Prosecution drops investigation into Albchrome’s protesting miners
The prosecution in Dibra has dropped the investigation into several miners who were accused of organising and taking part in protests against the Albchrome mining company.
The miners were arrested in early December during the protests and investigations began into six participants and a member of Organizata Politike that had been supporting them. Those investigated were members of the newly formed Bulqiza United Miners’ Union (SMBB).
The decision not to initiate a criminal report and to terminate the investigation into them was made on 30 December 2019 and has been made public by the SMBB.
“The slander of Albchrome and its servile union ends: the miners’ protest was legal! On December 4 2019, following a banal indictment filed by Albchrome in cooperation with the police, the Dibra Prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into possible criminal proceedings against union leaders and ordinary miners who were protesting peacefully in front of the mine.
After nearly a month-long investigation, on December 30, 2019, the Dibra Prosecutor’s Office has concluded not to launch criminal charges against the unionists, calling them unfair and unfounded legally!
After endless slander and pressure on the workers, the truth has come to the fore. Where is the company that is self-serious about the seriousness and its pseudo-unionist partners?”, reads the statement from the SMBB.
The SMBB was formed in October last year but a few days after it was publicly announced, the head of the union Elton Dobreshi was fired from his job. Protests ensued as members asked for pay rises, a revision of labour rates and the return of Dobreshi to his position. Albchrome responded by firing three other founding members of the union and denying that their recent unionisation was the reason behind it.
Just over a week ago, two miners in the Albchrome mine were injured in the line of work. The incident came two weeks after the serious injury of another miner. The new union claims that since 2013, eight miners have lost their lives in Albchrome mines yet the company continues to blame the workers.
In the case of the most recent injuries, Albchrome published a photo of a handwritten declaration from Asqeri Cupi, taking full responsibility for the injuries of his colleagues, noting that he declares such “with my free will and without any external influence whatsoever.”
Albchrome is owned by Samir Mane, one of the richest persons in Albania who owns not just the mines, but a string of businesses including TEG, Neptun, Spar, Mango, and Tirana Bank.
Following the dismissals and protests, a number of citizens from leftist civil society group Organizata Politike have been protesting against Mane, placing banners on Skanderbeg Square, and graffiti on walls around the city. Some members handed out flyers at TEG, owned by Mane, and were arrested on charges of “causing a panic” and “disturbing the public peace”.
OP has also claimed that men, paid by Mane were sent to loiter outside their headquarters in Tirana in an attempt to intimidate them.
Albania: Mining Action Plan – 5% annual growth of the sector and new research on chromium, copper and gold
In Albania, a new three-year action program for the mining sector is set to become effective from 2019 to 2021, projecting a 5% annual growth in production.
The decision of the Council of Ministers, which directs the development of the mining sector in this period, was published in the Official Journal, and in addition to increasing production, it requires rational use of mineral reserves and good management of national mineral resources.
The program foresees the opening of tenders for the exploitation of licenses in 76 mining areas. Meanwhile, the three-year program also envisages the development of exploration activities in 132 mining areas, mainly for chromium ore, but also for copper and gold.
Planning for new chromium exploration is a positive development, given that there has been no new exploration of this mineral for over seven years.
According to the plan, the development of mining activities in the next three years will be focused on the extraction of limestone, ornamental stone and marble limestone.
The Government’s program requires the development of mining activities with the use of modern technologies and the prevention of environmental hazards and harmful emissions, the protection of life and human health and minimal impact on the environment and the landscape.
Albania: Expected growth of mining sector 10%
Albania’s chromium industry is growing thanks to the expansion of new investments, and the production of this metal in 2018 has grown at the fastest pace in the previous decade.
Official data from the National Natural Resources Agency shows that chromium production reached over 1.1 million tonnes last year, up 43% from 2017. Compared to 2010, production increased by 258%.
Production has increased thanks to new investments by the mine owner, “Albchrome” company. Along with the increase in chromium production, the quantities processed also increased. In 2018, the production of chromium concentrate reached 66 thousand tons, which is 35% more than in the previous year. Compared to three years ago, the production of chromium concentrate has tripled.
Chromium ore processing was realized in 9 plants, out of 14 that were built in total. During 2018, the average growth in ore production was 43%, concentrates 35.4% and coloured chromium 16.5%.
The mining sector is expected to grow again this year
The mining sector will grow by 10% in 2019, thanks to investments in production and processing processes, while prices in international markets are expected to be stable, said Mehmet Hasalami, director of the Mining and Industrial Development Program at the Ministry of Infrastructure. Investments of around € 40 million are expected in 2019, mainly in the area of chromium, ferronickel and silicate processing.
The chrome mine in Vlah, Kukes, a 10m-euro investment by Turkish company “Ekin Maden Ticaret”, will be launched this year. The investment is being made in collaboration with the “Balfin Group”, through “Albchrome Holding”, which owns 50% of the mine.
Canadian company “Tirek Resources” will activate an investment in a copper enrichment facility in Rehova. Rehova has four copper deposits (Bregu and Geshtenjes, Rehova-Kanisqel, Ciflig and Dushku and Trash), previously operated by the Albanian state. The investment envisages the construction of a copper processing plant that is being exploited from these four deposits.
The number of employees in the mining sector is expected to reach 7,000 in 2019, from the current 6,700. The mining industry will be strengthened in 2019 thanks to cost reductions in the refining sector.
In 2018, € 25 million has been invested in the mining sector to build two new “Albchrome” processing plants in Bulkiza and Tete Albania in Spac, which should significantly increase the value of exports in 2019.
The investment in “Burrel Ferrochrome” plant was realized with the latest technology, which will increase the value of exports in 2019. Thanks to this investment, the plant will produce 36,000 tonnes of coloured chromium per year, an increase of about 17,000 tonnes per year. All quantities of this product are exported.
The investment of Turkish company “Tete Albania” is worth 14m euros. In addition to copper, the plant was designed to produce zinc and lead concentrates. At the moment, 90% of construction work has been completed and equipment worth over € 5.2 million has been installed. The production line should be operational by the end of 2019.
Currently, there are 15 chromium processing plants in Albania, near the chrome mine in the areas of Bulkiz, Batra, Kalimash, Burrel, Librazhd, Tropoja, which had investments of some 28 million euros in the last three years.
Albania has rich underground deposits of chromium, copper and iron. The rise in the price of minerals and, more recently, chromium in the international markets have reactivated new investments in extraction. The past 30 years of transition, outdated technology and price fluctuations in international markets have left the sector’s development below potential. For years, mineral resources were exported from Albania immediately after extraction, since there was no opportunity for initial processing, which resulted in the loss of added value from sales on international markets.
However, this year, positive developments have been made in the sector, with local and foreign investors opening large mineral processing lines to increase the export profits. “Albchrome” revised the investment plan by adding a new € 10 million investments to the “Burrel Ferrochrome” plant and construction of a new furnace.
The mineral extraction industry, one of the sectors that contributed most to the country’s employment and economic growth during the dictatorship, has recently been trying to grow with the introduction of modern technology.
The Albanian industrial sector has mainly attracted Turkish investors. Turkish company “Ekin Maden Ticaret” has activated works on a chrome mine in Vlah this year. This ambitious project envisages the production of around 98,000 tonnes per year, with an investment value of 1.3 billion lek (€ 10.8 million), which will complete the country’s complete chrome processing process.
Also, Turkish company “Beralb”, a copper mine concessionaire, resumed operations after a nearly two-year long pause.