Mining & Resources

Mining and resources Investment Potential
  1. Getting the concession for drilling rights for development of mine reserves.
  2. Buying an already existing concession for mining from the owner/bank(s).
  3. Creating PPP with the state or municipalities for the development of mineral recourses.
  4. Invest in factories and production facilities , connected with the poles of mineral resources (glass factory near the sand finding pole; floatation near metal mining).
  5. Selling the know how or special equipment for the operators of mines and mineral resources.

Main raw materials that are mined: lignite coal, lead and zinc, copper and polymetal ores, gypsum, limestones, bentonite, kaolin, quartz sands, fire-clays, marbles.

The Bulgarian mining industry forms up to 5% of the country’s GDP and provides direct employment to approximately 30,000 people, and through related industries to about 120,000. A total of 23 million tons of natural resources are registered in the country.

Coal Mining

The coal supplies in the Republic of Bulgaria are slightly over 2 billion tons; the relative share of the supplies in operation is 86%. The lignite supplies are predominant in the country – 91%, and the most of the studied deposits have geological, mining and technical conditions that allow open-pit mining.

Under preliminary data for 2011, a total of 35 million tons of coal were mined, including lignite, bituminous and brown coal. During the year 13,300 people were employed by the sector.

Six mines, producing brown coal: Bobov Dol, Oranovo, Cherno More (Black Sea), Otkrit Vugledobiv (Open-Pit Coal Mining), Fundamental and Vitren; 4 for producing lignite coal – Maritza East, Chukurovo, Beli Breg, Stanyantsi, as well as one for bituminous coal – Balkan 2000 – operate in the subsector.

The lignite coal of the Eastern Maritsa basin represents the main local resource. It was formed during the Neozoic Tertiary period. The earliest data about existence of coal in this region were provided by the French researcher Auguste Viquesnel (1847). Twenty two years later, Austrian geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter gives a description of the coal deposit and makes the second (after Ami Bouй) geological map of Bulgaria as a part of the Turkish Empire.

The state-owned enterprise Maritza East Mines operates in the Eastern Maritsa basin, where it develops three open-pit mines – Troyanovo-1, Troyanovo-North and Troyanovo-3, which supply three thermal power plants for production of electricity and a briquette factory, producing briquettes, with coal and provide resources for the next 50 years.

In 2011, the enterprise produced 32 million tons of lignite coal.

The consumption of coal is mainly for the production of electricity and heat – 97%. After two of the units of Kozloduy Nuclear Plant, providing 35% of the production of electricity in the country, were closed down in 2007 as a precondition for the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union, the big thermal power plants using coal dominate in the structure of production of electricity (55% in 2009).

The short transition period under Directive 2001/80/EC dated October 23, 2001 on the requirements for limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants creates uncertainty regarding the future of the Bulgarian energy sector and the coal mining in the country as well as a real threat for loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Metal resources

Stocks and resources of about 245 metal resources have been found through own geological and research works on the territory of Bulgaria, namely: iron ores – 19, manganese ores – 6, chrome ores – 3, wolframs – 1, molybdenum ores – 2, lead and zinc ores – 109, copper ores – 33, gold ores – 18, gold bearing placers – 3, silver ores – 3, uranium ores – 45, pyrites – 3.

The found and studies deposits of uranium are of different genetic type. It had been mined between 1939 and 1995. Over 70% of the existing stocks are in deposits, suitable for extraction under the drilling method.

In 2010, 27 million tons of copper ores and their concentrates as well as 614,000 tons of lead, zinc and tin ores and their concentrates were produced, a year-on-year increase of 1% and 21%, respectively. A total of 6,263 people were employed in the sector.

Currently, copper ores are mined by 3 companies – by Assarel-Medet and Elatsite-Med by an open-pit method, and by Chelopech Mining by an underground method. Lead and zinc ores are mined underground by 4 mining companies – Rudmetal, Gorubso-Zlatograd, Gorubso-Luki and Gorubso-Madan.

Assarel-Medet AD Mining and Processing Complex is an open-pit mining and copper ore-dressing company providing an average annual of over 50% of the national production of the essential for the human development metal. Its history dates back from the official opening of Medet Mining and Processing Complex on December 24, 1964. The company received the first for the country concession for mining of subsoil resources on December 23, 1998 and represents the first privatization in the mining sector from June 15, 1999.

Assarel-Medet AD produces and offers copper concentrates, cementation and cathode copper for the country and abroad.

