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.

Civil society organizations in North Macedonia have been fighting against the opening of new copper and gold mines for years

Since 2017, civil society organisations from the south-eastern part of North Macedonia have been trying to prove that opening copper and gold mines in their region will harm the environment.

The revolt of the citizens is so wide that several environmental associations were formed, such as Zdrava Kotlina from Strumica, Eco Dolina from Novo Selo, and the civil initiative “Save the Strumica Kotlina – stop the mine of death” from Strumica.

From 2004 to 2012, the American-Bulgarian company examined a location one kilometre from the Strumica villages of Ilovica and Shtuka. Then, the mining was handed over to a larger British-Canadian corporation based in London, with the announcement that hundreds of millions of dollars would be invested in Ilovica for the next three decades to exploit gold and copper.

The corporation received the concession to start digging a mine in 2012 and a period of four years according to the Law on Mineral Resources to meet the conditions for exploitation. That did not happen, but the state took away the concession only in 2019.

Meanwhile, in January 2016, the company received another concession from the state. But even though the same conditions applied, by 2020 conditions were not met. Although the deadlines have passed, civil society organisations are constantly warning through the local media that the competent Ministry of Economy and the government have not yet revoked the concession. In the past few years, civil society organisations have also held public protests announcing that they will not allow a mine to be built in order to prevent an environmental disaster in this area. The referenda had a turnout of 40% of the total registered population, but 99% voted against the opening of the mines.

“Our resistance is from 2017. We started publishing documents that we received from Canada, because there the company was transparent, but here it was not. They tried to talk on televised debates but they didn’t know how much we know and how well we prepared because we analysed the elements well. We pointed out many negative consequences and damage to the environment and the unprofitability of investing in mines”, Gjorgi Tanushev, representative of the environmental organisation Zdrava Kotlina, told OBCT.

The purification of ores with water will cause groundwater pollution and a dam will be built where the tailings will be stored (the materials that remain after the process of separating the valuable ore fraction). The artificial lake which irrigates the field and provides drinking water to the surrounding villages will be polluted. The lake is approximately halfway from the mine to the villages.

The Euromax Resources company believes that, as a direct foreign investment, the mine will have a strong impact on the national economy. It claims that around 1,000 people will be employed in the first two years of construction, and then another 500 during the period of operation of the mine. An additional 2,700 people will be hired through collaborators and suppliers. So far, more than 50 million Euros have been invested in the project, and about 340 are planned for the first phase of construction. The investment project is expected to contribute to the increase of the gross domestic product by 3% annually and to qualify in the top 3 export chapters from the Republic of North Macedonia.

“The project for the mining complex Ilovica-Stuka was developed based on multi-year research on the impact on the environment, applying the highest European and world standards. It will not pollute the soil, water, and air, nor will it pose a danger to human health. Working together, we will all prove that in the new era sustainable mining and agriculture can successfully coexist”, the company told local media.

Yet, organisations will continue to demand that state officials and institutions revoke the second concession, as the 4-year period in which the corporation failed to meet the conditions for the start of exploitation has already passed.

Environmental activists remind that officials are under oath to fulfill their core function – to work for the benefit and protection of all citizens of the Republic – but also point out that the government has failed to respect the clearly expressed will of citizens. They remind that whenever gold and copper mines have been opened in Serbia, Romania, and Turkey there were incidents of water and soil pollution.

In 2019, except for Ilovica-Stuka, the government terminated the contract for the construction of a mine in the neighbouring municipality of Valandovo, Kazandol, due to failure to meet the conditions requiring to build a plant for the exploitation of cathode copper with the capacity to process at least 50% of the exploited ore within two years, Balcanicaucaso writes.

Lykos Balkan Metals has found significant quantities of gold at its Sinjakovo project in northwestern Bosnia

“Laboratory findings of the last year’s geological explorations in the area of the Jezero municipality have confirmed the presence of significant quantities of gold,” Bojana Jovanovic told Reuters.

