Armenia restarts controversial gold mine
Armenia has announced the resumption of mining at the gold deposit in Amulsar mountain, near the southern resort town of Jermuk.
For years the project was widely opposed by activists who feared the impact on the local environment – and by extension on the tourism sector and production of the region’s famous mineral water.
Those fears remain, and are now compounded by the presence of Azerbaijani troops just a few kilometers away.
The Ministry of Economy, the Eurasian Development Bank and Lydian Armenia – which owns the license to exploit the Amulsar field and is a subsidiary of the U.S.-British Lydian International – signed a memorandum on February 22 for $250 million to complete construction work at the mine and purchase the necessary equipment.
As a result of the deal, Economy Minister Vahan Kerobyan said, the Armenian government will receive 12.5 percent of the company’s shares. “The government will not pay anything in return, but will instead guarantee the deal against certain risks,” the economy minister said, without elaborating on the risks involved.
Known for its health resorts, the town of Jermuk is currently part of “Armenia’s most vulnerable territory,” according to a January assessment by the International Crisis Group. Azerbaijani troops took up positions some seven kilometers away in the mountains after advancing deep into Armenian territory in a major offensive in September 2022.
But the Armenian government assures that the proximity of Azerbaijani troops won’t affect the mine’s operation. “We can give our partners and investors the confidence that their investments are not in danger. Naturally, we have invested in some mechanisms of ensuring against threats,” the economy minister said without elaborating.
Amulsar is the second-largest gold deposit in Armenia. Its reserves are estimated at 31 million tons of ore and 40 tons of pure gold.
Ecologists and local residents have long worried that the operation of the mine could pollute the groundwater of Jermuk and its famous springs, and perhaps even Lake Sevan, further to the north.
The deal with Lydian is one of the largest and most controversial foreign investment projects in the history of independent Armenia. Lydian says that it has already invested $300 million in the project and claims that the mine would contribute $488 million to the state budget through taxes and royalties over its 11-year operation.
Lydian Armenia’s development of the Amulsar mine was suspended in 2018 following large protests against potential environmental damage. Since then its prospects have fallen and risen as the government appeared unable to reconcile the need for investment and jobs in the country with the environmental threat and resulting popular opposition.
Amendments to Armenia’s mining code in June 2022 removed the final legal hurdle to restarting the mine. Among other things, they allow companies to carry out mining with environmental impact assessments more than a year old.
In 2019, the Armenian government commissioned an independent study from the Lebanese company ELARD (Earth Link & Advanced Resources Development) to assess the potential environmental risks of the project.
That study provided initial data which ELARD said was insufficient for a comprehensive environmental risk assessment. But Armenia’s Investigative Committee took the same data and used it as grounds for dismissing a criminal case against Lydian Armenia filed the year before.
The news of the reopening of the mine took many by surprise. The signing of the memorandum was announced just a few hours beforehand, so would-be protesters had no time to organize.
Neighboring communities, under a new agreement involving the government, will receive $7 million annually from Lydian Armenia in financial assistance. Significant sums will also reach the state treasury. The mining industry is one of the leading sectors of the Armenian economy. It provided 10 percent of all budget revenues in 2022, or about $500 million.
“The budget revenues from the development of the Amulsar field are expected to be 30-40 billion drams (over $100 million) a year,” Kerobyan, the economy minister, said, expressing confidence that the government will be able to control the associated environmental risks, Eurasia writes.
Sweden, Mandalay Resources drills 783 g/t gold over 0.35 metres at Bjorkdal
Mandalay Resources Corp. provided an update on the Eastern Plunge extension drilling and significant intercepts from the Aurora Upper extension program at its 100%-owned Bjorkdal operation in Sweden.
New Drilling Highlights: At the Eastern Plunge Extension, drill hole MU22-032 returned 783.0 g/t gold over 0.35 metres (Estimated True Width “ETW” 0.25 m) in MU22-032; 104.7 g/t gold over 1.00 metres (ETW 0.87 m) in MU22-031; and 22.7 g/t gold over 3.90 metres (ETW 3.19 m) in MU22-029.