It extracts traditionally the biggest volume of mine mass in the Bulgarian mining and processes about 13 million tons copper ore annually.

The hydrothermal copper deposit Assarel is of copper porphyry type and it is located 12 km away from the Medet deposit in the ore region of Panagyurishte. It was formed in the late Cretaceous period and the main ore minerals are chalcosine, pyrite, chalcopyrite, bornite and coveline, and the average content of copper is 0.45 %.

The Assarel Mine and the Assarel Ore-Dressing Factory for Production of Copper Concentrate are two of the main production units of the Assarel-Medet AD Mining and Processing Complex. The modern infrastructure of the company includes also a water facility, a workshop for microbiological leaching of copper, cyclic-flow technology for transport of rock mass, installation for sorption and electrolysis of copper, state-of-the-art refining equipment and administrative and other buildings.

A total of 1,600 people are employed by the company and its subsidiaries.

In 2009, the company was distinguished as an Investor in Society by the Bulgarian Forum of Business Leaders and was awarded the Grand-Prix for Socially Responsible Company of the Year of the national competition organized by Pari daily.

Elatsite-Med AD is a private joint stock company with a field of activity of mining and dressing of copper and gold-containing ores.

The company employs a total of 1,834 people. Elatsite-Med AD is among the big taxpayers and one of the biggest investors and concessionaires in Bulgaria.

The company is located at about 70 km to the East of Sofia and comprises two main units: an open pit in Etropole and an ore-dressing complex near the village of Mirkovo. Elatsite Mine is one of the biggest open-pit mines in Bulgaria and the biggest local producer of copper-gold concentrate. The ore mining started in 1983. The mine is planned to be exploited until 2021.

Mined ore is transported for milling, flotation and drying to the filter section on a unique rubber-transport underground conveyor under the ridge of Stara planina Mountain, of a length of almost 7 km.

In 2009, Elatsite-Med posted a year-on-year increase of the total volume of production of 8.83%. In 2010, the Company was distinguished by the InvestBulgaria Agency with the award Investor of the Year -2009 for its investment in Design and Construction of Coarse Crushing Unit No 3 and Optimization of Ore Transportation at Elatsite Ore Complex, implemented in the period of 2008 – 2009.

Chelopech Mining EAD is a subsidiary of Dundee Precious Metals Inc. The activity of the company is extraction and processing of copper-gold ore from the Chelopech deposit and the production of copper/gold concentrate.

Chelopech is one of the biggest copper and gold deposits in Europe. It is located West of Chelopech village, in the Northern part of the Zlatitza valley at the foot of the Balkan Range. The deposit comprises a number of discrete ore bodies within an andesitic to dacitic volcanic complex of host rocks on the Northern side of a North-Easterly trending jog in the regional, East-West trending Balkan fault. The host rocks in turn comprise a portion of an Upper Cretaceous magmatic and sedimentary assemblage preserved within a North to East trending graben. Basement rocks exposed to the South and East of Chelopech include Precambrian granitoid gneisses, two-mica schists, quartzites and amphibolites.

Content of gold in mined ore is on the average about 2.5 g/t, of copper – 1%, and the content of silver is over 6.5 g/t.

Geological studies in the region of the deposit date back from 1840. Operation of the deposit starts at the end of the 50s of XX century.

On September 30, 2003, Dundee Precious Metals Inc. concluded successfully the transaction of acquisition of the Bulgarian assets from their previous owner. In the 2004 – 2009 period, the value of the invested funds exceeded 300 million leva. The investments planned for the next two years stand at over 170 million leva and are intended mainly for the expansion of the capacity of the mine and ore-dressing factory up to 2 million tons per year.

Chelopech Mining is among the biggest employers of the country. Over 900 people are employed by the company.

The processing of the produced quantities of concentrate is taken over by the Tsumeb smelter located in Namibia, Africa, which was acquired by Dundee Precious Metals Inc. in the beginning of 2010.

Gorubso-Kurdjali AD mines about 70,000 tons of polymetal ores, containing gold, from the Chala mine.

Mining of Industrial Minerals, Rock-Facing Supplies and Raw Materials for Construction

Industrial deposits of 55 minerals and rocks for industrial production are registered in Bulgaria. Most important for the country are the deposits of rock-salt, kaolin-containing sands, quartz sands, barite, gypsum and limestones for the production of faience. An essential share belongs also to the clay deposits (fireproof, bentonite and ordinary ones), dolomites, limestones for the chemical industry, quartzite, perlite and fluorite. Prospecting for vermiculite, graphite and others has been carried out in the recent years.

