Chelopech Mine, operated by Dundee Precious Metals (DPM) since 2003, is a thriving gold and copper mine and ore-concentrating facility in Chelopech, Bulgaria. The mine produces a concentrate with high levels of arsenic. In order to cope with this constraint, DPM plans to increase production to 2 million tonnes per annum and to construct a facility to produce copper and gold metals for direct sale to end users. This process will also convert the arsenic into an environmentally stable form that can be disposed of in an on-site tailings management facility.
Jonathan Goodman, CEO of Dundee Precious Metals, explains that the “Chelopech mine is a very good and safe project, which will benefit the local community significantly. The technologies which we are bringing are proven technologies and have no risk.” A top priority for Chelopech Mine is to adhere to the most stringent environmental standards.
Focus on Protecting the Environment
“Chelopech Mine is the first mining company in Bulgaria to win a Green Apple Award for environmental best practices. We have cleaned up and replanted the area around the mine. It is a common misconception for people to think a mine takes the ore and profits and then leaves a big mess, this is not socially acceptable, it is not legal, and it is not the way to run a business today,” explains Goodman. Chelopech is practicing “backfill” in which 70% of its tailings go back into the mine, and it was certified by the International Cyanide Management Institute for its safe handling of the cyanide used in gold mining.
The mine’s expansion project, which is a public-private partnership with the Bulgarian government, involves an investment of €128,2 million, by the end of 2008. DPM invested around €74,7 million into the expansion plans. In March of this year, an independent study confirmed the project’s commercial viability and predicted returns of over 27%.
Chelopech Mine extracted 911,381 tonnes of ore and produced 54,669 tonnes of concentrate in 2008, and also extended their contract with Namibian Custom Smelters to sell up to 120,000 tonnes of concentrate per year in 2011, 2012 and 2013. DPM plans to invest approximately €16,1 million in Chelopech this year alone.
“Mining is a tough business at all times and we are blessed to have a really good group of people, both Bulgarian and foreign,” Goodman proudly declares. He further explains that Bulgaria presents some challenges but also offers outstanding opportunities. Goodman concludes, “Things are changing for the better here in Bulgaria. We plan to be here for a long time and to grow alongside Bulgaria.”