TAB Mežica says situation is critical, calls for road repair
Mežica, 9 August - Batteries maker TAB Mežica, which probably suffered tens of millions of euro in damage due to floods, warns the situation at the company is very serious, critical. CEO Roman Burja urged the government to fix local roads as soon as possible. The company assesses the flooding at the environmentally sensitive production caused no environmental damage.
The TAB Mežica group produces lead-acid starting and industrial batteries at its plants in Črna na Koroškem and Žerjav, lithium-ion batteries in Prevalje and conducts battery recycling in Žerjav. The swollen Meža River flooded all the facilities, but not all plants were equally affected.
The damage in Žerjav and Prevalje is minor. But in Prevalje a landslide is still looming.
The priorities now are fixing the infrastructure, restoring road connections, and supplying drinking water, electricity and gas. Transport is crucial for industry and people, Burja stressed at a press conference at the company's headquarters in Mežica.
"The biggest challenge at the moment is getting people to the plants for cleaning works. It is crucial to set up road infrastructure and this is what we're asking the government to do, so that it'll be safe to drive in the valley ...
"I'm afraid that we'll clean up all the plants before the main road reopens and becomes passable for trucks again," Burja said.
The company expects to be able to restart a large part of production in Žerjav on 21 August, while in Črna the repair works will take a lot longer, probably about 10 weeks.
Since two plants can currently not be accessed by road, some workers are working from home and others are on furlough. "As far as the government's action is concerned, we welcome the fact that this time measures were introduced quickly. We were, however, expecting 100% co-funding of working from home," said Burja.
While the damage is yet to be assessed it is already clear it will amount to several million, if not tens of millions of euro.
Business partners, suppliers and buyers have already been notified of the situation. Burja fears that unless the infrastructure is repaired soon, buyers will look for alternatives as they did a year ago during the energy crisis.
The group immediately redirected some production activities to its facility in North Macedonia but this will not be enough to fully replace the Slovenian production. It is also looking into the possibility of sending some workers from Slovenia to temporarily work in North Macedonia. The management currently sees no need for lay-offs.
Burja thanked all the employees who are helping out even though their homes have been hit by floods as well and all the others who have been helping out, including from other countries.
As for any potential environmental damage, Burja said that, given the exceptional situation, there was no significant impact on the environment. He pointed to the sulphuric acid tanks, which had been checked. "They remained intact and whole. There is no major impact at the moment."