In 2010, the subsector produced 9 mln. tons and last year employed 5,500 people.

Leading companies in the sector of industrial minerals mining are Kaolin AD and S&B; Industrial Minerals.

Kaolin AD was founded in the 1920s in the city of Varna and has established traditions in the production of industrial minerals. Currently, the company is the biggest producer of industrial minerals in Bulgaria and is among the leading companies in the sector for Central and Eastern Europe. The Kaolin Group includes a number of subsidiaries operating more than 30 mines and 10 factories for processing of industrial minerals in Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and Ukraine. The Company operates deposits in the region of Vetovo, Kaolinovo, Ignatievo, Dimitrovgrad and Topolovgrad. Kaolin AD is traded on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange since May 21, 2007 and is already part of the SOFIX main stock exchange index.

S&B; Industrial Minerals AD (Bentonite AD), Kurdjali, is part of the economic group S&B; Industrial Minerals SA, based in Athens, Greece. The company has a long tradition in mining and processing of non-ore subsoil resources. The Company’s activities are in two main areas: mining of mineral resources and their processing.

The sector of mining of rock facing materials and the production of raw materials for construction is undergoing significant changes in recent years and mainly small and medium-sized enterprises operate in it. Because of the drastic drop in the construction industry due to the economic crisis, the production of these enterprises went down by 50% on the average in 2009 and about 30% in 2010.

According to the Updated List of Registered Deposits of Subsoil Resources by 01.01.2011, 51 deposits of rock-facing materials and 151 deposits of construction materials are registered on the territory of the country and they include raw materials for the production of cement and lime, for rough structural clay products, sand and gravel for concrete, rock for facing and crushed stone, clay for stoneware products and others.

The enterprises operating in the field of rock facing materials carry out activities in two main directions: mining and processing of rock facing materials and processing of imported supplies. The presence of Bulgarian raw materials in the production of decorative products is insignificant. Practically Bulgaria is producing currently only decorative limestones, marbles and gneisses. The lack of sufficient production of granites, marbles and others, required to meet the market demand, is compensated by imports of rock raw materials and products from China (granite), Turkey (marble, granite), Italian (marble) and others.

Primary mineral resources

The 2012-2035 Mining Industry Strategy of the Romanian Government lists the following primary mineral resources and their production potential:

  • Pit coal: more than 300 million tonnes.
  • Soft coal: more than 500 million tonnes.
  • Salt: reserves of 100 million tonnes that will meet current demand for 40 years.
  • Gold and silver: reserves of 760 million tonnes.
  • Cupriferous ore: reserves of 443 million tonnes.

Current state of mining activity

In 1989 there were almost 300 mines in operation. By the late 1990s, Romania’s mining operations needed huge government subsidies to continue operating. Between 2002 and 2012 the government closed 255 mines.

In 2014, four production licences were awarded (Annual Report of the National Agency for Mineral Resources (NAMR)).

Government policy and the importance of the mining sector to the overall economy

The 2012 to 2035 Romanian Mining Strategy (Strategy) includes, among other matters, a legal approach to the development of the mining sector. In particular, it proposes amendments to the current legal framework governing mining and mine closure activities, as well as the enactment of new legislation on mineral waters and restructuring of the salt extraction sector. The Strategy also contemplates the restructuring of the NAMR and the creation of an independent Mining Authority and policies for development of research and development (R&D;) activities in the mining sector.

The January 2015 bulletin of the Romanian Institute of Statistics (INS) indicates that, in January 2015 as compared to January 2014, although the gross industrial production index increased by 1.2%, the same index in the mining and quarrying sector saw a decrease of 3.8%. Similarly, as against the previous month in January 2015 the overall labour productivity in industry increased by 3%, but mining and quarrying encountered a significant labour productivity decrease of 16.9%. The monthly turnover in mining and quarrying decreased by 1% in January 2015 with respect to the same month in 2014.

The revenues or estimated revenues from exploitation

For the first nine months of 2014, royalties and taxes from mining activities contributed about EUR40 million to state budget revenues, compared to about EUR49 million in 2013 (Report of the NAMR).

Current major mining projects

In May 2015, the Canadian corporation Carpathian Gold Inc. announced the award by the NAMR to its Romanian subsidiary of the production licence for the Rovina Valley Project comprising three Au-Cu porphyry systems (Rovina, Colnic and Ciresata) located in Hunedoara County, Romania. The production licence for the Rovina Valley Project will become effective only on final review by several government departments and its publication in the Official Gazette of Romania.

