Revaluation of Romania’s enormous mineral wealth
At the level of the National Agency for Mineral Resources (NAMR) a quantitative, qualitative and value revaluation action is in full swing, for over 700 deposits of solid minerals, then following to move to mineral waters and oil reserves. However, it is difficult to quantify the value of these deposits in money, but for specialists the value of a deposit is given by its size and quality. Within this action, carried out by NAMR, about 60 deposits of ore, coal, building materials etc. have been revalued and tens of government decisions have been drawn up aiming at the registration of the real reserves at the current level of detail and knowledge. The new values of reserves are registered in the inventory of assets in the public domain of the state, in conditions in which there are deposits whose reserves have never been valued, having only an initial homologation thereof.
Romania is country rich in mineral resources, but the reality is that we no longer know how much this wealth hidden in thousands of deposits is worth. The last quantitative revaluation was made 15 years ago. Since then, the increasing demand for raw material has led to a massive exploitation of mineral resources, and new deposits have been discovered in parallel.
The first database, in 1925
In 1925, Romania made its first database on deposits. After more than 40 years, in 1968, geological data was introduced for the first time in a computer purchased from the U.S. Subsequently, in 1971, another computer was purchased, also from the U.S., for data storage. During 1997-1999, NAMR had made one of the most performing databases in the oil industry. Today, all data stored at the time with great effort is lost. Now, it must be re-uploaded.
Gold is no longer exploited
Gold and silver ore reserves are estimated at 760 tons, according to data available. But in Romania gold hasn’t been exploited since 2007, after all exploitations had been closed because they were no longer profitable due to outdated technologies and high production costs. In the years to follow, technologies have improved, new ones have emerged, but Romania no longer opened the gold mines. In a top of the largest untapped 50 gold mines and deposits in the world, published in 2012 by Natural Resources Holdings, the deposit in Rosia Montana ranked 17, being valued at 18.5 million ounces of gold. Another deposit, the one in Rovina, was estimated at 6.96 million ounces of gold and ranked 47 in the top. Now, the only gold exploited is the one that appears in association with polymetallic ores.
Non-ferrous processing industry, destroyed
Copper deposits are estimated at around 2 billion tons, and the state-owned company Cupru Min holds the rights of exploitation for the largest deposit in Romania, the one in Rosia Poieni, where 60% of the country’s reserves are located. Although Romania is the European country with the largest copper reserves, the manufacturing industry is missing. It existed, but was destroyed after 1990, and now the copper ore concentrate is exported and processed products are imported. In 1990 there were 3 plants where processing was made, but one by one they have all been destroyed by failed privatizations. While Sometra Copsa Mica, Apelum Zlatna and Phoenix Baia Mare (formerly Cuprom) became history, our neighbours, Bulgaria and Serbia, have developed over the past few years a strong non-ferrous metals manufacturing industry.
90 million tons of polymetallic ores
Another important resource is represented by polymetallic ores. According to the Economic Encyclopedia of Mineral Resources, there are 90 million tons of polymetallic ores in Romania. One ton of polymetallic ore contains 10 grams of molybdenum, 30 grams of nickel and cobalt, 50 grams of chromium, 300 grams of gallium, 1,000 grams of titanium, 2,500 grams of vanadium and 5,000 grams of grams of arsenic.
Yellow hydrogen can save coal
Romania’s coal reserves are large, but the new environmental policy of the European Union, known as the Green Deal, requires the abandonment of polluting technologies. The current data shows that Romania has hard coal reserves of about two billion tons, of which 600 million tons are in exploited perimeters. Also, Romania’s lignite resources are estimated at 690 million tons, of which exploitable in leased perimeters, 290 million tons. This vital resource for the Romanian energy system will have to be replaced with less polluting sources, but coal might not be removed completely, already having technologies that can transform it into syngas, synthetic diesel and hydrogen (yellow H2 – coming from fossil fuels). Hydrogen, as an energy alternative, hasn’t been only a topic of discussion in Europe for a long time. There are already many plants that produce green hydrogen (coming from biomass) and Germany has recently allocated EUR 9bn to develop the hydrogen industry. Romania is still contemplating the idea.