The concentration of gold at some locations was as much as 27.5 grams/tonne in a continuous line of 60 metre, which is an extraordinary result,” Jovanovic added.

The samples were analyzed in an accredited laboratory and results supported continued geological research, Jovanovic said, adding the company planned to allocate a major part of its 60 million Bosnian marka ($33.7 million) investment in Bosnia this year in further exploration.

She cautioned that such research normally takes 5-8 years.

Lykos Balkan Metals has been given a permit for geological exploration at the site by the industry ministry of the Serb Republic, one of Bosnia’s two autonomous regions.

The assembly and citizens of the Jezero municipality have opposed the research, fearing environmental damage.

But Jovanovic said the company had all necessary confirmations that its exploration had been conducted according to regulations, Mining 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.

Serbia, Larger deposits of gold were discovered

A few years ago, two tons of gold came out of the smelter in this small town per season, but with the discovery of the Čukari Peku deposit and the opening of a new mine, things have changed significantly. Recently, another rich deposit was discovered near Žagubica, so it is not impossible for Serbia to surpass Bulgaria, with 5.6 tons of annual production of the European leader in the production of precious metal.

Serbia has no greater individual wealth than the Bor complex. The two most important resources available to the country in the hilly Balkans are of a general type, people and agricultural land. Admittedly, perhaps some of the lithium deposits will be more expensive in the future, but it remains to be seen what will become of the environmentally controversial exploitation and processing of this light metal. For now, the Bor copper deposit, in which gold, silver, selenium and platinum metals are also exploited as by-products, is our biggest single value.

It is therefore understandable that the public is interested in all the news in the Bor Basin, and of course, in the discovery of a new site at the location of Čoka Potaj, close to the nearby Žagubica. Previous research has confirmed that there are more than 80 tons of gold in this deposit, and the extraction efficiency would be as high as 93 percent. Like other deposits of gold-bearing reserves in Serbia, this is also part of a potential copper mine, the most abundant mineral raw material in the area.

In 80 locations

It is less known that Serbia is actually made of gold deposits. So far, more than 80 locations with reserves of “yellow metal” have been found, by far the most in the vicinity of Bor. In all cases, the metal, together with silver, platinum, palladium, is the content of the copper deposit. For now, there are no mines in Serbia whose primary raw material is gold, as there are in South Africa, Nevada, Uzbekistan, Ghana, Peru or Russia. The geology in our region is different, there are actually no “pure” gold mines even in Europe.

Most of the deposits are in eastern Serbia, but there are quite a few in the south and in the western part of the republic. However, it is rarely profitable to exploit. For now, these are only sites in eastern Serbia, primarily in the belt from Majdanpek to Bor, where exploitation began in 1903. Currently, Ziđin Cooper, the Serbian subsidiary of the Chinese Ziđin, has continued to extract gold from four inherited mines by purchasing the former RTB Bor. Found balance reserves are 153 tons of gold, which guarantees a long exploitation. Currently, along with around 73,000 tons of copper, two are being extracted, and the goal is to reach three tons of the yellow metal.

European leader

On the basis of long-term geological research by Yugoslav scientists, ten years ago a Canadian company found, and later sold the rights to Ziđin, the Čukari Peku deposit, which has extremely high potential. Only in the upper layer, for which the Chinese producer, through another local subsidiary, Zijin Mining, acquired exploitation rights, there are 1.25 million tons of copper and 81 tons of gold.

A hidden gem

Apart from eastern Serbia, gold is still extracted only in the Lesce mine in the southeast, primarily a deposit of lead and copper. It is estimated that there are about 12 tons of gold in western Serbia, the exploitation of which could be profitable in the event that the price of gold is in an even stronger upward trend for a long time.

However, the greatest potential is in the lower layer of the Čukari Peku site, where the estimated reserves are 345 kilograms of gold. It is interesting that there are 27 tons of “yellow metal” in the deposits of rivers and streams in this region, primarily in Pec. Former geological fortifications of around 300 tons of balance reserves have now increased to at least 600 tons. Real wealth for a small and relatively poor community.