The Rosia Montana project is 80.685% owned by Gabriel Resources, a Canadian company with a minority stake of 19.31% held by a state-controlled company.

This has been subject to fierce public debate during the past 15 years.

The initial production licence for silver and gold ore in the Rosia Montana block was awarded in 1999 to the state-controlled company, Minvest. Later on, in 2000, the production licence was transferred to Rosia Montana Gold Corporation.

During the implementation of the project, major irregularities have arisen relating to the level of cyanide used for the extraction of ore, corporate governance and the level of royalties.

In November 2013, the Government submitted for public debate a special bill allowing for the acceleration of the Rosia Montana project. However, due to significant public protest, the bill was abandoned and the Government currently envisages amendments to the general rules on mining.

Assessed mineral mining and processing sites.

In the environmental assessment, chromite-related sites were generally given a lower priority by national actors, higher priority being allocated to copper mining sites. It was explained that waste disposal practices associated with copper mining in the country have caused serious problems in several areas. Although it was confirmed that mining and mineral-related sites are among those of highest concern, it was stressed that there are also several other priority sites related to the oil and chemicals industry, and to hazardous waste disposal, which have severe implications for environmental health. These sites come very high – some even at the top – on the list of national priorities for risk amelioration and remediation work.

  • Elbasan complex. Elbasan represents one of the most serious metals industry related hotspot in the country leaving behind an accumulation of some 35 years of metallurgical wastes. Waste from smelting activities there, about 1.5-2.0 million t of ferronickel slag and ferrochromium waste, contaminates soil and groundwater with heavy metals (chromium, nickel and manganese) in the area. The water in the Shkumbini river is also contaminated by trace metals and phenols from this dump.
  • Rreshen is a major centre for copper mining, with seven or more mining and copper ore concentrator operations located on both arms of the Mati-Fani river system and contributing to a succession of environmental problems, including tailings dumps partly located in the river. As a result of the nature of the ores (arsenopyrite) significant concentrations of arsenic are among the heavy metals in effluents polluting agricultural irrigation water. Tailings apparently contain around 0.8% copper and as such should represent an economic resource suitable for reprocessing and safe disposal.
  • Kurbnesh was described by Albanian representatives as a “very large disaster area”, discharging into the Fani and Mati rivers. Here too the site involves tailings from copper concentrators that have been dumped just next to or in river beds. Fushe Arrez area The area boasts the largest copper mining and beneficiation complex in the country, which produced and concentrated more than 320  000 t/yr of copper ore when operating at full capacity. Again arsenic contamination of surface and ground waters is an issue due to Arsenopyrite deposits and the location of residue stockpiles near the bank of the Fani river. On the positive side for this site it was reported that very rich copper grades are (still) present here (about 4% Cu, 2% Zn, 4g/t Au and up to 40g/t Ag) suggesting that ongoing mining activity is likely in the medium to long term, with possible scope for remediation work.
  • Pogradec Ferronickel crusher deposits (nickeliferous iron ore) have been dumped near Lake Ohrid. These materials are presumably from the mines near Pogradec (Prrenjas, Guri i Kuq and Bitinska). The preliminary samples that Albanian scientists have collected at the Guri i Kuq mine show concentrations of metals in the near shore lake water that are very high. It is likely that the muds and sands in these near shore locations are also contaminated, and this may pose a risk to the invertebrates, fish and birds living in this section of the lake. People who catch and eat fish in the area may also be at risk and it is possible that local drinking water sources have been contaminated.
  • Kalimash/Kukes/Gjejan. The area comprises copper mining operations including mines, concentrator(s) and a smelter. The ore contains Arsenopyrite and is generating significant pollution to water in the middle Drini river.