According to BP evaluations, Romania has proven oil reserves of around 100 million tons and gas reserves of 100 billion cubic meters, excluding the offshore area. NAMR has not evaluated the mineral resources of the country, highlighted in the inventory of assets in the public domain of the state, managed by the authority, so assets in the nature of petroleum resources were recorded on December 31, 2015 with a ‘zero’ inventory value, according to a report of the Court of Auditors issued last year.
We have rare metals, but we don’t exploit them
Romania is one of the few countries in Europe that holds rare metal resources. For example, before 1989, Romania was the sixth country in the world, after the U.S., USSR, China, Japan and France, to produce zirconium, from which the capsules in which the nuclear fuel for the Cernavoda plant is stored are manufactured. Titanium, which was used in the aerospace industry, was also mined. Another metal was vanadium, which is now included by the European Commission in the list of 30 critical raw materials for the EU. Vanadium is used to make special steels, and vanadium alloys are used in nuclear reactors, due to the poor interactivity of the element. Another ore passed on the U.S. list. is graphite, the raw material from which graphene is produced, a material up to 200 times stronger than steel and 1,000 times lighter than a sheet of paper. It is the best conductor of electricity, and the energy industry uses it more and more. The only graphite mine in Romania, located in Gorj County, produced about 40,000 tons per year in the 1990s, but is now closed. A lesser known element is tellurium, which in Europe is found only in Romania and Sweden, and globally China, USA, Canada and Australia still have reserves. It is a rare metal used in the manufacture of atomic bomb casings, in the aerospace and energy industries, but in Romania it is no longer extracted.
List of critical materials, extended to 30
The European Union’s reliance on imports of raw materials threatens key industries and exposes it to blockades by China and other resource-rich states, shows a report by the European Commission, according to international media. Thus, the lack of raw materials used to produce batteries and equipment used in the field of renewable energy could also jeopardize the objective of the EU to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The European Union estimates that in order to reach the climate neutrality target, the EU bloc would need 18 times more lithium and five times more cobalt by 2030. Forecasts for 2050 show that the EU will need 60 times more lithium and 15 times more cobalt, according to international media. Under these conditions, the list of critical raw materials for the EU was expanded to 30 materials, from 27, with four metals being added, while helium gas was removed.
Tethyan Resource Corp. to purchase Kizevak and Sastavci silver-zinc-lead mines in Serbia
Tethyan Resource Corp. made an agreement to purchase a 100% ownership stake in Serbian company EFPP d.o.o. EFPP is the holder of two exploration licences over silver-zinc-lead mines Kizevak and Sastavci in the Raska district of Southwestern Serbia.
-The Licences are contiguous with Tethyan’s existing exploration rights and the acquisition would complete the consolidation of a district of known silver-zinc-lead vein-type and copper-gold porphyry deposits, presenting numerous strategic advantages:
-The Licences include two past-producing open pit silver-zinc-lead mines and host significant historical mineral resources and reserves that were reported in accordance with Yugoslav GKZ reporting criteria and indicate excellent brownfield exploration potential
-At Kizevak, historic drilling and underground channel sampling data define mineralisation that is present from surface up to 200 metres depth and 1.2 kilometres in strike length that is open down dip and along strike, representing an immediate drill-ready target
-Staged acquisition payments allow Tethyan to focus funds on drilling
-Serbia is establishing itself as a recognised mining jurisdiction, attracting significant investment interest
Fabian Baker, Tethyan’s President and CEO, commented: “This acquisition is a key step in Tethyan’s strategy to consolidate a district of historical mines and exploration prospects in Serbia. The Kizevak project in particular gives Tethyan an immediate drill ready target, and we can now drill the 1.2 kilometres of strike length, reported to host historical resources, between the former open pit mine and Tethyan’s excellent 2018 drilling results. With Kizevak as a cornerstone project the many satellite exploration targets identified by historical drilling, all within a few kilometres of Kizevak, become relevant to a possible district-wide operation. The plan moving forward is for Tethyan to commence drilling of these high-grade silver-zinc-lead targets in parallel with advancing our two copper-gold porphyry projects at Rudnica and Kremice in the Raska district of Serbia.”