At the Aurora Extension, MU22-027 returned 89.5 g/t gold over 0.30 metres (ETW 0.23 m); 2.9 g/t gold over 3.50 metres (ETW 3.05 m); and 36.0 g/t gold over 0.30 metres (ETW 0.15 m) in ME22-004.
Dominic Duffy, President and CEO of Mandalay, commented: “Bjorkdal is a high tonnage and low-grade gold mine with the potential for significant profit growth at relatively small increases to mined gold grades.
To this end, a major focus of our near mine exploration program was to identify areas of higher grades that can be prioritized within our short to medium term mining schedules.
Excitingly, these consistent drill results from the Eastern Plunge Extension program are exceeding our expectations by producing highly significant grades the likes of which we would consider exceptional at our high-grade Costerfield mine in Australia.
“The impact of this program has flowed through and upgraded Bjorkdal’s recently announced year-end 2022 Mineral Resources and Reserves estimate with an 11% lift to Mineral Reserves’ gold grade from 1.39 g/t to 1.54 g/t for the 11.6 million tonnes in Proven and Probable Reserves.
“As the Eastern Plunge Extension drilling is still in its infancy and currently there is little access to drill further east and down plunge, we do not know how far this significant grade increase will continue.
However, to date the Eastern Plunge drilling is completely open to the East and Down Plunge. We will continue to drill this area over the remainder of 2023 to try and establish the continuation of this area and the impact it will have on the long term operations at Bjorkdal.
The mining permit extension which will allow for mining in this area is currently being processed by the authorities and we expect the permit to be issued in 2023.
“Further to the successes of the Eastern Plunge Extension, the Aurora system has been tested successfully approximately 150 metres up dip and to the east from current and scheduled mining.
Not only is Aurora itself and the surrounding veining continuous, but significant grades comparable to the core of system have been identified within the veining. This extension is encouraging as Aurora has been, and is currently, the main source of bulk ore tonnage at Bjorkdal.
“We look forward to providing further updates on these projects throughout the year as well as the developments from our North Zone Extension drilling and the Aurora Depth Extension drilling, which are both currently ongoing.”
During the second half of 2022 near mine exploration was focused on exploring the eastern plunge extension of the main and central zones, the upwards eastern extension of Aurora, the depth extension of the Aurora system and the further delineation and extension of North Zone.
The latter two programs investigating the depth of Aurora and North Zone are still underway and are not discussed within this release.
Current underground drilling locations do not provide support for further extension of the eastern plunge extension; however, mining is now scheduled for the area and once more appropriate drilling horizons have been developed extension drilling will continue to further explore this potential. As the interpretation stands the veining remains open at depth.
There is no current indication that grades will curtail down the mineral plunge to the east at Bjorkdal.
The expectation that the Aurora system continues up-dip and to the east is something that needs further testing.
Exploration is also currently ongoing on the extension of the veining in North Zone and the depth extension of the Aurora System below the Marble Horizon. An update on this drilling is expected in Q2 2023 once the current extension program is complete, Resource World writes.
Turkey, Production from its Kiziltepe in 2023 should be around 18,000oz of gold
Ariana Resources PLC has said production from its Kiziltepe gold mining interests in Turkey should be around 18,000 ounces of gold in 2023, with a reduction from 2022 due to lower grade ore and scheduled reduced mill throughput.
Kerim Sener, Ariana managing director, said output at this level would still be more than twice the projected level when it drew up its original feasibility plan.
Kiziltepe, 23.5% owned by Ariana through its shareholding in Zenit Madencilik, produced a record 28,421 ounces in 2022.
Sener noted that Kiziltepe has now produced 50% more gold over its life than projected in the Feasibility Study and within three-quarters of the time expected.
“Furthermore, recent exploration successes have highlighted the potential to make further discoveries in the area, such as beneath Kiziltepe Hill at Kepez Main, albeit they represent deeper targets,” he added in a statement.
“While Kiziltepe represents our oldest project, we are encouraged that even 18 years since we purchased it from Newmont, it still yields significant exploration upside.