The mining industry in Serbia represents a vital component of the economy in general. Primary minerals extracted in Serbia include copper, coal, lead-zinc with associated gold, silver, copper, bismuth and cadmium, red bauxite and modest quantities of oil and gas. Prior to the conflicts of the 1990s, the country represented a significant proportion of European capacity for refined aluminium, copper lead, silver and zinc. Significant reserves of other mineral commodities, such as silica raw materials, quartz mineral sands, dolomite, zeolite, feldspars, clays, phosphorite, wollastonite, barite, bentonite, sea salt, and construction materials have also been identified in many different locations in Serbia. Copper 78 ore deposits occur as porphyry copper and massive sulphide types, located predominantly in the East Serbian sector of the Carpatho-Balkanides (i.e. the Bor metallogenic zone). In addition to the significant concentrations of gold in the Bor metallogenic zone, other areas with gold potential have been found in Serbia, including the volcanic complex of Lece, where gold is associated with hydrothermal vein-type lead, zinc and copper deposits, and with several other prospective areas of volcanic hosted gold mineralization. Rudarsko Topionicki Bazen’s (RTB) Bor mining, beneficiation, and smelting complex in Serbia accounts for all of Serbia’s total mine output of copper from its Bor, Majdanpek and Veliki Krivelj open-pit mines. The Bor mining and metallurgical complex produces copper ore in quantities that are significant at a regional level. Secondary precious metal refining at the complex is also substantial. An important point in the context of this study is that continued operations are to be expected in the Bor zone. In 1994, a major deposit of 700  million t copper ore (4million t copper) was discovered in the Bor region. Small quantities of petroleum and natural gas are produced in Serbia’s northern Vojvodina Province. Oil and gas reserves are minor compared to other regional producer countries. The most important oil field is Mokrin, in the Kikinda region, which accounts for 60% of all Serbian production. Serbia is also a major source of coal in the region, with lignite making up more than 98% of output. It is mainly surface-mined in the Kostolac and Kolubara basins, which contain low-calorie coal (lignites). Serbian production of industrial minerals includes such commodities as clays (bentonite, fire clay, and kaolin), feldspar, gypsum, magnesite and pumice. In addition, silica raw materials, with mineral potential quartz sands are located in the Sava, Danube, Morava and other riverbeds. The main producers of building material are the cement factories at Beocin, Kosjeric and Novi Popovac, and brick factories at Kikinda, Novi Becej, Novi Pazar, Ruma and Kanjiza. With the wide range and extensive nature of Serbian mining operations, the existence of serious pollution sites is almost a given. Several of these deposits are situated in protected natural areas, even in national parks. While there are seri Copper mine production 50 000 1990 1995 2000 2005 2007 100 000 150 000 200 000 250 000 300 000 Copper (in tonnes) Note: Western Europe includes Finland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden Source: US Geological Survey Western Europe Serbia 79 ous problems with unstable and eroding waste at the mines in Kolubara and Kostolac; the most seriously polluted areas are in the watershed in the vicinity of the Bor, Krivelj and Majdanpek mining areas. Pollution risks are first and foremost related to mineral-beneficiation sites (milling and flotation plants). The most serious incidents listed are the breaches of tailing dams at Majdanpek and Veliki Majdan causing direct, serious contamination of the river Pek by heavy metals.

Assessed mining and metal-processing sites: 

  • Bor. copper mines and smelting complex The smelting complex and series of copper mines appear in every list and is highlighted by all sources in the region. It arguably represents the region’s most serious environmental legacy. Extreme pollution is released to the Borska, Timok and Kriveljska rivers with the Danube river as the final recipient. There is also a high risk of catastrophic failure in one or more engineered structures containing tailings. Extreme pollution is also released to the air, thus affecting human and animal health to a serious, even catastrophic extent.
  • Veliki Krivelj. This site is also part of the Bor complex and pollutes the Kriveljska and Timok rivers, then the Danube (final recipient). This site has an engineered structure with a high probability of failure. The Veliki Krivelj tailing dam is located in the Kriveljska river valley and was built by diverting the river (tunnel and collector) and damming it up and down-stream. This collector is damaged and may fail, releasing toxic substances to the river system.
  • Cerovo. This smaller copper mine and mill are also part of the Bor complex. Mine water is heavily contaminated with heavy metals.
  • Veliki Majdan. The lead and zinc mine is in the vicinity of Ljubovija, close to the river Drina. Apart from the usual environmental problems associated with lead and zinc mines in Serbia, this site has been involved in at least one serious release of tailings. At the afterwards proved the presence of heavy metals in excess of acceptable limits in the water of the Drina.
  • Zajaca smelter. This operation, where antimony mining, beneficiation and smelting took place, is close to the Drina river. Mining operations were conducted underground and serious acid-mine drainage with a high concentration of heavy metals in effluents are reported. 
  • Kolubara. The site is adjacent to the Kolubara river, a tributary of the lower Sava. The lignite pits there reportedly cause problems with particulates, phenols and other contaminants in wastewater discharging from the coal drying facility. In addition, abandoned mine pits and land are still not replanted.

