Sandvik’s strategic partnership in Bulgarian mine upgrade

Chelopech Mining and Sandvik Mining and Construction (SMC) have signed an agreement to jointly develop underground mining operations that will assist in solving some of the mining challenges facing the mine upgrade, including the supply of high-quality mine consultation services, performance and contract maintenance, as well as equipment and spare parts management and logistics. The Chelopech mine will be International Mining’s Operations Focus in the October 2006 issue.

SMC says this strategic partnership to develop Europe’s pre-eminent underground mining operation will realize economic benefits that will flow from the relationship which will be shared with the Company’s employees and the local communities. The goals are to achieve operations continuity and growth, as well as improvement in efficiencies in mining activities, maintenance, equipment utilization, scheduling and management activities. These achievements will be translated into operating procedures which will improve the skills of mining and maintenance teams through appropriate training programmes and resource organization. This partnership will provide this service to the mine for the full time it is required, thus ensuring the convenience of assistance at any time during the mine operations.

Chelopech mine, one of Europe’s largest gold and copper deposits, lies 75 km east by road of Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia. It is located at the foot of the Balkan Mountains and is 700 m above sea level, adjacent to four community centres comprising a total population of some 25,000. The district is also supported by two large porphyry open pit copper mining operations, and a large copper smelter.

Chelopech Mining is a subsidiary of Dundee Precious Metals of Canada. Currently the mine produces a copper-gold concentrate for export to smelters abroad. The operation is now in the process of implementing an investment plan with the introduction of new technologies and training to increase mine production to the initial target of 2 Mt/y, and a long term target of 3 Mt/y. The mining method was sub-level caving but has now been converted to long hole stoping.

 In addition to this production upgrade, plans include facilities for the production of metals – copper and gold on site. A definitive feasibility study was completed in 2005 confirming the viability of downstream processing to produce metals, and the resulting investment plan for $175 million has commenced with the Dundee Board approval.