Kizevak is a past-producing mine reported to host considerable historic mineral resources, along-strike from which Tethyan drilled mineralization including 12 metres at 22.03% zinc, 10.29 % lead, 167 g/t silver and 0.18 g/t gold. The mine was operated as an open pit by the Serbian state between 1984 and 2000, ceasing operations due to conflict in the region. The project benefits from numerous infrastructure advantages including water, power, road and rail access all within 5 kilometres, and a local workforce with a long history of mining. Additionally, the land comprising the wider project area is designated for mining purposes under the Serbian State spatial plan, providing many permitting benefits and efficiencies.
Mineralisation at Kizevak comprises steeply dipping, southeast striking, structurally controlled lenses of quartz-carbonate-sulphide vein breccias and stockwork zones hosted in andesite volcanics. Historic drilling and underground sampling data indicate that mineralisation occurs over a strike length of at least 1.2 kilometres, between 1 and 30 metres wide, and up to 200 metres down dip. This dominant southeast striking trend is intersected by at least one perpendicular southwest striking mineralised structure, which is inferred as an important control on high grade shoots.
Mineralisation is open down dip and along strike to the northwest, southwest and southeast. In 2018 Tethyan drilled four drill holes on its wholly owned licence 1.2 kilometres along strike to the southeast of the mine that returned mineralized intervals including:
-12 metres at 22.03 % zinc, 10.29 % lead, 167 g/t silver, and 0.18 g/t gold for 35.09 % ZnEq (Hole KSEDD002, from 130 m)
-43 metres at 4.30 % zinc, 2.49 % lead, 26 g/t silver, and 0.21 g/t gold for 7.39 % ZnEq (Hole KSEDD001, from 193 m)
including 13.1 m @ 11.28 % zinc, 5.05 % lead, 57 g/t silver, and 0.32 g/t gold for 17.44 % ZnEq (from 221 m)
-0 m @ 4.35 % zinc, 2.14 % lead, 27 g/t silver, and 0.34 g/t gold for 7.37 % ZnEq (Hole KSEDD003, from 137 m)
Sastavci was also mined historically by open pit on a smaller scale than at Kizevak and represents a priority drilling target. Outcropping, steeply dipping, massive sulphide veins up to 5 metres wide are visible in the pit walls. Tethyan collected 65 rock-chip samples across the Sastavci area, which returned assays ranging from trace to >30 % zinc (over range), 7.1 % lead, 94.3 g/t silver and 0.47 g/t gold in the Sastavci pit. A historic resource estimate is reported in the Serbian geological archives.
Additionally, to the north of the Sastavci open pit Tethyan has defined a greater than 100 ppb gold in soil anomaly over 800 metres long and 400 metres wide in strongly silica altered volcanic rocks. Rock-chip sample assays range from trace to 3.7 g/t gold, representing a separate epithermal gold exploration target.
Historic Resource and Reserve Estimates
In 1994 the Yugoslav Geological Survey reported combined estimated mineral resources in GKZ compliant A+B+C1+C2 categories of 8Mt at 45 g/t silver, 5.06 % zinc and 2.96 % lead at Kizevak, Sastavci and Karadak (a portion of the Kizevak resource, and Karadak are located on Tethyan’s existing licences).
The mineral resource estimates were reported by the state geological survey according to Yugoslav GKZ guidelines and do not comply with NI 43-101 reporting requirements and associated CIM definition standards. The authors caution that a qualified person has not done sufficient work to validate the historical estimates, and Tethyan is not treating the historical estimates as current mineral resources or reserves. Tethyan has not completed a detailed review of the historical resource or completed a new mineral resource estimate.