Before the dissolution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the subsequent civil war, Bosnia and Herzegovina was 58 a major centre for metallurgical industries in former Yugoslavia. The country’s total steel output from the Rudarsko Metalurški Kombinat plant at Zenica (or Zeljezara Zenica ) then amounted to more than 2 million t/yr. By the end of 1999 production had steadied at roughly half this amount. The country was also a major source of bauxite, alumina and aluminium. Production was administered by Energoinvest with bauxite being mined in Vlasenica, Jajce, Bosanska Krupa and a range of other sites – located in the north-west part of the country. In the late 1990s Bosnia and Herzegovina’s bauxite resources were estimated to be about 41 million t of marketable grade ore containing about 50% Al2O3 and about 5% SiO2. Alumina refineries were located at Birac-Zvornik and Mostar. Mostar was also the centre of aluminium manufacture and the aircraft industry. In 1999, following a period of post-conflict reconstruction, an operational capacity of about 97 000 t/yr of primary aluminium was achieved at Mostar. The production of other non-ferrous metals included only relatively minor amounts of lead and zinc ore mined and milled at Srebrenica (Sase mine) in RS and at Olovo, and Vares in the FBC. Reserves were estimated to be about 12 million t of ore grading 1.8% to 4% lead and 2.5% to 6% zinc. In addition manganese has been mined at Buzim (Buchim). In the past Bosnia and Herzegovina was also a major source of asbestos, barite, gypsum and salt, as well as construction 59 aggregates, cement, clays, dimensioned stone, dolomite, kaolin, limestone, magnesite, sand and gravel and other industrial minerals. The latter were mainly produced for local use. Asbestos and asbestos cement are reportedly mined, milled and produced near the border crossing to Croatia. Coal mining in Bosnia and Herzegovina is organized into two separate operations. In the FBC, the Middle Bosnia and the Tuzla coal mines supply the Kakanj and the Tuzla power plants with more than 80% of their total coal production. The lignite surface mine at Gacko and the brown coal surface mine at Ugljevik were fully integrated with the Gacjo and Ugljevik power plants respectively. Coal reserves for the entire country are estimated to be 3.8 billion metric tonnes.

Assessed mineral mining and processing sites: 

  • Vares is a historical centre of iron-ore mining and iron smelting, and lead/zinc mining and concentration, where a range of mining legacies with serious environmental implications exist. In particular, there is significant concern with tailings dam monitoring and stability. Due to the lack of funds and the conflict in BiH, mining activity ceased and mines have been left without rehabilitation or closure measures. When mining activities stopped, the Smreka mine pit filled with water and is now an artificial lake (about 3 Mm³) used in summer for recreation by local people (over 10 000 inhabitants). Moreover, agricultural activities (stock-raising, fish farming, etc) are presently carried out.
  • Srebrenica. Lead and zinc mining and concentration at this site covers some 90% of the locality. It has reportedly been mined or affected by mining in the past, and according to local experts, there are currently some 120 locations where contaminated mine water reaches the surface and flows into local waterways. Pollution can be associated with lead and zinc ore and acid-mine drainage. Polluted water runs into the Krivaja river, which joins the Drina river at the nearby Serbian border. Previous acute accidents are associated with the area – a tailings dam reportedly failed in the 1970s causing transboundary pollution. 
  • Jajce. This site comprises a ferro-alloy smelter with associated air, soil and water pollution problems. A high risk waste pond is also reported. Very limited data is available for this site although it has consistently been reported as an environmental and health risk concern. 
  • Mostar. Both alumina refining and aluminium smelting take place in Mostar. Downstream processing industries made the city the country’s centre for aluminium manufacture and the aircraft industry. Primary environmental concerns indicated by local experts relate to the toxicity of leachates (high pH of 12+ and contaminants) and a flooded mine pit.

The Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia hosts deposits containing economic grades of copper, iron, lead, precious metals such as silver and gold, and zinc. In the second half of the 20th century an extensive processing and fabricating infrastructure was also established allowing production not only of these metals and their alloys, but also ferro-alloys such as ferrochromium, ferromanganese and ferronickel, and aluminium. While not covering all the operations in the country, we include a brief summary of major operations.