“We have successfully demonstrated the progression of a project from the greenfields stage with just under 4,000m of drilling when purchased in 2005, to one with over 55,000m of drilling, delineating a Global Resource of 380,000 ounces of gold and over 6 million ounces of silver, of which perhaps half may be mined economically at this time,” he concluded, Pro Active Investors reports.
Azerbaijan, AzerGold begins mining at Tulallar gold deposit
Azerbaijan’s AzerGold CJSC has began mining on the Tulallar gold deposit, positioned on the executive territory of the Goygol district, Trend reviews.
The first mountaintop elimination course of on the gold deposit was held on one of the vital important days for the firm – February 11, 2023, on the eighth anniversary of the basis of the joint-stock firm by the decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.
The Tulallar gold deposit was found through the Soviet interval however has not been extensively explored. Since 2017, the corporate’s geologists have performed intensive analysis, and in 2022, Micon International Co. Limited’s worldwide authoritative marketing consultant initially permitted reserves of 298,000 ounces of gold in the earth’s bowels and 85,000 ounces as recoverable quantity. At the second, the deposit is on the state stability sheet.
In normal, the commissioning of the deposit could have a optimistic affect on the rise in employment by creating new jobs within the area. In addition, this can result in the event of Azerbaijan’s non-oil sector and additional enchancment of the welfare of the inhabitants of Dashkasan and Goygol districts.
The Tulallar deposit is the fourth gold deposit placed on fee by the AzerGold CJSC. The deposit is geared toward increasing the quantity of the extractive business, turning the wealthy mineral useful resource potential of the republic into sustainable improvement, and contributing to the socio-economic improvement of the nation.
Considering that the talked about deposit is the primary a part of the Chovdar Integrated Regional Processing Site, the work carried out as a complete will make a further contribution to making certain the sustainability of the socio-economic progress of the Ganja-Dashkasan financial area by rising the life cycle of the regional processing website, Business Lend reports.
Serbia, Discovered gold worth several billion dollars
Serbia has serious mineral deposits, and even without counting the new gold deposit near Zagubica, they are estimated at nearly 200 billion dollars.
“All exploration companies, after confirming the reserves, report this data to the institute, and it has a real idea of what is available in this field,” says the director of the Geological Institute of Serbia, Dragoman Rabrenovic.
He said that they are waiting for the results of the latest surveys in the area of the town of Zhagubitsa, but according to the preliminary results, there are two or three objects there. “At a rough estimate, we’re talking about $3 to $4 billion just for the gold,” says Rabrenovic. He recalled that at that time the mining fee was 5%.
“In a rough calculation, when it comes to gold mining in Bor, the annual fee should be 200 million dollars, 40% of it goes to the local government, 60% to the state,” explained the expert, quoted by Serbian media.
According to the Serbian authorities, the concentration of pure gold in the vein is 93%, and its reserves are significant. Zagubica is located in Eastern Serbia, about 95 km from the border with Bulgaria at Vraska cuka.
The new gold deposits were discovered within the Timok project by the Canadian-based company Dundee Precious Metals, which is developing gold deposits in Bulgaria.
Regarding the environmental implications of gold mining, Rabrenovic said that geological exploration is generally safe, while mining and exploitation depends on the type of mineral resource, but added that “over 90% of this process is safe”.
The Canadian gold mining company “Dundee Precious Metals” announced that it improved its production results in one of its mines in Bulgaria at the beginning of 2023. By a little more than 1%, the commercial enterprise increased production in Celopec.
2022 was “challenging”, but the company says that they do not consider a significant effect of the energy crisis and the war in Ukraine.
Despite the more modest production of gold in the other mine – “Ada Tepe”, the forecasts for 2023 are “encouraging”. According to chief executive David Rae, last year was strong thanks to “solid gold production”.
The strongest 2022 year for Ada Tepe was the last quarter of last year with nearly 28,100 ounces of gold produced, or about 1/3 of annual gold production. The company expects conditions this year to be favorable and gold production levels to be higher at this mine as well.
According to calculations, this year’s output from the mine in Krumovgrad is 29% less on an annual basis. In total, it has produced 94,000 ounces of gold for 2022 – at the high end of annual production guidance.
