The Chelopech mine is located in central-western Bulgaria approximately 70 kilometers east of Sofia, the national capital, on the southern flank of the Balkan Ranges. The deposit lies in the northern part of the Panagyurishte mining district where a number of copper-bearing massive sulphide and porphyry copper deposits exist. The mining license covers an area of 266 hectares and includes the area of the Chelopech mining operation and the immediate surrounds. Dundee Precious Metals owns the land upon which the facilities are constructed and operates under a concession agreement that was granted by the Republic of Bulgaria in 1999 for a period of 30 years.
Access to the mine is via major roads from Sofia. The principal rail and road links between Sofia and the country’s largest port, Bourgas, which is located on the Black Sea, pass through the village of Chelopech and the Chelopech mine site. Chelopech has good infrastructure due to its proximity to major roads, power lines, communication facilities, water sources and the town of Pirdop.
Since the mine started in 1954, it has produced approximately 19.7 million tonnes of ore at just over 1.2% copper. Production as a state-owned company reached 100,000 tonnes per annum in 1971. It quadrupled in 1976 following an expansion program and the construction of a new concentrator, peaking at 512,000 tonnes per annum in 1988 before trailing off rapidly between 1990 and 1992.
Prior to 1990, the Pirdop smelter, located seven kilometers east of Chelopech, accepted the sulphide-rich concentrates from Chelopech and blended them with cupriferous concentrates from the nearby Elatsite Med and Assarel Medet mines. The relatively high content of arsenic in the Chelopech copper concentrates led to the Bulgarian government decreeing on April 1, 1990 that Chelopech concentrate could no longer be treated at the Pirdop smelter unless changes were made to capture the Arsenic. In February 1992, the mine was placed on care and maintenance and in 1993, Navan gained ownership and committed to the reopening of the mine.
Operations were restarted and continued with concentrate sale to smelters around the world. In 1999, the privatization agreement with the Bulgarian government was completed. Navan operated the mine until late 2002, when it went into bankruptcy. Mining operations continued during 2002 and 2003.
On September 30, 2003, Dundee Precious Metals, through certain of its wholly-owned subsidiaries, completed the purchase of the Bulgarian mining assets from Navan and Deutsche Bank AG of London which included the Chelopech mine. The annual ore processed has increased from 523,810 tonnes in 2004 to 2,052,138 tonnes in 2015.
Dundee Precious Metals has invested close to 90% of its profits to transform the mine from an undercapitalized operation into a modern and viable one that meets international standards for worker safety, environmental protection and sustainable development. We have invested in people and succeeded to make a visible change
Throughout the twelve years of operation of the Chelopech mine, workers health and safety have always been a priority for Dundee Precious Metals. Today the Chelopech mine is the best in the industry in Bulgaria - operations have been fully upgraded and the resources invested in environmental protection have lead to significant improvements. Community investments have largely contributed to the development of the region where mining has been a traditional livelihood for more than a century.
Although modern mining faces significant challenges, being able to successfully drive positive change and introduce innovations is empowering. Seeing people grow in skills and knowledge, leadership and management is taking the company to new industrial horizons.
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Dundee Precious Metals Inc. is a Canadian based, international gold mining company engaged in the acquisition, exploration, development, mining and processing of precious metals.