The historical resource estimates were completed using the polygonal method using data acquired from diamond drilling and underground sampling.
For readers not familiar with Yugoslav mineral estimates, such estimates were always stated as “reserves” and classified according to the A+B+C1+C2 or “alphabetical” classification, which was derived from the Russian system and is still applied throughout many countries in southeast Europe. The reserves had to be approved by the official Commission for Ore Reserves. The A, B, C1 and C2 categories reflect the levels of confidence in the actual tonnage exploited from a reserve, with confidence levels being – 95%, 80%, 70% and 35% respectively. Henley (2004) and others have evaluated the alphabetical classification system with respect to the compliant codes in Canada and Australia, and concluded that A+B is comparable to “measured”, C1 to “indicated” and C2 to “inferred” in internationally acceptable codes for reporting resources. However, these comparisons are only an approximation, and cannot be considered as equivalents.
To verify the historical resource estimate as current mineral resources or mineral reserves, drilling, mapping, detailed geological interpretation, geological modelling, grade mapping by interpolation using geostatistical analysis and mineral resource classification, using industry standard software, is required.
Terms of EFPP Acquisition
Closing of the transaction to acquire EFPP is subject to satisfactory due diligence and TSX acceptance on or before 15th April 2020. The acquisition of EFPP will occur in two steps, an initial ‘First Closing’ whereby Tethyan will acquire 10% of the shares of EFPP and management control of the company, and a 12 month period in which to decide, in its sole discretion, whether to proceed to a ‘Second Closing’ when Tethyan has the right to acquire the remaining 90% of the shares of EFPP. A summary of the terms of the Transaction is as follows:
In consideration for 10% of the shares of EFPP Tethyan will pay to the Sellers a total of EUR 625,000 cash on the First Closing.
At any time within 12 months of First Closing, Tethyan may elect to acquire the remaining 90% of shares of EFPP on the Second Closing by:
Paying EUR 1,375,000;
Granting to the Sellers a 2% Net Smelter Return over the Licences;
Issuing a total of 4 million ordinary shares of Tethyan, to be issued in four equal tranches of 1 million shares, with the first tranche issued on the Second Closing and each additional tranche issued each six months thereafter;
Paying a deferred cash payment of EUR 500,000 on the two-year anniversary of First Closing.
Increasing concession fees for ores exploitation in North Macedonia
After six years, the North Macedonian Ministry of Economy has adopted a new tariff plan, which envisages an increase in concession fees for the exploitation of ores and geological resources. The new tariffs will apply from January 1, 2021. This decision means that more money will be poured into the budgets of the municipalities where coal, metallic raw materials, marble, granite, etc. are exploited.
One percent of the projected coal price is 780 denars (12.75 euros) per ton, instead of the current 600 denars (9.8 euros), or 3.900 denars (63.8 euros) per tonne of carbon dioxide and other gases, instead of the current 3,000 (€ 49.1). From each tonne of lead, zinc, copper, nickel or iron sold, the dealership will pay two percent to the state, and the same solution is retained here as in the current tariff system. For these metals, except for iron, the average price on the London Stock Exchange over the last three months will follow.
For the exploitation of precious and semi-precious stones, five percent of the value of the minerals sold will be paid, which is the same as it has been so far. The state will receive one percent from the sale of construction stone, assuming it costs MKD 390 (6.4 euros) per tonne instead of the current MKD 300 (4.9 euros). Mineral and groundwater drinking water will be charged one percent, assuming the selling price per liter of water is MKD 5.2 (EUR 0.09), instead of MKD 4 (EUR 0.07).
It also increases the concession area usage fee, to MKD 312,000 (EUR 5,100) per square kilometer for coal and other fossil fuels and MKD 234,000 (EUR 3,830) for metal ore, while quartz sand, marble and granite exploitation will cost MKD 130,000 (2,130 euro) per square kilometer. It will cost as much for sand and gravel, and for mineral water as MKD 156,000 (2,550 euros).