In October-December 2022, the Chelopech mine produced nearly 45,300 ounces of gold and 7.4 million pounds of copper. And for all of 2022, the amount is about 179,100 gold and 30.8 million pounds of copper, European Times writes.
Bulgaria, Dundee Precious Metals updates life of mine plan
Dundee Precious Metals Inc. has released an updated mineral resource and mineral reserve estimate and said it sees additional production over the life of its Ada Tepe gold mine in Bulgaria.
Highlights of the new life of mine plan include an estimated increase in recoverable gold to concentrate of approximately 66,000 ounces and higher average gold grade of 5.2 g/t, compared to 4.6 g/t in the precious life of mine plan.
The new estimate forsees an average of approximately 16,500 ounces of additional gold production per year for 2023 through 2026.
The updated plan is expected to improve Dundee Precious’s previously issued three-year outlook for gold production, which will be updated with the release of the company’s fourth quarter and year-end 2022 financials on February 16, 2023.
On January 12, 2023, Dundee Precious shares closed at $7.36 and currently trade in a 52-week range of $8.41 and $5.40.
Dundee is a Canadian international mining company with operations and projects located in Bulgaria, Namibia, Ecuador and Serbian. It also has exploration projects in Armenia, Bulgaria and Serbia. Its asset portfolio includes a 10.3% stake in Sabina Gold & Silver Corp. which is developing the 100%-owned Back River gold project in Nunavut.
Dundee’s operating assets include the Chelopech and Ada Tepe mines in Bulgaria and Tsumeb specialty smelter in Namibia, as well as the development stage Timok gold project in Serbia plus the Loma Largo project in Ecuador.
Dundee has previously said it achieved its production targets last year by producing 273,100 ounces of gold and 30.8 million pounds of copper from Ada Tepe and Chelopech. Ada Tepe achieved its highest quarterly production of 2022 in the fourth quarter, producing approximately 28,100 ounces of gold. It produced 94,000 ounces for the year, which was at the higher end of the company’s production guidance.
The updated proven and probable mineral reserve at Ada Tepe consists of 415,000 contained gold ounces and 250,000 contained silver ounces.
“Since commissioning in 2019, Ada Tepe has continued to outperform expectations,’’ said Dundee Precious President and CEO David Rae. “We are confident that Ada Tepe will continue to deliver strong results, supported by this improved life of mine plan.’’
In the fourth quarter Chelopech produced approximately 45,300 ounces of gold and 7.4 million pounds of copper. That brought production for the year to 179,100 ounces of gold and 30.8 million pounds of copper.
The Tsumeb smelter processed approximately174,000 tonnes of complex concentrate, which was below the annual guidance of 185,000 to 200,000 tonnes.
Meanwhile, Dundee has said it is finalizing the revised feasibility study for its Loma Largo project in Ecuador, which is on track for production in the first quarter of 2022, Resource World reports.
NGOs have issued a joint statement on the plan to expand the gold mine in Armenia’s Karaberd
The “Arnika” and “NESEHNUTI” NGOs of the Czech Republic have issued a joint statement Friday on the plan to expand the gold mine in Karaberd town of Armenia. The statement treads as follows:
With this joint statement by the two organizations Arnika and NESEHNUTÍ, we respond to the latest developments in the Karaberd settlement in the Lori region of Armenia, where public hearings on the plan to expand the gold mining operations in Karaberd are being held on 04.11.2022.
In view of the circumstances mentioned below, we hereby express our opposition to the plan to expand the gold deposit in Karaberd settlement. Thus, by making a joint statement, we appeal to the Armenian public, the local authorities of the Pambak community, the regional government of the Lori region to prevent the plan to expand mining and express a negative opinion. We also call on the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Armenia and the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure of the Republic of Armenia to conduct a proper inspection of the project in the future.
