Bulgarian Mining Industry

EnergyIndustrySouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 1/2011

Key Bulgarian Mining and Extractive Companies’ Activities and Current Technological Status – Review

Despite the economic crisis and restructuring processes, mining sector still plays a decisive role for Bulgaria. Mining industry is a fundamental element of state economy. Within the difficult 2009, the value of its production amounts to BGN 2 bln. According to the Bulgarian Chamber of Mining and Geology (BCMG) the established ore deposits inside the country are 595: most of them for metallic ores and minerals - 206; 115 for nonmetallic minerals; 3 for petroleum and natural gas; 51 for rock revetments; 151 for building materials, and 69 for solid fuels. 2010 data show that the sector is recovering slowly but surely. The industry will face a new year of stabilization and normative changes. In 2011 the Law on Ore and Mineral Resources from the end of 2010 will come into operation. This review will list some of the most important mining and extractive companies in Bulgaria. Company profiles include activity specifications, current projects, and technological innovations.

Assarel-Medet JSC: over BGN 500 mln has been invested in modernization so far
Assarel-Medet JSC Mining and Processing Complex is the first, biggest, and leading Bulgarian company for open pit mining and processing of copper ores providing around 50% of the national copper production. The Company processes about 13 million tones of copper ore per year, thus ensuring sustainable and stable development and production at thorough utilization of the mineral raw materials of the Assarel deposit. Assarel-Medet JSC personnel amounts to 1200 workers, specialists, and managers. Another 400 people are employed in subsidiaries and joint ventures.
The Company invests in new and unique for Bulgarian mining industry strategic projects. Assarel-Medet JSC’s greatest project for BGN 100 mln deals with the construction of Cyclic Flow Conveyor Technology for mined material transportation. This large-scale equipment is in a pre-start period and possesses the impressive productivity of 5 000 tones of transported material/hr. The Executive Director of Assarel-Medet JSC Eng. Lachezar Tsotsorkov, PhD says emphatically: “This hi-tech project is a priority to us concerning our Company sustainable development. It will drastically increase our production effectiveness and will have a significant effect on the environment.”
Assarel-Medet JSC invested BGN 37 mln in another new project – the construction of a copper extraction and electrolysis installation. This equipment is first-of-a-kind in Bulgarian mining branch and makes a good impression because of its innovative and environment friendly character. The installation will soon start producing highly pure cathode copper with 99.99% copper content.
Eng. Lachezar Tsotsorkov, PhD underlines: “By means of this project we satisfy again one of global modern mining industry challenges – the need for introducing leading technologies for greater and more adequate utilization of ores and minerals available.” Besides copper flotation concentrate with 25% copper content, Assarel-Medet JSC will start producing pure cathode copper.
Also, one of the company’s priorities is to fulfill the project for entering a new era of technological modernization for over BGN 12 mln. The project includes optimization of ore preparation cycle in the ore-dressing plant, and introduction of a new flotation-gravitation process, as well as an ERP-management system of highest class.

Kaolin AD invests EUR 1 mln in Energy Saving Project in 2011
Kaolin AD is a company, specialized in the production of a wide range of quartz sands, kaolin, chamotte, limestone etc. The Company mines and processes industrial materials, exploiting 40 ore and mineral deposits and 18 production plants in the country and abroad. Kaolin AD operates in Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine and Albania. “One of Kaolin AD basic strategic goals is the optimization of internal business processes by means of automated process-control systems introduction”, Alexander Prokopiev, Kaolin AD Chief Executive Officer says. In 2008 the Company constructed the first stage of a new modern automated process-control system in Chamotte furnace shop in its Vetovo factory, based on PCS 7 SIEMENS platform. They are about to construct the second stage in other Company production shops. The automation system will be built after a technological modernization project. It is based on three hierarchical levels: central processor station with a controller; one engineering station, redundant servers; operator stations, optical network components, belt scales, instrumentation, low voltage switchboard system; sensors for level, pressure, flow, humidity, temperature, mass consumption etc.
Energy saving is a substantial element in the process of reducing production prime cost. It is also part of the Company “green” strategy. In this regard, Kaolin AD set up a web-based Energy Management System which covers all consumers of electric power, natural gas, propane-butane, water, belt scales for raw materials, end products etc.
In 2010 Kaolin AD started working on a large-scale project for technological modernization to the value of a little more than BGN 6 mln. An innovative system for highest extraction of useful raw material components will be introduced. It will suit latest world achievements in its sphere and will have a positive effect on the environment. Some modernization processes include the construction of a new completely automated technological conveyor for processing quartz-kaolin raw materials. The new scheme co-ordinates and combines the yet unused machines for quartz-kaolin sands dressing, such as Derrick Stacksizer Screening Machines and highly effective lamella clasiffiers with classic spiral classifiers and different types of hydrocyclons. Modernization will increase Vetovo factory production capacity to more than 4 000 t of processed quartz-kaolin raw materials/ 24 hrs. It will also provide a possibility of extending the production of “float” sand to more than 1 200/24 hrs. The innovative method will also ensure highest extraction of useful components from raw materials and will contribute to end products high quality.