The fees for carrying out detailed geological surveys will also rise in price, amounting to MKD 156,000 (EUR 2,550) for energy minerals as well as for metallic minerals, while currently they amount to EUR 2,000.
Economy Minister Kresnik Bektesi launched an initiative to change the tariff system for paying concession fees a year ago. Comparative analysis with countries in the region and EU countries showed that fees should be increased.
Collection will start from 2021, as concessionaires’ budgets and investment plans for this year have already been prepared.
There are currently 362 concession contracts for surface and underground exploitation in North Macedonia.
Zijin Company in Bor, environmental issues lead to court in Serbia
The Ministry of the Environment initiated proceedings against Zijin Bor Copper for the release of hazardous substances into the air in November 2019 and January 2020. The ministry has controlled the company several times, and at least five times it has identified failures since the mining basin was privatized in late 2018. While the authorities shift responsibility to each other, the lives of 45,000 Bor citizens are endangered.
At the end of one working week, an employee at Zidjin, formerly RTB Bor, waited for an unpleasant surprise at the door of the administration building – their fellow citizens whistled and shouted: “You betrayed the city. ” With the support of residents of the surrounding towns and political activists, on November 15, 2019, part of Bor residents protested over months because of pollution coming from the mining basin. With the message “Our Health or Your Profit” and with face masks, the Chinese investor was asked to reduce production volumes and thus the air pollution that suffocates them.
“Sulfur dioxide directly damages the health,” Dr. Dragica Radosevic addressed the event. Heavy metals such as arsenic, which can also lead to malignant tumors, are even more dangerous, he explains.
Katarina Vaskovic, a protest participant, complained to the media that life in Bor was quarantined.
“Our children live in quarantine, we can only take them outside when we estimate that there is not so much smoke. Every other kid in the neighborhood gets an asthma pump, ”Vaskovic said.
The protesters supported the speakers for a full two hours.
However, on the day of the protest, Bor was not contaminated. The air did not scratch his throat, and eyes did not tear, as Bor residents otherwise claim, and there was no need to close into homes. Local clean air is explained by the decline in Zidjin’s production of copper and precious metals – because of protests and television cameras.
Data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting in Serbia (CINS) confirms that there was no excessive pollution on the day of the protests, as well as for the next five days, but then came back – stronger than the Air Protection Act allows.
One week after the protest, environmental inspector Emila Tosic visited Zidjin and found that sulfur dioxide (SO2) concentrations had gone up to 4.6 times the statutory limits during those two days, November 21 and 22. In some hours, the amount of SO2 in the air was 8.3 times higher than allowed, according to the inspector’s report. SO2 is a gas of sharp odor that causes frequent coughing and pharyngeal irritation. It is the cause of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and is most harmful to children, the elderly and people with chronic lung diseases.
Pollution was measured just a five-minute walk from the mining pool gate, at a station maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) in the city park.
In January 2020, the inspection controlled Zidjin and found the same omissions, the documentation obtained by CINS shows.
Due to the release of hazardous substances into the air and the company did nothing to reduce pollution, the proceedings before the Commercial Court in Zajecar against the company Zidjin and the deputy head of the TIR branch causing the problem, Boban Todorovic. They are charged with an economic offense for which a fine of between 1.5 and 3 million dinars has been imposed, and the court can impose a sentence commensurate with the damage done.
Nataša Djereg from the NGO Center for Environment and Sustainable Development (CEKOR) believes that such punishment does not help:
“Our fines are ridiculous – of course it pays for all polluters to continue to pollute, especially at such large plants, to pay the fine and move on. A fine is not a measure, the penalty would be to stop production. ”
Former head of the TIR branch, Paun Jankovic, in an interview with CINS, said stopping production was not in the interest of the majority owner – currently China’s state-owned Zijin International Finance Company Limited (63%), while the Serbian government is the second largest co-owner with 36.9%. Cessation of work means less income, but it can affect problem solving, Jovanovic explains:
“There are technical solutions – to urgently eliminate the causes of this bad show. If necessary, stop production for a week, two weeks, mechanically repair what is needed and then go back to normal. ”
Zijin’s earlier omissions
This is not the first time that Zijin, formerly RTB Bor, has not adhered to the rules. Since the privatization of the mining basin, in December 2018, Inspector Tosic has noticed at least five times various omissions.