Arnika and NESEHNUTÍ are Czech NGOs that have long been addressing environmental and social issues in the Czech Republic and abroad. NESEHNUTÍ and Arnika’s goal is to protect nature and a healthy environment for future generations at home and around the world. Arnika has long advocated for less waste and hazardous substances, living rivers and diverse nature, and the right of citizens to make decisions about the environment. For a quarter of a century, NESEHNUTÍ has been promoting participation of locals in decision-making and civic campaigns not only in the Czech Republic, but also in the South Caucasus and Southern Ukraine.
In 2018, Daniel Vondrouš, the then director of the Green Circle network of environmental organizations, attended a CivicBarcamp organized by NESEHNUTÍ in nearby Vanadzor, where he highlighted the impacts of gold mining and shared his experiences with the introduction of a ban on the use of cyanide in gold leaching in the Czech Republic. Now he is working as an advisor of the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech republic.
Gold mining can never be environmentally friendly and we therefore want to draw attention and appeal to local residents to be wary of the promises and decide together on the future of their community.
Mineral extraction has widespread adverse impacts on the environment and the health of mine and ore processing company employees, as well as residents who live near these operations. Neglect of the necessary technological procedures, breach of waste management regulations and inadequate technical security can reduce the quality of life of residents and damage the surrounding countryside in the long term and irreversibly.
The risks of mining include dust emissions, noise, potential accidents and chemical spills into local streams and soil or lowering of groundwater levels. Spills of chemicals used in mining and ore processing and metals in the ore itself  adversely affect human health. Data collected through pollution monitoring of mining communities in the Tumanyan and Stepanavan regions of Lori province, conducted between 2018 and 2021, confirmed these concerns. The results of Arnika’s study highlight the presence of pollutants in the environment and the higher health burden on the population of communities in the region affected by mining compared to the population not exposed to these impacts.
NESEHNUTI’s work has reaffirmed the interest of Armenian communities in transitioning to sustainable development and greater participation in environmental decision-making.
The above arguments highlight the risks faced by local communities and nature, which is why we call for the prevention of the expansion of the Karaberd gold mine, AM News writes.
Armenian government has extended mining rights to Lydian Armenia CJSC
The Armenian government has extended mining rights to Lydian Armenia CJSC at the controversial Amulsar gold mine site for another three years, until 2039, without a new environmental impact assessment.
June 2022 amendments to Armenia’s mining legislation allow companies to mine with environmental impact assessments more than a year old, if work delays were caused by force majeure reasons, including “civil disobedience.”
Initial environmental impact assessments (EIA) finding in favor of the mine were thrown out after allegations that Lydian had a hand in manipulating their conclusions.
Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan, facing mounting pressure at home opposing the mine, ordered a new audit conducted by the Lebanese firm ELARD.
In August 2019, the report found that environmental risks at Amulsar “would be manageable.” Pashinyan, pointing to the positive findings, said the Amulsar mine should be opened.
A public backlash forced the government to stand down and promise that it would order yet another EIA. The 2020 Artsakh war pushed the issue to the backburner and no new EIA was ever conducted. The June 2022 amendment also lists “war” as an acceptable force majeure reason for any delay.
Lydian Armenia can thus go ahead with the project based on the August 2019 ELARD report.
The Pashinyan administration, which originally opposed mining at Amulsar now supports it, pointing to the country’s post-war economic needs.
Lydian Armenia is a 100% subsidiary of Lydian Canada Ventures owned by the US firm, Orion Mine Finance and Canadian firm, Osisko Gold Royalties, who both invest in mining and mineral sectors, HETQ writes.
Spain has the biggest goldmine in Europe
In a small town in Asturias, on the shores of the Cantabrian Sea, experts believe there’s as much as 300,000 kilograms of untapped gold underground.
Spain is world famous for certain products. For its fruit and vegetables, its wines, its olive oil, its jamón. But few know that Spain also has an abundance of a much more precious and valuable material: gold.
In Asturias alone experts estimate there are as many as 480 gold deposits in the region. But the biggest goldmine – and by far the most controversial – is that of Salave in the municipality of Tapia de Casariego, where studies have revealed that there could be as much as 300,000 kilograms (or 300 tonnes) of untapped gold deposits underground.
