Environmentalists oppose lignite mine projects in North Macedonia
The general manager of state-owned utility ESM said it would open two lignite mines, which was strongly condemned by environmentalist organization Eko-svest. The mine opening was announced in the context of new challenges with the energy crisis in North Macedonia and the next heating season, while the environmentalists claim that coal mines are unacceptable from environmental, energy and economic aspects.
Economy Minister Kreshnik Bekteshi said the government has so far helped government-controlled electricity producer Elektrani na Severna Makedonija (ESM) with EUR 171 million to cover the rise in electricity and heating costs that was caused by the energy crisis. General Manager Vasko Kovačevski announced at the same press conference that two lignite mines would be opened.
Kovačevski: Results come after a long time, and the effect of what is done in energy today will be seen in three to five years
“The crisis has prompted the need to use the mines for longer, so we are investing in our own new pits: the Živojno mine in REK Bitola and the Gušterica mine in REK Oslomej. But it must be acknowledged that results in the energy sector come after a long time, and the effect of what is done today in energy will be seen in three to five years. We have endured a great blow – we are preparing for the future. First and foremost, for the new challenges with the energy crisis and the next heating season,” ESM’s general manager said.
Environmentalists say no to new lignite mines
Eko-svest pointed out coal mining projects are “unacceptable from environmental, energy and economic aspects” and that they are contrary to all strategies and declared commitments of North Macedonia.
“After the Živojno lignite mine was included in the list of submitted projects for the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, the first assumption was that it was an unintentional mistake and a remnant of some old plans dating back to before the 2040 Energy Development Strategy,” the environmentalist group said.
Eko-svest: The first assumption was that it was an unintentional mistake and a remnant of some old plans dating back to before the 2040 Energy Development Strategy
Eko-svest added ESM has also conducted several tenders since 2019 for the preparation of documentation for the mines.
The environmentalists pointed out that such actions in the energy sector are unacceptable – regardless of whether the announcement is an independent initiative of ESM or coordinated with the government and the Ministry of Economy.
“It is one thing to turn to emergency imports of coal to tackle the energy crisis for a number of months, but quite another to completely undermine all attempts at energy transition and just transition. Opening a new mine will only worsen the situation,” said Nevena Smilevska from Eko-svest.
Contrary to plans
All this is occurring at a time when planning documents are being developed and adopted for an accelerated energy transformation and the reduction of fossil fuel use – which set the country as a leader within the Energy Community in terms of plans for transformation of the energy sector, environmentalists stressed.
Pehčevski: There is no justifiable reason to spend time, capacity, and finances on projects that will take the country many steps back.
“All investments in the energy sector that will be undertaken from today on must be in accordance with the obligations of the strategies and international agreements,” said Davor Pehčevski from Eko-svest. He added there is no justifiable reason to waste time, capacities, and finances on projects that would set the country many steps back and continue endangering the environment and the population.
It is necessary to work on a just transition and gradual reduction of personnel in lignite mines, not to open new mines, Eko-svest added, Balkan Green Energy News reports.
CAML announced that its Kounrad copper recovery plant in Kazakhstan produced 4,146 tonnes of copper in Q3 2021
Central Asia Metals (AIM: CAML) today announced that its Kounrad copper recovery plant in Kazakhstan produced 4,146 tonnes of copper in Q3 2021, which brings output for the first nine months of 2021 to 10,360 tonnes.
The company added that at its Sasa zinc-lead mine in North Macedonia, mined and processed ore in Q3 2021 were 200,820 tonnes and 203,043 tonnes respectively, bringing the total for the first nine months of 2021 to 614,807 tonnes of ore mined and 626,906 tonnes of ore processed.
The average head grades for the quarter were 3.30% zinc and 3.64% lead, and for the first nine months of the year were 3.19% and 3.54% respectively. The average metallurgical recoveries marginally increased during the period to 85.1% for zinc and 93.4% for lead.
Accordingly, the company noted that its Q3 2021 payable production of zinc was 4,827 tonnes and of lead was 6,580 tonnes, bringing total payable production for the nine-month period to 14,313 tonnes of zinc and 19,697 tonnes of lead.
The company also reported that during the first nine months of 2021, Sasa sold 238,535 ounces of payable silver to Osisko Gold Royalties, in accordance with its streaming agreement.
CEO Nigel Robinson commented, “I am pleased to report strong production from both of our operations during Q3 2021. At Kounrad, we remain on track to meet the top end of our production guidance, and at Sasa, we have reported improved zinc and lead grades for the period, which have resulted in higher metal production than the previous quarter. We expect this trend to continue into Q4, although 2021 production for lead may be in the order of 5% below our guidance”.