  • Bucim. The Bucim mine is the country’s only producer of copper ore with capacity to produce about 4 million t of ore, 50 000 t concentrates, 8  000 t copper cathode, and 3 000 t copper alloys every year. The site, located at Radovis in eastern Macedonia, is the country’s only major copper mine. It is consistently listed as a major environmental problem for the country with pollution-related risks encompassing heavy-metal contamination of water and soil, particulate emissions to the air, and (possible) stability concerns in tailing impoundments.
  • Sasa. The Sasa lead and zinc mine is located roughly 10 km north of the small town of Makedonska Kamenica, in a relatively remote location some 5 km to the west of the Bulgarian border. The mine was opened in 1963 and during the 1990s ore production levels at Sasa were roughly 0.5 million t/yr. The site has a number of significant environmental issues including atmospheric dust emissions, mine and tailings dam discharges to surface waters, and a tailings landfill that has no environmental safeguards with respect to the lining of its base; the treatment of wastewater discharged from its base; or dust emission controls under windy conditions. A culvert under the dam failed in 2003 causing a large-scale release of tailings.
  • Veles The country’s smelter and refinery for the production of lead, zinc and associated metals is located at Veles (MHK Zletovo-Veles). The zinc refinery had a production capacity of 14 000 t/yr, with 40 000 t/yr for the lead refinery. The smelter is located on the northwestern outskirts of the town of Veles (population of about 60 000). The main smelter operations started in 1972-3. An ion-exchange cadmium plant followed in 1979 and other minor processing operations were added in the 1980s. In the 1990s production levels were roughly 65 000 t zinc, 35 000 t lead and 125  000 t sulphuric acid by-product. Emissions from the smelter are contributing to regional atmospheric pollution, but the precise extent of this is as yet uncertain. The river Vardar flows in a south-easterly direction some 0.75 km to the east of the smelter and the slag landfill and is affected by effluents from these sites. Extensive impacts on local soils and community health have also been recorded.
  • Tetovo and Kavadarci. Macedonia operated two ferro-alloy plants at Tetovo and Kavadarci. The Tetovo plant was established in 1952 mainly to produce chromite-related products such as ferrochromium, ferrosilicochromium and sodium dichromate. The Kavadarci plant started operation in 1982 with an installed capacity of about 12  000 t/yr using nickel or feedstock from the Rzanovo Mine.
  • Lojane. The Lojane chromium and antimony mine was active from 1923 to 1979, during which time antimony and chromium 64 ores were extracted and processed. The mine site, including the remains of the beneficiation plant and the residual waste dump, is located north of Kumanovo, near the border with Serbia and Kosovo. Due to its position near the border, the mine was in the one of the crisis areas most affected by the 2001 ethnic conflict and is consistently listed as a major environmental problem for the country. The site is next to a school and some small villages. It is a very serious human health risk given high concentration arsenic wastes there.
  • Zletovo. Zletovo mine first opened in 1947, to provide lead and zinc concentrates for the Veles smelter. The current Zletovo lead and zinc mine is close to Dobrevo village, roughly 3  km north-east of the town of Probistip and 7 km north-west of Zletovo village. The sites associated with this mine give rise to various serious environmental concerns. Above all heavily contaminated mine water is being discharged onto agricultural land, with extensive cadmium, lead and zinc contamination of crops irrigated by river water below the Zletovo mine and other nearby facilities. The ore is processed at the Probistip concentration plant where the tailing-storage facility is known to be prone to failure. In 1975 the tailing dam at Zletovo failed and the lagoon discharged, flooding villages and agricultural land downstream. The tailing impoundment has no environmental safeguards with respect to the lining of its base, the treatment of wastewater discharged from its base, and control of dust emissions under windy conditions. The tailings pond is another very significant hazard. 
  • Toranica. The Toranica mine is located roughly 18  km southeast of the town of Kriva Palanka and 2 km west of the Bulgarian border. The mine started commercial production in 1987 and for Macedonia was considered to be a relatively new lead and zinc facility. At its peak it accounted for about 20% of Macedonia’s total lead and zinc output. The site gives rise to several environmental concerns. There is extensive cadmium, lead and zinc contamination of river water downstream from the mine. The tailings impoundment lacks environmental safeguards for the lining of its base, the treatment of wastewater discharged from its base, and control of dust emissions under windy conditions.
  • Silmak. Uncontrolled disposal of waste material from the plant and improper handling of material containing chromium salts have caused severe chromium contamination of groundwater and soil, including in the vicinity of the river Vardar. In 1982 the plant began monitoring soil and groundwater and the data confirmed chromium contamination of the water. To address this problem the plant designed, installed and financed a groundwater abstraction system, achieving a 200-800 mg/l reduction in Cr6+ concentrations to total contamination levels of 5-15 mg/l. The plant’s target was reportedly 1 mg/l.

