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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.

For more information read our booklet 'Innovative Solutions for Efficient Production in Harmony with Nature'.

Air quality

Modernisation of production equipment led to a reduction of resources used by the company. The introduction of semi-autogenous (SAG) mill in the processing stage allowed us to decommission secondary and tertiary crushing (major sources of dust emissions) leading to a reduction of nearly 60 tons of dust emissions per annum. A new and more powerful main Sever Shaft fan was also installed to ensure proper ventilation underground. In order to protect neighbouring lands and ambient air from exhaust gases, a steel shield was installed in front of the fan.

Another step to reduce dust was the implementation of an innovative approach meant to increase ore handling effectiveness: a crusher, installed at the lowest level in the mine, allows primary crushing to take place underground. Decommissioning of the crusher facilities on the surface had another positive effect: noise levels have been reduced by about 3 decibels.

Climate protection

Pursuing Dundee Precious Metals environmental protection policy, we recognise the importance of climate protection and give it a high priority in our operation. We have reduced our footprint and improved our energy efficiency by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging the use of renewable energy sources.

In 2011 we initiated a project to measure the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions from our Chelopech operation and took steps to manage these emissions. In order for the measures to be adequate, a review of alternatives and best practices was conducted. Due to the introduction of tailings dewatering techniques, water reclamation and re-use of tailings as paste fill the company energy requirements have also decreased. Auxiliary measures such as decreased fuel requirements, installation of solar heating panels and shipment of concentrate through railway siding resulted in significant reduction of Green House Gas emissions. 2012 saw a record decrease of 30% of these emissions compared with the baseline 2009.

Rehabilitation and soil protection

Our Chelopech mine is located 75 kilometres from Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria. It lies in the foothills of the Balkan ridges, stretching across the country, running in immediate proximity to the village of Chelopech. The region is famous for its mining and ore processing industry. There are two other open pit mines for copper and gold, and a metallurgical smelter are in the region.

The mine has a history of over 60 years. During past mining activities insufficient attention was paid to issues related to environmental protection and rehabilitation. When we acquired the Chelopech operation, we commenced a major environmental project aiming to rehabilitate areas disturbed as a result of past mining activities.

In 2004, a scientific research team from the Forestry University in Sofia developed a project with two phases: Phase I – rehabilitation of land in the north-eastern part of the operation and phase II – rehabilitation of the waste rock stockpile, the surface subsidence of 80,000 m3, and rehabilitation of land under former derelict buildings.

As well as the direct benefits to the environment, the project resulted in significant social and economic benefits. The acid rock generation was eliminated; erosion of the steep mountain slopes was curbed that consequently improved landscape. The planting of trees and bushes typical for the region allowed for restoration of the habitats of diverse fauna and ornithological species. Working with the Forestry University on this project provided real work experience to students involved in visiting the site and observing the development of the vegetation. It also served as a vehicle for communication with the public, local citizens, schools in the region as well as local and national governments.

Rehabilitation has been consistently on our agenda and by the end of 2012 we had 22 hectares of land rehabilitated and over 150,000 trees planted. Some of the major projects are construction of a screening wall at Sever shaft to protect the adjacent lands from mine exhaust and upgrade of the Tailings Management Facility main embankment.

Cultivation of lavender and roses – a sustainable business practice

Cultivating essential oil plants is considered one of the best techniques to rehabilitate soil. Consistent with our environmental protection and sustainable development policy we launched a project to plant lavender and roses to improve the soil in immediate proximity to our mine site and subsequently develop a sustainable business of essential oil plant cultivation. The project was launched in 2015 and includes a three-year planned period for cultivation care before harvesting and essential oil production can start by a willing entrepreneur from the region. Environmental improvement is the major benefit expected from the project. The visual benefit is already in place for local residents and visitors to Chelopech. The project involves long-term unemployed residents of Chavdar municipality. Workers have been trained under a joint social support program of Chavdar municipality and Dundee Precious Metals. Our key project partner is a team of experts from the University of Forestry Sofia.

Effective management of mining waste

The Chelopech mine has been using the sub-level mining method for more than 40 years. Over the years this method caused large amounts of waste rock or mining waste to be hauled to the surface and stockpiled as well as caused surface subsidence. In 2005 this historically applied method was changed to the much more environment-friendly method known as ‘long hole stoping’ with fill in order to provide improved rock stability and increase production efficiency. The method is recognized as the best available technique since it ensures maximum utilization of waste rock, prevents surface runoff into the mine and reduces the amount of tailings reporting to the tailings management facility,

This innovative system ensures more effective extraction of the mineral reserves and significantly reduces negative impacts on the surface and subsurface environment. The long hole stoping with fill allows the waste material to be used for stope backfilling underground thus ensuring environmental and landscape benefits.

Protection of water - use of fresh water in production

The process plant modernization project started in 2010. Over two years a new semi-auto genous mill, new flotation cells, high-rate thickeners and a new filter press were commissioned. Meanwhile old flotation cells were decommissioned as well as the sections of primary and secondary crushing. An automated process monitoring was put in place to ensure all major processes and equipment are being monitored.

In 2012 when the modernization of the process plant was completed, there was a 50% reduction in the use of fresh water from Kachulka dam compared to 2011. The main reason behind this decrease is improved water management and water recycling thus returning 90% of process waters back into production. The new concentrate and flotation waste thickeners together with the filter press allow water to be recycled at the site which besides leading to reuse of water saves electricity from the pumps at the tailings management facility.

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 amd Krumovgrad had exchange visits with their French counterparts.

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