From the New Year, modern electric machines start working in the Chelopech mine. This became clear at the Open Day held at the mine. Journalists from national and local media visited the mine and held a meeting with the senior vice president for Europe of Dundee Precious Metals and executive director of the two mining companies in Bulgaria Iliya Garkov.
He mines gold in Chelopech
The first records of gold mining in Chelopech date back to the time of the Thracians. This activity continued during the Roman Empire. In the 19th century, the mining deposits in the area were described by the Frenchman Ami Bouet (1840), employed by the Sublime Porte at the beginning of the reign of Abdulmejit I to explore the deposits of metals in the European part of the empire.
The modern studies of the “Chelopech” deposit were carried out on the eve of the Second World War by the French company “Luda Yana”. Before 1945 the deposit was exploited by a Bulgarian-German company, and then by a Bulgarian-Soviet one. In the early 1970s, the modern “Chelopech” mine was built. In 1991 the state with the Irish company “Navan” established the company “Bimak”, which became the owner of the mine and the flotation factory.
The Rise of Chelopech Mine
In 2004 the mine in Chelopech is practically bankrupt. Following an announced privatization procedure, its assets were purchased by Dundee Precious Metals. A large-scale investment program has been announced and is being implemented. As a result, the extraction and processing of ore was increased 4 times to 2.2 million tons per year.
This result does not reassure the company’s management. Iliya Garkov explained that they continue to face serious challenges related to the increasing production costs. For one linear meter of ore production, the costs amount to about $5,000. Along with this, the content of copper and gold in the ore decreases. The company processes some of the poorest ores in the world with a copper content of 0.86% and a gold content of 2.94 g/t. The concession contract, in turn, limits the annual production to 2.2 million tons. Another problem for the company is the ban on the processing of their concentrate in “Aurubis Bulgaria”, which necessitates its transportation to the factory in Namibia. All this requires the company to constantly implement policies to optimize its costs and be innovative in introducing the latest mining technologies and modern machinery.
Investment, innovation and experimentation
The general manager of “Dundee Precious Metals Chelopech”, Eng. Tsvetomir Velkov, explained that the company constantly invests in high-performance and modern machines, strictly observing all norms for the protection of the environment and for the safety of people. As an example, he pointed to the Sandvik company’s electric front loader and truck they bought. These machines are three times more expensive than the widely used diesel analogues, and there are few companies that can afford them. The machines will arrive at the mine within days. For this purpose, the charging station for their batteries has already been built. Operator training will take place in December and the machines will be put into operation in the new year.
The drone used by surveyors in the mine is the other major innovation that the company has pioneered. The drone scans millions of points from the mining developments. In this way, it is calculated how much ore has been mined, which is done in a fast and safe way, without a person having to enter these risky areas.
The modern machines used require corresponding changes in their maintenance as well. Tihomir Bakrjiev, chief engineer of mining equipment, said that all the main machines are equipped with a monitoring system. Their parameters are monitored in real time, and a signal is received in the maintenance system when the specified limits are exceeded. Machine service data and maintenance plans are entered on tablets.
“Dundee Precious Metals Chelopech” is a company open in its development. An example of this is the built Smart Center. Tsvetomir Velkov said that people and technologies were taken out of their locations and gathered in one place. All types of mine and flotation plant activities are visualized and controlled at this center. The management of technological processes is carried out in real time.
The mining company has gone even further. Systems for remote control of processes have been built, which completely change the ideas about mining work. A hydraulic hammer for breaking large lumps of ore, a mining probe and a front-end loader are controlled remotely from the Smart Center.
Responsible behavior and with the future in mind
The result of all this is the significant receipts in the state budget from the company’s activities. Total payments to the state for 2022 of “Dundee Precious Metals Chelopech” amount to 64 mln. leva. There are 840 people directly employed in the company, and each workplace generates 5 indirectly employed employees in other companies.
According to Iliya Garkov, every nationally responsible large company is obliged to support local communities and think about the future. Last year alone, the company made donations for 3.24 million. leva. Through the created in 2021 “Fund to support small businesses in the municipalities of Chelopech, Chavdar and Zlatitsa” 29 projects were implemented and 34 new jobs were created.
The company supports the only private company high school in the country and is a partner in the dual education of PG “Zlatitsa”. Over 1 mln. BGN were invested in the University of Mining and Geology.