Central Asia Metals, an AIM-listed UK company based in London, owns 100% of the Kounrad SX-EW copper project in central Kazakhstan and 100% of the Sasa zinc-lead mine in North Macedonia.
Euromax’ exploitation permit for Ilovica 6 rejected in North Macedonia
In December 2019, the government of North Macedonia decided to unilaterally terminate the concession agreement with Euromax Resources, citing delays in the filing of the relevant permits.
Canadian-based mining company Euromax Resources said that its application for an exploitation permit for the Ilovica 6 concession at the Ilovica-Shtuka copper-gold project in North Macedonia has been rejected by the relevant state commission, contrary to a recent court ruling. The company will appeal the commission’s decision in the country’s administration courts and any further ruling by the Administration Court is enforceable under the law upon government institutions, it said in a statement. However, the country’s Higher Administrative Court ruled against this government’s decision last month. The ruling confirmed that the government has an obligation to consider first the merger of Euromax’ two exploitation concessions, Ilovica 6 and Ilovica 11, both of which are integral to the overall project, before terminating the permit, Euromax Resources said at the time. The project would create nearly 3,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to the company.
Euromax in North Macedonia celebrates its legal win
Euromax announced a legal win in North Macedonia, which effectively reinstates its Ilovica 6 permit at its flagship Ilovica-Shtuka copper-gold project. Euromax Resources shares shot up almost 167% after announcement. The company said the Higher Administrative Court had ruled in its favour, against the initial decision by the Ministry of Economy to terminate the permit.
“The Higher Administrative Court’s ruling creates a new legal situation, as it is final and cannot be appealed by the government again,” Euromax said.
It said the ruling boded well for the company’s second court case, where it’s contesting the final decree to terminate the Ilovica 6 permit in December 2019, saying the decision created a strong legal precedent in the company’s favour.
“It further confirms that the government has an obligation to consider first the merger of the Ilovica 6 and Ilovica 11 concessions, both of which are integral to the overall project,” Euromax said.
It had requested merging the concessions in January 2016.
“We look forward to working together with the government to get the permitting process back on track and deliver the project’s enormous economic benefits,” executive chairman Tim Morgan-Wynne said.
Morgan-Wynne, previously the non-executive chairman, was appointed to the role as part of board changes in August following long-serving CEO and president Varshan Gokool’s resignation. Euromax said last month it was hoping to get Ilovica-Shtuka into production within two years once permitting and construction funding had been arranged. It said its fast-track development plan could see 600 jobs created for local people and local investment of €14 million (US$17 million) in the next 12 months. A 2016 feasibility study for Ilovica had outlined initial capex of US$474.3 million, an after-tax NPV5 of $440.1 million and IRR of 17.8%, for a project producing an average annual 83,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 tonnes of copper over a 20-year mine life. All-in costs were put at $372/oz, using a $1,220/oz gold price and $2.90/lb copper price. Euromax had reported an after-tax loss attributable to shareholders of C$1.2 million for the September quarter.
Central Asia Metals’ tailings spill in North Macedonia
On September 14th, a tailings dam at Central Asia Metals’ lead-zinc Sasa mine in Kamenicka Reka, Macedonia leaked about 8,000 cubic meters of mining waste into a local river. The exact reason for the spill still seems unclear, but Macedonian press is citing a defect in the right side of one of their tailings storage facilities.
Is there a connection between climate change and tailings dam failures? S&P Global looked into this question recently, and found that as water scarcity and flooding become more erratic and severe with climate change, tailings dams become more dangerous. As we noted in the article: “There are still thousands of risky dams out there that are susceptible to climate change, earthquakes and other types of failure. So we’re probably going to see more failures.”
Tailings were flowing down a local river, the Kamenicka, through the nearby town. Environmental activists from the NGO Eko-Život pointed out that the Kamenicka river ultimately flows into the Vardar River, which affects the ecosystems of five municipalities. They contend that the damage from the tailings spill, “долг период ќе е присутна” (will be present for a long time). Professor Trajche Stafilov from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje pointed out that if the tailings end up in the surrounding soil, they will dry out over time, and their components could form a fine, toxic dust able to travel long distances.
According to public disclosure data reported to investors at the Church of England, the failed facility is 61m tall and stores nearly three million cubic meters of waste. The disclosure data lists the dam as a “Very High” consequence of failure classification, meaning if the structure were to collapse entirely it could potentially kill up to 100 people and cause significant environmental damage.
