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Montenegro’s largest zinc mine under review: Working group analyzes Brskovo project’s future

The Brskovo project will be one of the biggest zinc mines in Europe, according to its owner, Swiss-based Tara Resources. However, it has been facing severe criticism from non-governmental organisations and citizens in the northeastern town of Mojkovac, in close proximity to the mine, over environmental issues.

The working group was formed following a government decision adopted in January, requesting a thorough analysis of the concession contract, all annexes and other documentation, with the aim of taking a final decision on the future of the project, the ministry said in a statement earlier this week.

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The working group’s first session took place on February 1, and a second meeting is scheduled for February 5.

In 2010, the Montenegrin government awarded Australian mining company Sultan Corporation a 25-year exploration and mining lease rights for the Brskovo lead and zinc complex. In 2011, Sultan said it found an initial inferred resource of 9.2 million tonnes at Brskovo, and strong upside potential.

In 2018, Tara Resources acquired the project and is now operating it via its local subsidiary Brskovo Mine.

Tara Resources says on its website that it completed a preliminary economic assessment in 2019 and a pre-feasibility study in 2021, proving the strong economics of the project. It notes that construction of the Brskovo mine will involve a capital investment of some 180 million euro ($195 million), and will consist of two open pit mines, a processing plant, and an integrated waste management facility.

The Brskovo mine will produce some 45,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrate, 13,000 tonnes of lead in concentrate, 3,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate and approximately 1 million ounces of payable silver in the copper and lead concentrates, according to Tara Resources. The project will employ 700 people in construction, and will create 550 direct jobs and 200 indirect jobs during operations.

Last week, local daily Vijesti reported that at the first session of the working group formed to examine the project, the state body in charge of protecting the property rights and interests in Montenegro declared that the government has a legal basis to cancel the concession contract with Brskovo Mine since it has missed many of the deadlines for receiving urban and technical permits.

The daily recalls that the concession holder has changed several times since 2010, while the original contract was amended six times via annexes that had extended the deadlines for meeting certain obligations.

The report also says that the working group has 30 days to send its final recommendations on the future of the project to the government.

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