Mini Maritsa Iztok EAD Extraction Ensures Bulgaria’s Energy Independence
By the end of November 2010, Mini Maritsa Iztok EAD performed mine development to the extent of 4 013 776 495 m3 of earthwork and extracted 947 531 778 t of coals from the largest lignite deposit in the East Maritsa Coal Basin. In 2010 the largest Bulgarian open coal mining company invested BGN 96 mln in capacity rehabilitation. “This coal mining company is at the beginning of the technological process of electric power generation from Maritsa East Complex thermal power stations. The company has a fundamental role in Bulgarian energy balance and ensures Bulgaria’s energy independence. Over 31 % of state electric power is generated out of the coals we extract”, Todor Todorov, CEO, Mini Maritsa Iztok EAD says.
“Our Company macroeconomic framework is stable and it creates good perspectives. We are a socially responsible employer and a steady partner for the municipality and the region. On a national scale, the Company is a basic local energy resources supplier. These resources are part of state and social security”, he adds.
The Company exploits the largest lignite deposit in Bulgaria. The concessionary area covers the territory of four municipalities - Radnevo, Galabovo, Nova Zagora, and Simeonovgrad. The 2010 concessionary fee amounts approximately to BGN 13 mln. 30% of this sum enters the budgets of the respective municipalities. The ambition of Mini Maritsa Iztok EAD to be the European face of Bulgarian coal mining industry is also represented by means of Company ISO certifications. These standards guarantee the application of good practices inside the largest Bulgarian open coal mining company.

Holcim Bulgaria Continuously Invests in New Equipment
Holcim Bulgaria is part of Holcim Group - world’s leading supplier of cement, aggregates and concrete and one of the most successfully progressing cement, aggregates, and concrete manufacturers on the Bulgarian market. The Company is a leading aggregates producers in Bulgaria and operates four subsidiaries for aggregates manufacturing – Holcim Karierni Materiali AD, Holcim Karierni Materiali Rudinata AD, Holcim Karierni Materiali Plovdiv AD and Vris OOD. They exploit ten sites and offer a wide range of materials of different types, size, and applications in construction industry – from concrete and concrete products to asphalt, mortars etc.
All four Holcim companies continuously invest in new equipment in order to meet clients’ market needs of numerous high quality products. The modernization of Chepintsi pit is a good example in this respect. The Chepintsi project has been the most important one since the foundation of Holcim Karierni Materiali Sofia AD. They introduce latest technologies for aggregates extraction and manufacturing that will improve labour and safety conditions within the pit area.
Modernization is entirely consistent with the best international practices and technologies for effective and environment friendly production processes. It replaces the technologies being introduced in the pit several decades ago. The old wheel excavators were removed by a floating grab dredger with greater production capacity. It works at a depth of 40 m and uses a 10 m3 hydraulic bucket. The Irish CDE Ireland provided processing installation with 400-450 t/hr capacity. The dredger and the installation are connected by floating and coast conveyors ensuring the continuity of production processes. The installation enables sufficient utilization of extracted raw materials and reduces manufacturing losses. Its putting into operation set the beginning of a new product manufacturing – 0-1 mm sand variation for the suppliers of dry construction mixtures and adhesives. The new installation meets all the ecological production standards and increases Holcim competitiveness. It enables the Company to keep the high quality of its production and business in these difficult economic times.

Chelopech Mining EAD Plans to Increase its Production after 2012
Chelopech Mining EAD’s basic activity includes underground mining and processing of copper-gold from the Chelopech Deposit. The ore extracted is processed to copper-gold concentrate whose further processing continues in the metallurgic factory in Tsumeb, Namibia. Company’s priority objectives are modernization, operating effectiveness promotion and improvement of extraction methods in the ore dressing factory. “We’ve planned to accomplish additional processing capacity automation. As to the mine, its basic improvement will be realized by the replacement of our current ore loading and transportation technology,” Richard Howes, Chief Operating Officer, Chelopech Mining EAD says.
The process of open chambers filling in the mine is completely automated. For operative control’s sake, the dressing factory possesses a monitoring system measuring the density and contents of the pulps from the basic technological flows. It’s a real-time system that provides information for the content of copper, iron, sulfur and arsenic as well as the density and percent of solid substance/pulp. Operative parameters’ monitoring of mine ventilators’ most important bearings is also automated. Measuring parameters database is also ensured; diesel consumption is under automated controls and expenditures are watched. An automated system for long-term work planning is in process of development. “We are introducing an integrated management system in the mine. We will construct a permanent monitoring system from the surface which will host real-time data from all operating systems. The possibility of gathering all the summarized information in just one place will ensure constant monitoring and will figuratively remove mine’s “roof.” The permanent monitoring over the resources - people and machines will promote safety and secure the existence of adequate database for analyses, results reading, controlling and higher effectiveness”, Company Chief Operating Officer informs.
“Chelopech Mining EAD plans for future progress provide extraction increase to 2 mln t/year after 2012”, Richard Howes shares. “For the execution of this strategy in 2005-2007 we built the Nadejda Decline of 2170 m total length and 29 m2 section. It provides a mobile connection between the industrial surface platform and mine underground infrastructure. It also ensures more effective ore transportation processes to the surface, facilitates the access of equipment and men to their working places, and improves mine ventilation“, he adds.
In 2009 they launched a project for the construction of a new ore transportation system which will guarantee high reliability and effectiveness of ore transportation for the period of deposit exploitation. The Company intends to put in action the second Vjara Decline by the end of 2011. It will connect the surface with the underground mine. A new past filling installation has been operating since September 2010. The filling material – tailing waste and cement in the form of paste is transported to the chambers in the underground mine. Along with reaching a stability state of the rock massif, filling considerably reduces floatation waste deferred on the surface. The Company realizes a large-scale monitoring programme of air, production sources of dust and gas emissions, noises and explosive seismic impact, water, waste, soils and biological monitoring.

Pictures source: Assarel-Medet JSC, Kaolin AD,  Mini Maritsa Iztok EAD, Holcim Bulgaria, Chelopech Mining EAD 

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