Balkan Blitz as investors move into region - Clean Earth Technologies

Balkan Blitz as investors move into region

The extractive industry has historically played a vital part in the history and economy of the Balkans. Investors’ renewed interest in mining operations is indicative of the potential in this region, which boasts some of the largest deposits in Europe. Ensuring that mining operations are carried out in a safe, effective, and sustainable manner will allow for local economies to grow and attract further foreign investment.

Within the Balkans, the Carpatho-Balkan arc is represented by the Oravita-Krepoljin zone in the west and the Bor-Srednogorie zone in the central region. 1 The Bor metallogenic zone is one of the most important metallogenic units, and lies from LIlieci-Liubcova and Bozovici in Romania, over the Serbian district of Bor, to Burgas in Bulgaria. 2 This metallogenic zone is associated with a rift-graben environment with copper and gold being the dominant recoverable metals, and extends through the Black Sea and Tracia into Turkey. 3 Since 1902, nearly 280 tonnes of gold have been mined in this region, and the catchment area is estimated to have about 1,000 tonnes of gold. Proper exploitation of these mineral resources can yield broader economic growth and benefit the local population.

In the past, communities had the binary option of whether or not to mine a deposit (and deal with the environmental impact of mining operations). But over the last few years, significant improvements in regulatory requirements and mining practices have led to investments in management policies, practices, and technologies that markedly reduce the environmental impact of mining. 4 With advances in the way a mine is planned, there can be changes to the scale and duration of impacts over the life of the development and following mine closure, making it possible to facilitate environmentally and socially acceptable mining practices. This has particular relevance to the Balkans, which has faced considerable socio-economic turbulence attributed to inter-state conflict in the 1990s. 5 A considerate and sustainable mining framework for the region can create jobs and facilitate the conditions to shared prosperity in a region stressed from the austerities of conflict.

While there are orphaned and abandoned mines scattered across the Balkans, vast reserves awaiting exploitation in the region have drawn interest from international investors. In late-2019, Canadian mining company Dundee Precious Metals secured final operating permits for its Ada Tepe gold mine, near Krumovgrad in eastern Bulgaria. 6 The high-grade open-pit facility has an expected eight years of mine life, and establishing commercial production there would make Dundee a mid-tier gold producer with a targeted annual production of 350,000 gold equivalent ounces. 7

Another Canadian mining company, Tethyan Resources, announced a new discovery in its Kremice project in southwest Serbia in a site ten kilometres north of the Rudnica copper-gold project. According to the company, gold mineralisation was associated with porphyry-related stockwork quartz-magnetite-pyrite veins hosted in a diorite porphyry stock with magnetite-secondary K-feldspar-leucoxene-biotite alteration. 8 With the discovery of gold porphyry mineralisation at Kremice West, the company is slated to conduct further exploration work in the area.

Along the Bulgarian border with Serbia, Zijin Mining Group, one of China’s largest gold producers, is looking to invest about 718 million Euros to expand its production capacity and open the Cerovo 2 copper and gold mine in 2020. According to the Serbian energy minister Aleksandar Antic, the Serbian government further expects Zijin Mining Group to open the Cukaru Peki Upper Zone mine of its recently acquired Timok copper-gold project in the latter half of 2021. Zijin’s investment bolsters its foothold in the Balkans, having purchased Nevsun Resources, which also has interests in Serbia, for US$1.4 billion in 2019. Zijin also has five exploration licences near the Bor site, which the company considers favourable potential for prospecting.

To accomplish mining operations safely and sustainably, operators will have to consider cyanide-free alternatives to extract gold. Clean Earth Technologies has a non-toxic gold recovery reagent that mining operators can utilise to recover gold efficiently and cleanly. It is scalable to suit greenfield mine locations, and existing mining operations can transition to use this solution if cyanide is no longer preferred or banned.

While it is still too early to say if the various projects will succeed to the extent envisioned, it is clear that the mining industry of the Balkans has garnered interest from a diverse investor base. The resilience in the Balkans’ extractive sector demonstrates its capacity to endure difficult times, be it economic vicissitudes or local politics. Renewed interest from global players will have an impact on the region, and local governments and individuals can expect to see a spin-off value in related industries.

 

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[1] The Apuseni-Banat-Timok-Srednogorie Late Cretaceous magmatic arc in the Carpathian-Balkan orogen was created on the European margin during closure of the Neotethys Ocean, and subsequently deformed into a complex orocline by continental collisions. This copper-gold mineralised arc has various geologically distinct segments, and segmental distribution of tectonic stress may account for the concentration in rich porphyry copper deposits in the transtensional segments, where lower crustal magma storage and fractionation favours the evolution of volatile-rich magmas. For more, see, Daniela Gallhofer et al., “Tectonic, Magmatic, and Metallogenic Evolution of the Late Cretaceous Arc in the Carpathian-Balkan Orogen,” ​Tectonics 34, no. 9 (2015): pp. 1813-1836, ​https://doi.org/10.1002/2015tc003834​.

[2] For more on the Paleozoic gold deposits in the Balkans, see, V. Mladenova, T. Kerestedjian, and D. Dimitrova, “The Balkan Mountains Paleozoic Gold Deposits,” ​Bulletin of the Geological Society of Greece 36, no. 1 (2004): p. 424, https://doi.org/10.12681/bgsg.16729​.

[3] Rade Jelenković et al., “The Mineral Resources of the Bor Metallogenic Zone: A Review,” ​Geologia Croatica​ 69, no. 1 (2016): pp. 143-155, ​https://doi.org/10.4154/gc.2016.11​.

[4] Harald Egerer et al., “UN Environment Programme,” ​Environment and Security Initiative (ENV-SEC),​ 2010, https://doi.org/https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262312336_Mining_and_Environment_in_the_Western_Balkans.

[5] M. Flögel, S.šupraha Goreta, and G. Lauc, “War Stress in the Former Yugoslavia,” ​Encyclopedia of Stress​, 2007, pp. 855-859, https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-012373947-6.00392-5​.

[6] Dundee Precious Metals’ assets include the Chelopech and Ada Tepe mines in Bulgaria, the Tsumeb speciality smelter in Namibia, and the development stage Timok gold project in Serbia. For more, see, “Dundee Wins Key Permits for Bulgaria Gold Mine,” August 31, 2019, ​https://www.novinite.com/articles/199839/Dundee+Wins+Key+Permits+for+Bulgaria+Gold+Mine​.

[7] Dundee’s other Bulgarian operation, Chelopech, also produces gold. Chelopech won Mining Magazine’s ‘mine of the month’ distinction in 2016 for its use of new and innovative technology. Dundee has made significant investments in the Chelopech facility. For more on Dundee Precious Metals’ operations there, see, Chris Deliso, “Balkanalysis.com,” February 16, 2020, http://www.balkanalysis.com/balkan-mining-heavy-industry-and-environment-sectors-in-regional-development/notable-developments-in-the-balkan-mining-sector-2020-year-ahead/​.

[8] For more on Tethysan Resource Corp.’s discovery of an outcropping gold porphyry stem, see, Fabian Baker, “Tethyan Resource Corp.: Gold Porphyry System Discovered at Kremice Project in Serbia,” Junior Mining Network, October 9, 2019, https://www.juniorminingnetwork.com/junior-miner-news/press-releases/2180-tsx-venture/teth/68107-tethyan-resource-corp-gold-porphyry-system-discovered-at-kremice-project-in-serbia.html​.

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