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A “Mine Renaissance” and investments of more than 1 billion Lev are coming to the Rhodopes Mountains, if relatively high metal prices are sustained on world markets. By the end of 2016 a new gold mine owned by the Canadian company, Dundee Precious Metals, is planned near Krumovgrad. According to company projections this will provide well-paid employment for 250 people in an area with an official unemployment rate of 18%.
Also large investments are planned for the extraction of tungsten ore in the region of Velingrad – at the “Grancharitsa centre” near the village of Krastava. The investor promises 200 permanent jobs over 30 years of extractive life, as well 300 temporary construction jobs.
“Gorubso Kardzhali” to have 4 gold mines?
“Gorubso Kardzhali” plans in the coming years to develop four gold mines in the Eastern Rhodopes. So far the most advanced development is the project near the village of Sedefche and the mine should create 50 jobs for local residents. There are similar employment hopes for each of the other three geological discoveries for which the company has filed investment intentions: “Momchil”, “Kitnitsa” and “Hope”.
Interest in gold deposits in the Rhodope has been manifested by “Assarel-Medet” a copper producer, developing the largest open pit mine in the Balkans. In 2012 they bought “Trace Resources” – a division of the Canadian mining company EuroMax Resources, which owns the right to explore gold-silver deposits near the town of Rakitovo.
New factory near Rudozem
The good market situation has revived the mining of lead and zinc ores in the middle Rhodopes. In the summer for the first time in two decades the shafts and adits of an old mine, closed in 1999, were reopened. This is “Vurba-Batantsi” which it is hoped will provide over 200 new jobs. “Gorubso Madan” JSC will proceed in the coming years to develop its concession “Pieczynski”, 12 km away from Zlatograd with an alleged 20-25 years of ore reserves. In the long run the mining company may reopen the old mine “Shahonitsa” in Rudozem municipality.
A mobile flotation plant will become operational by the end of 2015 near the shaft called “Great Palace-North”. It will introduce a closed cycle for water and the tailings produced will be disposed of inside the old mine.
Existing authorizations for the prospecting and exploration of metallic minerals in the Rhodopes currently number 15. Virtually the entire territory of Haskovo Mineral Baths (mentioned in the section above) has been divided into three areas for exploration of polymetallic ores.
13 million lev annual profit earned by companies in mining industry
At the end of 2014, mining and processing in the Rhodopes employed around 2700 people, which is 20% of the number of staff in the golden years of “Gorubso”. In total in the Rhodope Mountains there are 10 mines and 4 concentrating factories – Kardzhali, Rudozem, Erma River and Lucky. At present the companies here are using Bulgarian capital, unlike at the large deposits of copper and gold further north in the Central Forest and Balkan Mountains, which are developed mainly by foreign companies.
The official total profit of the Rhodope mining companies is 13.15 million Lev (US $ 5 million), which at 107 million lev sales revenue represents an average 0.12 coefficient of profitability of sales – a very significant result for the manufacturing sector.
Miners of the future will be managed by joystick
In general, mines and their concentration plants in the Rhodopes work with technology from the 70s and 80s. But there is one major exception: “Lucky Invest”. Since 2008, the company has introduced a mobile mining model of the latest generation of mining equipment. Old ventilation channels are replaced with quiet energy efficient French ventilation systems. Introduction of new drilling rigs has completely changed the image of the mining crafts; in particular the physical labour disappears. Self-propelled drill rigs consist of a hydraulic gun with great power, which is mounted with a camera. Operators of these mining machines do not touch drills and work in a separate ventilated cabin unaffected by dust and noise. The command panel of the rig is a joystick, and the manipulation of this is like a game of PlayStation. Clearly the risks of silicosis and vibration diseases are no more in such mines. These drill rigs can in an hour do the work equivalent to 12 hours labour of a conventional miner. The overall effect of the new machines is a 40-fold increase in productivity. The company has established a professional training centre, where operators and drivers of the new generation of equipment are trained.
The company plans to introduce fully mobile technology by the end of 2015. Currently there are two operating mines hybrid schemes: most of the work is done with mobile mining equipment and rest in a conventional way. On the agenda is the gradual introduction of full automation of the flotation process.