As early as April 2019, the inspector had ordered the company to take action against air pollution of the environment, human health and the environment, because it emitted excessive SO2, reports CINS reported. Zijin then explained in a letter to the Ministry of Environment that the power outage had caused pollution.
However, control a few months later, in August, showed another omission – Zijin did not have a system for wet dust removal during the transportation of tailings on the Bor mine, which also threatened human health and the environment. Zijin was ordered to solve the problem, and the company later told the Ministry that a dust suppression system had been installed, which was put to trial.
In November 2019, CINS sought an interview with Zidjin on the topic of air pollution, to which the company responded with a press release. It says that by the end of the year, the company will have a total of five SO2-neutralized dust spray machines. Documentation obtained by CINS shows that by that time, two of the machines purchased had been in operation for about two months, but pollution data showed that it had no significant effect on the reduction of sulfur dioxide – in October the number of days with more SO2 in the air it was slightly smaller.
Zijin announces other investments – a dust and exhaust gas collection plant, and by the end of 2021 the construction of an additional facility to ensure that “the emission of gases is always and fully in line with the prescribed standards”.
Bor residents are not satisfied with communication with the Ministry, as they do not receive answers on measures taken to reduce air pollution.
From a recording of a phone conversation between activist and chairman of the Dveri District Committee, Sasa Stankovic, with Aleksandar Blagojevic of the Ministry’s inspection sector, posted by Bor activists in October 2019 on Facebook page 1 of 5 million Bor, it appears that the inspection does not go out on the field exploration at all but to notify Zijin about the pollution by phone as part of the procedure.
Blagojevic explained that the inspector “called the company and told them that there were exceedances of one-hour values and that they should reduce production or put more fresh raw material than slag.” He also stressed that there is a legal obligation for the City of Bor to adopt a Short-term Action Plan that specifies when Zijin should stop production for several hours or days.
From Municipality they say the Short-term Action Plan has nothing to do with the work of the Republic Inspectorate.
“The inspectors are known to work. When any accident occurs, the inspector goes out to see what is going on, the real record, measures are taken regardless of the Short-term Action Plan. We will see when we come up with a Plan, how much we will be able to influence the work of the company, “said Ljiljana Lekic of the City of Bor’s Environmental Protection Office.
She explained that they started drafting the Plan and that representatives of local environmental associations, including those organizing protests, are involved. Still, Lekic says the plan will only provide guidance for solving the problem.
Toplica Marijanovic, formerly Deputy Director of Environmental Protection at RTB, says the action plan is not binding, and even the inspector cannot ask the polluter to implement it.
“This is an effort for the Ministry, or the state, to shift all responsibility for the state of air quality to local self-government, and local self-government has no power or ability to react in any way in industrial and mining facilities for which the state license is issued,” Marijanović said.
In the meantime, pollution is still present in Bor. SEPA issued a warning that they were dangerous to human health on January 24 and 26 due to the concentration of SO2 at two measurement sites.
While Aleksandar Milikic, Bor Mayor and SNS official, says the pressures are political because the protest is led by Alliance for Serbia member and Dragan Djilas associate, Irena Zivkovic, she, along with three other activists, including Sasa Stankovic from of the Dveri movement, in late November, filed criminal charges against the director of Zijin Bor Koper, Long Ji, the mayor of Bor, and the Minister of the Environment, Goran Trivan.
The Ministry did not respond to CINS’s questions regarding local government control over the adoption of the Short-term Action Plan, or whether it would be able to order production to be halted in Zidjin.
