Interview of Dr. Eng. Iliya Garkov, Vice President of Dundee Precious Metals for 24 Chasa newspaper
– Mr. Garkov, how many years have passed in debates and protests? People were worried about the cyanides in the gold production in Krumovgrad. How did they accept you to start developing the gold deposit?
– The business is difficult, most mining companies anticipate and plan for a long time from exploration to actual production. In our country, the process took about 12 years. People’s worries were related to distrust of the unknown, and it creates insecurity and even fear. Thanks to our dialogue and the fact that we listened to the people from Krumovgrad and the neighboring settlements, we changed the original project. The processing of concentrate with cyanides has been abolished, there will be no cyanides anywhere in the production. In addition, the area that will be occupied by all production facilities is three times smaller than originally planned. Our investment in Krumovgrad will be the first newly developed mine in Bulgaria for the last 40 years.
– You started construction at the end of 2016. What have you invested so far and how much will be the total investment in Krumovgrad?
– It is a fact that the company invests significant funds in Krumovgrad. The total investment is 178 million dollars. In the first half of this year alone, 36.6 million were invested.
– “Dundee Precious Metals” points to the development of the gold deposit as one of the opportunities for growth of the company. What is the significance of the two Bulgarian enterprises in Chelopech and Krumovgrad?
– The addition of a second mine in Bulgaria is a significant gain in the portfolio of Dundee Precious Metals and a prerequisite for growth for the company. The experience gained in Chelopech will be used in Krumovgrad and will help us build synergies between the two companies. A new aspect of our development is digitalization, our aspiration is for the paper to disappear from the management process. We continue to integrate the systems in the auxiliary and main production activities and to increase the efficiency of work. We also introduce shared services using the already developed capacity.
– When will the first gold “come out” of Hell Hill? The initial deadlines were for the end of 2018.
– Gold from Hell Hill will not be produced. The main product will be gold concentrate – a material that is enriched with gold. We envisage the construction of an open pit mine for extraction and processing of gold-bearing ore and a concentrator with a conventional technological scheme of processing. We are at the construction stage, the activities are on schedule. By the end of the year, we will complete the excavation works and start construction – the preparation of foundations for the basic equipment for the factory and the adjacent facilities. Equipment for the concentrator has been ordered. Most of these activities are expected to be completed in the first three months of 2018. The preparation of the mine for operation will begin in the second quarter. The commissioning works will start in the third, and in the last three months of 2018 we will start the production in the factory.
– How much gold is there in Krumovgrad?
– As I mentioned, gold-bearing concentrate will be produced there. The planned annual productivity of the concentrator is 750-850 thousand tons of ore with a gold content of 80,000-85,700 troy ounces. The total lifespan of the mine is about 13 years. These include 2 years of construction, between 8 and 9 years of actual operation of the mine and from 2 to 3 years of closure and reclamation. For all stages, the company plans to use the latest technologies that meet global standards for health, safety and environmental protection.
– How will nature be preserved and what will happen to industrial waste?
– “Dundee Precious Metals Krumovgrad” already has an approved plan for environmental monitoring, covering water, air, soil, noise and vibration and biodiversity. We are proud that the evaluation of the Natura 2000 project was recognized by the European Commission and included in a collection of best expert practices. In 2015, a year before the start of the construction activities of the mine, we started a project of a monitoring network for monitoring fine dust particles in the air and vibrations in settlements near Ada Tepe. The project is the only one of its kind in the municipality of Krumovgrad. The measurements of the devices can be monitored in real time, the information is available for online use by the population of the municipality and all institutions. For people without internet, the company has provided boards on which it publishes monthly information about the measured parameters. Another element is maintaining the quality of drinking water. Dundee Precious Metals Krumovgrad is the only production company that has committed to discharging wastewater from the production with drinking water qualities. We also plan to build a treatment plant. In order to meet the expectations for maximum safety in the storage of processing waste, we abandoned the traditional tailings pond and moved to the construction of the most modern in the industry – an integrated facility for storage of mining waste (rock mass and tailings). This not only eliminated the need to use agricultural land and private property, reduced our footprint, but also provided an opportunity for gradual reclamation. The landfill technology has two major advantages – the possibility of progressive reclamation and the need for twice less land compared to the conventional type of facilities.
– Where will the gold be extracted from the concentrate that you will produce in Krumovgrad?
– We are currently in a period in which we are looking for opportunities for processing of concentrates – these are mainly metallurgical companies. The first concentrate will start coming out after the launch of the concentrator, ie. in the second half of the fourth quarter of 2018.
– How will the presence of the company in Krumovgrad and in the lives of the people there?
– We are grateful that we managed to reach people, to convince them to believe in the project and the benefits it will bring to them. Many are already looking for information when the activity will start and are interested in working with us. The planned direct jobs between 200 and 300 during the construction phase and 230 during operation. The company is committed to 90% local staff. This is a challenge as the new production will be high-tech. The company started earlier this year with its first specialized training and 21 workers have already been trained. Documents for enrollment in the third group under this program are submitted by October 25. Dundee Precious Metals Krumovgrad works together with the Municipality of Krumovgrad for the development of small and medium enterprises. A program is being developed for them, which will determine the method of financing, the scope, the criteria for project selection. The financing will start at the start of production and will continue until the end of the operation of the mining plant. The total budget is $ 5 million.
– Before the development of the deposit, archeology was studied. What came out?
– The archeological excavations of Ada Tepe date back to 2001, when a small Thracian sanctuary was explored at the top. In 2005, the first surveys of traces of old gold mining began. Throughout, the company finances and supports archaeological research. We have built a partnership between the company and the National Archaeological Institute with a museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. More than 20 tons of pottery have been collected, which shows how closely mining and metallurgy are linked to the region’s history. In March, artifacts from the Krumovgrad area and our Ada Tepe deposit took part in an international exhibition in Vienna – “The First Gold. Ada Tepe – the oldest gold mine in Europe. The exhibition put Bulgaria, Krumovgrad and Ada Tepe on the world cultural map. The company has an idea to build a special museum in Krumovgrad, presenting the ancient way of gold mining. The exhibition is currently in Sofia and is available to Bulgarian society.
– What is the share of business in Bulgaria in the entire portfolio of the company?
– “Дънди Прешъс Металс” се разви като минна компания след придобиването на рудник “Челопеч”. Компанията се доказа като иновативна именно чрез обновленията и технологиите, които бяха разработени и приложени от българските специалисти. Бизнесът ни в България заема важно място в портфолиото на “Дънди Прешъс Металс” и благодарение на това по света споменаването на рудник “Челопеч” е свързано с модернизация и технологии. Ще се радвам да сме и сред първите наистина дигитални рудници.