The income is not only in five percent of the mineral rent. There is also the development of mines and processing capacities, the introduction and familiarization of the most modern technologies, the production of decorative objects, the scope of technologies in which copper is the main input, such as the production of cables and the production of ammunition. It is estimated that five times more workers are employed in the accompanying activities than in the mine itself. Along with such an economic complex goes the development of the transport network, both road, even more railway and port. After all, RTB Bor developed and is the biggest user of the port in Kladovo or the Zaječar-Niš railway.

An air of hope

Each mine, especially if, as in the case of Bor, it also develops certain stages of processing, is a very strong company. Thus, in 2020, Ziđin Cooper earned 698 million dollars, of which 441.3 million came from the sale of 70,600 tons of copper.

Ten million was earned by exporting 15.4 tons of silver, while seven million were cashed out by the Swiss buying 11 kilograms of platinum and 100 kilograms of palladium. By selling 2,054 kilograms of gold to the National Bank of Serbia, Ziđin Kuper earned close to 116 million dollars.

When it is known and has a wider approach to work, the mine is a colossal economic resource, a development engine of the local community. That is why the news of a new finder of copper and gold is the most pleasant thing that has happened to the inhabitants of Serbia in recent times, especially to those from the eastern regions, for whom the Bor company is by far the biggest support.

The plan is to extract three tons of gold and 50,000 tons of copper annually, which would satisfy the capacity of the Bor smelter.

Russia, Eligdar reports record gold production in 2022

Russian gold and tin miner Seligdar today announced production results for the full-year 2022.

The company’s gold production in 2022 amounted to a record 243 koz, which is an increase of 6% compared to 2021 (229 koz), whereas production of tin in concentrate was in line with 2021 and amounted to 2,900 tonnes.

In addition, the company produced 81 tonnes of tungsten (up 72% compared to 2021) and 916 tonnes of copper (up 150% compared to 2021).

Seligdar said that the new level of production achieved in 2022 was the result of modernization and expansion of the company’s production asses.

In 2022, the company launched a skarn ore processing plant at the Poisk production complex in the Altai Territory and modernized ore mining and processing facilities at the Sininda production complex in Buryatia.

Seligdar is one of the largest gold mining companies in Russia and a producer of tin, tungsten and copper, Kitco reports.

Arkle Resources finds lithium in Ireland

Diversified explorer Arkle Resources said on Thursday it had found lithium bearing pegmatites at its Mine River Block gold project in Ireland.

The company, until 2019 known as Connemara Mining, said that of 34 rock chip samples taken from the site late last year, six returned lithium grades of more than 0.02%, with one returning 0.09%.

The six samples that showed elevated lithium were all boulders of pegmatite rock collected around mapped granite bodies.

Geochemical results also showed clear pathfinder elements for lithium – caesium, rubidium and tantalum – which can be used to target a coarse type of igneous rock in future soil surveys, Arkle Resources said.

The company, which has so far focused on gold in Ireland, said its directors believe these results are “compelling” as they suggest the Mine River Block is fertile for lithium caesium tantalum (LCT) pegmatite deposits

“These are exciting results,” chairman John Teeling said in the statement. “We have discovered lithium on our licences. We found the rock type needed, pegmatites, and in the pegmatites found lithium and other indicator minerals. This opens compelling new opportunities for our Mine River Block. Prospecting will resume in the near future.”

Shares in the company jumped as much as 21% to 69p after the announcement, but fell sharply in afternoon trading, changing hands at 56p by 2pm local time — 2.6% lower than at Wednesday’s close. This leaves it with a market capitalization of £2.21 million (about $2.6m).

Arkle Resources has been exploring for gold and zinc in the Wicklow granite for more than two decades, but searching for lithium in hard rocks has only been viable since 2018, the company said.

Lithium prices have softened after an outstanding two-year rally labelled “insane” by Elon Musk and “unreasonable” by China’s electric vehicles maker BYD, Mining reports.