our region.