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Environmental responsibility in Bulgaria

Guided by the principle of sustainability and acknowledging the limited life of the mine, Dundee Precious Metals Chelopech developed a comprehensive programme ensuring environmental protection for water, air, soil, biodiversity, and reducing the use of energy. Investment and improved management resulted in large-scale innovations in production and significant benefits to the environment.

Partners for environmental education

An important aspect of environmental protection however is raising the awareness with the community to environment, ensuring that people have knowledge and understanding, in taking care of their environment themselves.

To this end, the company invests resources in early environmental education and protection. We take part in special open-air lessons with local schools from Chelopech and Chavdar. Supported by experts from the Environmental department, environmental NGOs and institutions such as the East Aegean Basin directorate in Plovdiv and the Ministry of Environment and Waters, the students discuss the environment, the effects on health and biotic life, and the importance of taking care both by industry and individuals.

In 2012 the schools in Chelopech, Chavdar and Krumovgrad became members of the national initiative Youth Water Parliament - a youth NGO focused on protection of waters in Bulgaria. Their regular sessions, exchange of experience and summer camps support the development of clear understanding, wider knowledge and proactive attitude of responsible citizens. Students from Chelopech and Krumovgrad had exchange visits with their French counterparts.

Ada tepe gold project – an EU case study on the article 6.3 permit procedure under the habitats directive – best practice

Our entire Krumovgrad gold project lies within the footprint of Natura 2000 protected site known as BG 0001032 Rhodopes East under European Council Directive 92/43 on the Conservation of Natural Habitats of Wild Fauna and Flora. This area is home to numerous rare amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates, including Mauremys caspica, Testudo graeca, and Testudo hermanni. The nearby river Krumovitsa is home to bird species, including black stork Ciconia nigra, booted eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus and olive-tree warbler Hippolais olivetorum. Because the project is in a Natura 2000 site the Ministry of Environment required us to carry out an appropriate Compatibility Assessment (CA) in accordance with article 6.3 of the European Union Habitats Directive.

Consultants carried out a detailed study of all existing publications on the flora and fauna of the Eastern Rhodope Mountains and on the two Natura 2000 sites in particular. Supplementary field surveys were undertaken by a team of 8 experts. During the assessment all guidelines and documents related to Natura 2000 were taken into consideration, including the EC guidelines “Non-energy mineral extraction and Natura 2000”.

The Compatibility Assessment revealed that the project would indeed have a significant negative effect on a number of protected habitat types and species. After long discussions with the team of experts, and following further field studies and technology reviews, we presented a revised investment proposal. It involved the same open pit on Ada tepe hill and a similar system for crushing and grinding the ore but offered an alternative approach to disposing of the mine waste material. A new form of semi-dry technology for extracting the gold was proposed which involved flotation. The end product is a gold concentrate, but not the gold metal itself, which would now be processed away from the site. The total final area of the project was reduced to 85 ha (compared to 187 ha in initial proposal). The revised project, together with the impact statements, was put out to public consultation and public hearings were held with the local community and NGOs in July 2011.

The assessment concluded that, except for the open pit for which there is no alternative, the locations and types of installations sufficiently reduced the negative effects on the Natura 2000 site and its habitats and species to an insignificant level. The CA concluded that, provided certain conditions were respected during the construction and operation of the pit, the revised project could be approved. Impact of the project will be monitored according to a biodiversity monitoring plan which started before the construction phase and will run during the life of mine and in the post closure period. During 2012 and 2013, as part of species protection actions, protected tortoises were resettled as a protection measure. Impacted area was fenced to prevent tortoises from returning. 403 species were resettled out of the fence. The next step applied is the Biodiversity Action Plan which will improve habitats close to the mine site for resettled tortoises species.

Biodiversity - Krumovgrad

In 2015, the company developed a project for the implementation of the measures under the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). Two protected tortoise species (Hermann's tortoise and the mediterranean spur thigh tortoise), the Jersey Tiger moth, the yellow-bellied toad and a few bat species were monitored as part of the BAP and the animal species monitoring plan. In the process of developing the project for the implementation of the measures under the BAP, the habitats on the future mine site (part of the Rhodopes-east protected site) were studied exhaustively with the aim to improve them, particularly the habitats of the two protected tortoise species. BAP also covered activities to promote the importance of protecting endangered species and to fight poaching.

Monitoring of fine particulate matter and deposited dust

In 2015, Dundee Precious Metals purchased and commissioned three dust monitors for fine particulate matter in the air and 7 dust deposition gauges as part of the implementation of the environment monitoring plan and the air quality and dust management plan. The instruments are used to collect data about the air quality and the background levels fine particulate matter in the air. The data will be used to set up a baseline for the Krumovgrad project to compare after commencement of construction and to implement measures to mitigate the potential impact from dust on the neighboring villages. Real-time measurement data is freely accessible online to all users who have Internet access at http://krumovgrad.webnoise.eu/index.php. The PM2.5 and PM10 data is plotted on graphs to display the values of the two air quality parameters.

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