Progress at Chelopech

On October 24, a three member panel of Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) revoked the silent refusal of the Minister of Environment and Waters, Jevdet Chakarov, and ordered him to issue a Resolution on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on Dundee Precious Metals’ (DPM) Expansion Project at the Chelopech copper-gold mine (IM, October 2006, pp6-19).

Starting in December 2005, the Company undertook the EIA process for the project in full compliance with all Bulgarian laws. It will increase the amount of copper-gold ore processed at Chelopech and the production of metals from concentrate. The EIA process was completed in early 2006, and was subjected to an expert review by the Supreme Expert Environmental Council (SEEC) on two separate occasions. At both meetings, the SEEC voted overwhelmingly in favour of the project’s implementation. Under the terms of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), the Minister was required by law to endorse the draft Resolution of the SEEC approving the EIA, but refused to do so by the March 18 legislative deadline. As a result of the Minister’s inaction, on March 29, DPM lodged an appeal with the SAC against the Minister, and his failure to issue a final Resolution on the EIA for the project.

In its action, the company claimed that the Minister’s failure to comply with the statutory requirements of the EPA was wrongful, and, therefore, his reliance on silent refusal as a justification for his inaction should be revoked. The SAC’s decision of October 24 supported the Company’s claim and ruled in favour of the appeal. In their decision, the SAC confirmed that the company had met all of the legal and administrative requirements necessary for the project’s EIA. As such, the Minister’s inaction was deemed unlawful and should be interpreted as a wrongful silent refusal. The SAC went on to order the Minister to issue a final Resolution on the project. This decision is open to appeal to a full court of five justices for a period of 14 days.