This is not the first time this mine has had a tailings spill. In 2003, when the mine was state owned, two tailings dams, “collapsed and caused an intensive ﬂow through the Kamenica River valley into Lake Kalimanci, with around 70,000 to 100,000 m3 of tailing material discharged into the surrounding ecosystem.” A 2011 geochemical investigation of the dam collapse called it an “environmental disaster.” The study found heavy metals from the tailings in Lake Kalimanci and attributed them to the collapse of the dam eight years earlier. There have also been significant environmental issues caused by blowing dust from tailings storage facilities.
After a review of the recent spill, the State Inspectorate of Environment fined Central Asian Metals € 65,000 and the company has estimated around clean-up and repairs will cost $1.5M. Some investors have noted the spill could have negative implications for the company. For it’s part, Central Asia Metals pushed full speed ahead to resume stalled production by initiating efforts to clean the spill and hiring tailings consultant heavy-hitter Knight Piesold to make the necessary adjustments, “со цел да се осигури дека вакво нешто нема да се повтори” (in order to ensure that this does not happen again.)
But this will happen again. It may not happen at the Sasa mine, but with 21,000 tailings dams across the world and an incomplete registry of their stability and potential dangers, there will be more tailings dam failures moving forward. As we have seen time and time again, the mining industry cannot be left alone to regulate itself. We need comprehensive global tailings management standards that include rigorous safety controls, require consent and engagement from affected communities, and hold mining companies accountable for their actions. In June, Earthworks along with 150 communities, organizations and experts, put for 16 guidelines for responsible tailings management.
CAML restarts its operations at Sasa mine in North Macedonia
Sasa mine, in North Macedonia owned by Base metals miner Central Asia Metals Limited (CAML) had a recent leakage at the tailings storage facility, or TSF4. The company has paid a €65 000 fine for the incident. Reporting on the clean-up activities, CAML said that it had already completed the clean-up of a high-priority 350-m section of the river.
The company has recently received approval to restart operations at the mine. The plant will initially operate at 50% capacity before ramping up to full production in about a week’s time. CEO Nigel Robinson said that the company should be able to meet its original 2020 guidance for zinc and lead in concentrate production.
In January, CAML gave 2020 Sasa ore production guidance of between 825 000 t and 850 000 t, resulting in zinc in concentrate of between 23 000 t and 25 000 t and lead in concentrate of between 30 000 t and 32 000 t.
While 2020 ore mined would remain within this guidance range, CAML said it would process between 800 000 t and 825 000 t, given the downtime from the incident. However, in-concentrate production would remain in its guidance.
Excluding production downtime, CAML reported that the total cost of the TSF4 incident, comprising dam repairs and engineering improvements to the facility as well as environmental aspects, would be below $1.5-million.
The miner expected to receive official go-ahead to start the rest of the clean-up work within the week. It is projected that the bulk of the tailings will be removed and disposed of in a secure and safe location on the Sasa mine site by the end of 2020.
Central Asia Metals’ Sasa mine in North Macedonia will pay the fine for leakage
Central Asia Metals has been the sole owner of the North Macedonian Sasa mine since 2017. Sasa is an underground zinc and lead mine located in north eastern North Macedonia that produces approximately 820,000 tonnes of ore per year.
UK-based Central Asia Metals plc (CAML), the owner of Sasa mine, reported on September 14 a short-term leakage of tailings from Sasa’s TSF4 facility into the local river. No person was harmed in the incident. The exact cause of the incident has not been confirmed.
North Macedonia’s environment ministry said that the Sasa zinc-lead mine has reached an agreement with the State Inspectorate for Environment to pay a total of 65,000 euro ($75,515) in fines and take sanitary measures over a tailings leakage incident that took place earlier this month.
The State Inspectorate for Environment imposed a 50,000 euro fine on the Sasa mine as a legal entity and a 15,000 euro fine on the responsible employee, the ministry said in a statement.
Under the agreement between the State Inspectorate for Environment and Sasa, the mine is also obliged to clean the part of Kamenica river and the nearby hydropower plant that were polluted, as well as take additional measures to avoid future similar incidents at the mining site, the ministry said.
Central Asia Metals’ mine in North Macedonia had leakage of tailing into the river
Central Asia Metals recently reported tailings leakage at their zinc mine. Mining group Central Asia Metals said a short-term leakage of tailings had occurred from its Sasa zinc and lead project in North Macedonia into the local river. The leakage was stopped soon after and nobody has been harmed, the company said.
“All relevant parties have been informed in North Macedonia and, in conjunction with the appropriate national authorities, an investigation is now underway to ascertain the volume of leaked material as well as the root cause,” it added.
