Environmental responsibility in Bulgaria

We have developed a comprehensive programme to ensure the protection of water, air, soil, biodiversity, and to reduce our use of energy. Investment and improved management have resulted in large-scale innovations in production and significant benefits to the environment. For further information see our brochure “Innovative Solutions for Efficient Production in Harmony with Nature.”

Partners for environmental education

An important aspect of environmental protection is raising community awareness and ensuring people understand their role in taking care of the environment. We are involved in environmental education and protection and we take part in open-air lessons with local schools. 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, students learn about the environment, and the role of industry and individuals.

We have also participated in environmental research studies with local universities - the University of Mining and Geology and the University of Forestry - and several other businesses.

Air quality

We have modernized production equipment leading to a reduced impact. For example, the introduction of semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) mill in the processing stage has allowed us to decommission secondary and tertiary crushing leading to a reduction of nearly 60 tons of dust emissions per annum. Another initiative that reduced dust was the installation of a crusher at the lowest level in the mine, allowing primary crushing to take place underground. Decommissioning of the crusher facilities on the surface also reduced noise levels by approximately three decibels.

Climate protection

In our Corporate Responsibility Policy, we recognize the importance of climate protection, a high priority in our operations. In particular, we are focused on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the use of renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency. Process efficiencies and improved management systems introduced since 2004 have substantially reduced our environmental impact and our carbon footprint.

In 2011, we set a target of 20% lower carbon emission level to be achieved by 2020, and linked this target to specific measures to reduce electrical power, diesel and materials consumption within various departments. We successfully achieved this ambitions target prior to 2020 and we continue to focus on the ongoing management of our carbon emissions.

Rehabilitation and soil protection

We operate in compliance with national and European Union laws. Additionally, we endeavour to apply best practices and innovative solutions.

In 2004, we embarked on a project to rehabilitate land affected by historical mining to restore the land as much as possible to its original natural condition and plant indigenous tree and shrub species, to rehabilitate the habitats of several animal species. Since then, a total of 22.3 hectares of land has been rehabilitated and more than 150,000 trees and shrubs have been planted.

We have participated in project to identify post-closure rehabilitation options of Chelopech tailings management facility. Experimental sites were established to test various scenarios for the rehabilitation of affected land, such as reclaiming it for agricultural use and recommending plant species, once the land is rehabilitated. The project is being conducted by a team from the University of Forestry, in cooperation with DPM and includes hiring local people under a joint social program implemented by DPM and the Municipalities of Chavdar and Chelopech, in cooperation with local businesses.

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 we changed to the much more environmentally-friendly method known as ‘long hole stoping’ with fill, which provides improved rock stability and increases production efficiency. This method ensures maximum utilization of waste rock, preventing surface runoff and reducing tailings. The long hole stoping with fill allows waste material to be used for stope backfilling underground, ensuring environmental and landscape benefits.

In 2010, the backfill system was replaced with paste fill, which provides better utilization of flotation tailings, improved quality control, lower speed during backfill transportation and lower cement consumption.

The mine waste is used for stope backfilling directly underground and is fully utilized on the site where generated.

The pyrite concentrate production began in 2014 after commissioning of the upgraded pyrite circuit, which enables us to achieve substantial environmental improvements, extract more metals from the ore and reduce the volume of mine waste.

The environmental benefits of these new methods are indisputable, including:

  • process waste reduction of 43% (2004 to 2017) measured per ton of ore throughput
  • all waste rock is used for backfill, reducing the surface stockpile requirements
  • prevention of surface subsidence
  • environmental protection (surface and ground water, etc.)

Protection of water - use of fresh water in production

A process plant modernization was completed in 2012, leading to a significant reduction in the use of fresh water, through improved water management and water recycling, returning 90% of process waters back into production. The new concentrate and flotation waste thickeners together with the filter press allowing water to be recycled on site.

These activities have been fundamental in our protection of water resources against the TMF impact. The volume of TMF waste-water disposed between 2004 and 2017 was reduced by 90% per ton of mined ore.

In 2018 we built and commissioned a modular domestic waste-water treatment plant to further protect and conserve water resources.

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