New owner – new pollution
According to the regulations, SO2 in one measuring point may be exceeded only three days a year. It has not been respected in Bor for years. The metering station in the city park, near the mining basin, showed SO2 pollution for an average of five months in 2014, to a total of 13 days by 2018, and then jumped to 40 with a Chinese investor, SEPA data shows.
The findings of the Bor Mining and Metallurgy Institute’s 2018 report are not encouraging. There were more than allowed SO2 and harmful PM10 particles on an annual basis, most commonly affecting blood and respiratory diseases. Arsenic was 24 times more than allowed in Bor. Pollution in Serbia is in many places above the legal limit.
High concentrations of pollutants affect the health of Bor residents.
About two-thirds of pre-school children and half under the age of 18, who in 2014-2018 sought the help of a doctor, had problems with their respiratory organs. They most often suffered from sore throat and tonsils, according to data on the health status of residents of the town of Bor published by the Institute for Public Health Timok in Zajecar.
These inflammations are the second most common disease in adults, with nine cases in every 100 inhabitants.
Although dominant, these diseases have a slight downward trend over the five-year period, coupled with declining production of the mining basin and a decrease in air pollution.
After the privatization of RTB Bor, pollution increased again.
Medgold exploration and the value of ore wealth in Serbia
The expansion of mining activities in Serbia is currently increasing. Exploitation of copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold is widely spread.
Experts in the field point out that it is important that, in parallel with the opening of the mines, a supporting industry is developed to maximize the benefits of the raw material itself, and that it is noticeable that far greater attention is being paid to environmental protection in the mining sector than it was the case earlier.
Miroslav Ignjatovic of the Association for Energy and Mining of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce tells Tanjug that there are 200 exploitation and 127 exploration fields in Serbia, where extensive research is being done.
Canadian discovery at the border
The latest news that has emerged these days is that Canadian research firm Medgold risorsiz confirmed results of rich ore deposits.
They previously indicated that they found excellent indicators in southern Serbia at the border with Bulgaria and Macedonia that rich deposits of precious metals are in the area
The company said they found about seven million tonnes of ore, with about 680,000 ounces, or 19.3 tonnes of gold, worth just over $ 1 billion in just one project site called “Tlamino”, and investigations continue.
Ignjatovic points out that this news is an encouragement for the development of the mining sector in Serbia, but it will depend on further geological testing whether there are realistic conditions for a more serious mining project. He states that a clearer picture of the prospect of the reservoir itself will be obtained in the coming period, and points out that it is noticeable that far more attention is paid to environmental protection in the mining sector this year.
“The Mining Waste Cadastre project, which lasted for three years, provided Serbia with a clear picture of this waste, which is the basis for analyzing the environmental situation and planning further steps to address the issue of this waste,” said Ignjatović.
Also, in terms of investment, Ignjatovic says that in the next three years, the highest level of investment is expected in the Chukaru Peki mine, the Jadar project, as well as investments in the Bor pits now owned by Zidjin company.
“We should not forget the development of surface mines in the branch of RB Kolubara, which in the coming period will represent the basis for a stable electric power system of Serbia and the production of energy from thermal capacities,” he added.
Otherwise, it is estimated that about two percent of Serbia’s GDP belongs to the mining sector. By structure, about 90 percent of the estimated two percent of GDP is made up of energy minerals, coal, oil and natural gas, as well as copper as a metallic mineral resource. The rest of the structure is made from lead and zinc and non-metallic minerals, mainly stone aggregate, sand and gravel and raw materials for the cement industry.
A bright future
Experts at the Geological Survey of Serbia state that the future of this branch in Serbia is certainly bright. Geologist Predrag Mijatovic says that significant investments are still needed.
“Investing in metallic raw materials research is very time consuming and it is not a process that can be completed in a year or two, it takes seven to 10 years”, Mijatovic pointed out.
As for how Serbian ore is stationed by region, eastern Serbia is dominated by copper and gold, and sometimes lead and zinc. There are also uranium deposits on Stara Planina. In central Serbia, deposits of lead, zinc, uranium, as well as gold and silver are characteristic, according to Mijatovic.