In the last century or so, attempts have been made to mine the gold but very few have been successful. Many mining companies – the Asturias region is a traditional mining zone – have carried out studies and surveys in the area but did not, or could not, go ahead and take advantage of Asturias’ natural goldmine.
Not for lack of trying, or because they didn’t want to, but because mining it would have serious environmental consequences on the area, and the battle between environmentally conscious residents and gold hunting miners has made Salave a point of contention in the community.
Many of the residents of the Tapia de Casariego are afraid that the natural deterioration born from a big mining project would worsen their quality of life. Others fear being pushed out of their homes.
Yet, knowing of the huge gold reserves underground, mining companies seem keen to press ahead with extraction anyway. A legal and environmental battle has rumbled on for many years now.
Back in 2010 AsturGold proposed a mining project but in December 2014 the Asturias regional executive voted the plan.
Three years later, in 2017, the Asturias High Court backed the veto and the environmental groups and mining companies came to a stalemate.
That’s not to say that miners aren’t still hoping to be able to take advantage of Asturias’ resource rich land in the future, however. “We hope to start producing gold at the Tapia mine in three years,” José Manuel Domínguez, Director of Exploraciones Mineras del Cantábrico(EMC), and a campaigner for the Salave gold mine, explained in the Spanish press. “There will be a mine, I’m convinced.”
The latest proposed EMC mining project aims to extract around 31,000 kilos of gold over 14 years, but has already received 1,297 environmental complaints, which are under review. The proposal, under study currently, hopes to start producing gold by as soon as 2025.
The 31,000 kilos of gold would be worth around €1.5 billion, and mining provides hundreds of jobs in Asturias and the Lugo province. The proposed EMC project alone could create 250 jobs in the area, and as many as 1000 indirect jobs.
Locals are fiercely opposed to the plan, however. In April hundreds of people gathered in Tapia de Casariego to protest against the proposed extraction project.
Environmental group Oro No (No to gold) is collaborating with tourist associations, community organisations, fishing groups and farming cooperatives to oppose the plans, and calling on local government to intervene.
Protesters have expressed concerns about the impacts that a mining operation would have on their way of life, the environment, and the traditional economic activities of the area.
The mining potential of Salave is no new discovery, however. It was first discovered by the Romans in the 1st century and has barely been touched since, hence why it is now considered one of – if not – the largest untapped goldmines in Europe.
Historians believe that during the Roman era, as much as 7,000 kilograms of gold were extracted using an ingenious extraction method called ruina montium, a water-based system that blasted structures apart.
Historians are unsure why the Romans eventually abandoned their extraction project at Salave, but the hundreds of thousands of kilograms of gold left behind remain largely untouched and very controversial to this day, The Local writes.
Skouries project is expected to produce an aggregate of 140,000oz of gold and 67 million pounds of copper per annum
Canadian firm Eldorado Gold has signed a mandate letter for a credit-committee-sanctioned €680m finance facility from Greek banks to develop the Skouries project in northern Greece.
The mandate letter, which is subject to negotiation of definitive loan documentation and other conditions, includes a long-form term sheet comprising customary terms and conditions.
According to the feasibility study, the project is expected to cost $845m for development.
Eldorado president and CEO George Burns said: “We believe that Skouries is a world-class project that will have a lasting positive economic and social impact for Greece, the communities we work in, and other stakeholders.
“We remain confident in the feasibility study capital cost estimate of $845m, and with the project finance facility in place, the company has the balance sheet capacity to fund the remaining capital cost for completion of the project.
“We also continue to evaluate opportunities for complementary sources of financing. A final decision to re-start construction remains subject to board approval, which we expect to seek in the second half of 2022.”
Part of the Kassandra Mines Complex, the Skouries project is a gold-copper porphyry deposit located within the Halkidiki Peninsula of Northern Greece.
With an anticipated operational life of 20 years, the project is expected to produce an aggregate of 140,000oz of gold and 67 million pounds of copper per annum.
The deposit is planned to be mined using a combination of conventional open pit and underground mining techniques, Eldorado said.
Through its first production, the project is expected to pay back the costs within less than four years and generate an average free cash flow of $215m per year in the first five years, Mining Technology writes.