The processing plant at Sasa was not currently operational. Central Asia Metals said it would provide market updates as more information became available.
North Macedonian company Tajmiste gets two concession deals terminated by the Government
Tajmiste is a North Macedonia’s company active in the mining, hospitality and metal products industries.
The company said that the North Macedonia’s government has terminated the concession agreements for iron ore exploitation at the Tajmiste site and for the exploitation of mineral resources – dolomites and dolomite limestones at the Bigor Dolenci site.
The concession contracts were terminated because the concessionaire failed to pay the concession fee, local business website Faktor reported. It is still unclear whether the government will seek a new investor for the sites. The concession deals for the two sites were signed in 2014.
Central Asia Metal demonstrate ‘fundamental strength’ with the results at its lead zinc mine in North Macedonia
Central Asia Metals’ copper, zinc and lead production and exploration company demonstrate the “fundamental strength” of the business with the results for the year ended. The company owns two low-cost base metals operations, one in Kazakhstan and the other in North Macedonia.
CEO Nigel Robinson says this is demonstrated by CAML having ended the financial year in a strong position with $32.6-million in cash in the bank and gross debt that has been reduced to $108.8-million, almost half the level that it was two years ago when CAML acquired its Sasa zinc and lead mine, in North Macedonia.
Despite this, the company remains conscious that it is announcing its results in “very uncertain times”, when the short-term outlook for the world’s health, the commodity markets and the global economy is in doubt owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Taking this into the account, Robinson indicates that both Sasa and Kounrad, a copper operation in Kazakhstan, remain fully operational at present, with no disruptions experienced to either production or the sales of metal products so far.
However, both North Macedonia and Kazakhstan have now closed their borders to neighbouring countries for the movement of people, although not trade, owing to the escalating number of Covid-19 cases.
Currently, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Kazakhstan stands at over 340, while in North Macedonia, this number is more than 240, Robinson told Mining Weekly.
CAML has, as expected, implemented the respective government guidance plus additional stringent procedures to protect the welfare of its staff at both operations, as well as the company’s London-based headquarters, where the CAML team now works remotely.
While both North Macedonia and Kazakhstan currently have, so far, relatively few cases of the Covid-19 virus, compared with the rest of the world, the numbers are, unfortunately, rising daily. This has translated into seeing subsequent escalations of government measures, and CAML indicates that “the potential for increased restrictions” can therefore, not be ruled out.
Given the current period of uncertainty, CAML has decided not to recommend a final dividend for 2019 and is now reviewing its 2020 capital expenditure budgets with the aim of identifying near-term savings.
CAML did, however, declare an interim dividend of 6.5p for the 2019 full-year, compared with 14.5p in the prior comparable period.
“Despite the underlying strength of our business with a strong balance sheet and lowest quartile industry costs, we feel these measures are necessary to conserve cash given the unpredictable nature of the current situation, the potential impact on our operations and the volatility of the underlying commodity prices to which we are exposed,” Robinson says, adding that CAML “remains confident for the medium and long-term future” of the business.
The decision will be reviewed as the year progresses and the world gains more clarity on the Covid-19 situation and its impact on mining operations and metal prices.
Looking ahead, CAML says it remains focused on maintaining a strong cash position for 2020, which it intends to achieve through starting the year with $32-million in the bank, and cutting back on non-essential capital expenditure during the year.
Additionally, considering that it is currently unknown whether CAML will need to put its mines on care and maintenance, like the mining industry in South Africa, Robinson notes that CAML is “well placed” to continue with operations for a while, should Kazakhstan and North Macedonia decide to follow suit and declare a lockdown.
While the company may not survive with this approach indefinitely, Robinson is confident that the global market will have more clarity on the Covid-19 situation in the coming months.
The group’s gross revenue for the 2019 financial year was $108.8-million, with net revenue slightly lower at $171.8-million.
The group’s profit before tax was $67.8-million, and group earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation $108.6-million with a 60% margin.
Earnings a share from continuing operations were $29.36.
CAML produced 23 369 t of zinc in concentrate, up from the prior year’s 22 532 t.
Lead-in-concentrate production was 29 201 t, down from the previous comparable period’s production of 29 388 t.
Copper production for the year reached 13 771 t, down from 14 049 t the year before.
Looking ahead, CAML has set its production guidance for this year at between 12 500 t and 13 000 t of copper, between 30 000 t and 32 000 t of lead, and between 23 000 t and 25 000 t of zinc.
However, Robinson notes that these guidance figures should be considered as a caveat, as these numbers could change depending on the direction that the Covid-19 virus forces CAML, and the global market, to take.