Before the period of hostilities during the 1990s, Rudarsko-Metalursko-Hemijski “Kombinat za Olovo i Cink” Trepca (Trepca) in the (then Serbian) province of Kosovo was the country’s and the region’s largest lead and zinc mining, beneficiation, smelting and refining complex. Trepca also produced associated metals such as antimony, bismuth, cadmium, gold and silver. The other major metallurgical facility in Kosovo was Ferro-Nickel D.D. Glogovac, which was the only mine producing nickel ore and smelting ferronickel in Serbia at that time. Glogovac has reportedly been closed since 1998. Mining for bauxite was also conducted in Kosovo by AB Kosovo Klina. Trepca Mines Ltd. was established by the Selection Trust in London in 1927 and regular production started at the Stan Terg mine in 1930. The nearby lead smelter at Zvecan was commissioned in 1940. After the Second World War Trepca became a major employer with widespread business units throughout Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro. However from the early 1980s onwards Trepca began to suffer from inadequate investment, and insufficient repair and maintenance. The period of social instability, which starting in 1990 and continued until recently, led to further deterioration in Trepca’s business and its operations. The arrival of the Nato-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) in June 1999 also separated Trepca. In the north, the mines in the Leposavic area and the lead smelter at Zvecan continued to operate. South of Pristina, at Kizhnica and Artana (Novo Brdo), Albania workers repossessed the mines, but were unable to restart any production due to lack of supplies, consumables and other materials. In August 2000, KFOR forced the closure of operations at the lead smelter in Zvecan for environmental reasons and all production at Trepca came to an end. Kosovo has extensive deposits of pliocene brown coal (lignite) in the Prishtinë basin. Coal is currently produced from Bardh and Mirash open cut mines and used for power generation. At least 6 billion tonnes of coal resources are estimated to exist in Kosovo. Other coal resources previously controlled by the Trepca mining conglomerate are reportedly not in operation for technical as well as legal reasons linked to the ownership of Trepca. In general the lignite mined in Kosovo was valued throughout the region for its low-sulphur content. Though several sources report that problems associated with air, soil, and water pollution by hazardous materials are widespread in Kosovo, there is a noticeable lack of data on the extent of problems.

Red bauxite, together with coal, represents the key strategic mineral raw material in Montenegro. The country’s main bauxite mines, which were operated by Rudnici Boksita Niksic, are located in Montenegro’s Niksic area. Primary aluminium was produced by DP Kombinat Aluminijuma, which had smelting facilities at Podgorica. This smelter has capacity to produce over 100  000 t/yr primary aluminium. Lignite deposits are also located at the Pljevlja region, while brown coal deposits are found in the Berane area. In addition, several peat deposits are located in the Skadarsko Lake basin. Montenegro also has some lead and zinc deposits. Although there has been oil drilling along the coast of Montenegro for the last 50 years, no economically viable deposits have so far been discovered. Prospecting for oil and gas nevertheless continues in promising areas such as Budva and Bar. In addition gravel and sand deposits are abundant in the bed of the Moraca river, near Podgorica, in the Lim valley, and in the upper reaches of the Tara river. Mining is concentrated at several sites in this small country, with bauxite exploitations mostly having a visual impact on the natural landscape but with lead and zinc mines leaving serious environmental legacies. Gravel and sand excavations are also major problems in the south of the country.

Assessed mining and metal-processing sites:

  • Mojkovac. The lead and zinc tailing storage facility for material from the closed Brskovo mine is located directly on the Tara river and for the most part inside the town of Mojkovac. The Tara river and its gorges are on the Unesco World Heritage List. About 3.5 million t of toxic mining and processing waste has accumulated in a tailings pond near Mojkovac in the course of PbZn mining operations. Its Tailings Mine Impoundment (TMI) occupies an area between the right bank of the Tara and the western perimeter of the town itself. The impoundment covers 19 ha, containing about 2 million m3 of impounded tailings.
  • Podgorica. The red-mud storage facilities (bauxite residue from alumina production) from the alumina/aluminium plant are located 10 km from Podgorica in the Zeta Valley upstream from Lake Skutari. More than 7 million t of red mud have accumulated at two adjoining dumps, both of which are contaminating groundwater, with the effects apparent in the lake. Apart from the serious problems associated with leachate with a pH as high as 13 and a significant fluorine, phenolic, arsenic and cyanide content, about 10 tonnes of PCBs have also been dumped here, contaminating the groundwater.