In the western part of Serbia, in the Podrinje region, there are many deposits of antimony that are no longer exploited, and there are also lead and zinc, according to the Geological Survey. Nickel and chromium are found in several places in Serbia, especially in the central part, near Arandjelovac, Vrnjacka Banja, in the west in Mokra Gora, while chromium is found in Tara, Zlatibor, Deli Jovan, and bauxite (raw material for aluminum) in Tara, Zlatibor, near Pocuta and near Babusnica.
There are also deposits of non-metals as well as coal, and in Vojvodina there are deposits of gas and oil, as well as deposits of different types of clay.
In terms of reserves, the overall resources and reserves of lead and zinc, including the mines in Kosovo and Metohija, are estimated at close to 100 million tons and coal deposits at about ten billion tons, says Mijatovic. There are less reserves of brown coal, which is exploited underground, while, for example, gold reserves cannot be estimated accurately, but it is assumed to be around a few tens of tons of gold as a metal but outside the Bor deposits. Copper resources are estimated at several billion tons, both proven ore reserves and resources under exploration.
Experts at the Geological Survey of Serbia cite an example that the Trepča mine is at half the value of the estimated ore, or half of the balance reserves according to the exploitation trend. The Kosovo Basin is, as they say at the Institute, so rich in coal (lignite) that it could contribute to the smooth production of electricity over the next 150 years.
Otherwise, Serbia imports iron ore as well as higher quality coal (brown) for heating and industrial consumption (coal).
How a rising anti-mining movement is challenging Portugal’s ‘white gold’ rush
Throughout Portugal, people are organizing to stop a boom in lithium mining, as the government rushes to become Europe’s top supplier of the valuable mineral.
The global transition to renewable energy and electric vehicles — technologies that are currently powered by lithium-ion batteries — is creating a high demand for lithium, popularly known as white gold, among other minerals. In Portugal, where some of the largest reserves of lithium in Europe are located, the government recently launched a strategy to increase mining and supply of the mineral for this emerging market. However, residents and organizations throughout the country are questioning the impacts of that large-scale mining plan and who will really benefit from it.
“Lithium mining in Portugal involves large open-cast mines that rip open huge tracts of land-destroying soils and ecosystems,” said Laura Williams, a resident based in central Portugal, who is having to deal with lithium mining activities on her doorstep. “It uses huge amounts of water in the processing, which then contaminates ground and river water. The huge machines that are used have a massive impact in terms of noise and vibrations on local communities.”
In August, Williams helped to organize a creative protest at the highest point in mainland Portugal, on Serra da Estrela mountain. About 400 residents gathered to create an art image with their bodies — of a tree and water circle — to send a collective message: “No to Mines, Water is Life.” The demonstration was filmed with drones and distributed across the media to raise awareness about the environmental and social impacts of mining for lithium and other minerals, which are often not officially disclosed.
“I do not campaign on this issue simply to get mines out of Portugal and send them somewhere else,” Williams explained. “For me, the real issue is that attempting to solve an ecological problem with a solution that involves more extraction — in this case, mining for lithium to make electric cars to reduce CO2 emissions — is not a solution. In fact, it is heading in the opposite direction of what is called for at this time: to protect and restore ecosystems.”
In the last three years alone, Portugal has received hundreds of requests for prospecting and exploration of lithium by national and foreign companies. Today it is estimated that lithium prospecting already covers more than 10 percent of the country’s territory. And in some cases, proposed areas of exploration are adjacent to protected or classified sites, which is fueling opposition.
In the Serra da Estrela region, for example, several requests for the prospecting of lithium and other minerals were recently made. However, the area is surrounded by sites of cultural, ecological and geological importance, such as the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, which is in the process of being classified as a Global Geopark by UNESCO. As a result, four local organizations issued a joint written statement to express their “deep concern” and reasons for opposing the mining interests in that area. The groups also declared that they are preparing to give “more rigorous and detailed technical advice on this issue” and urged the local authorities to make their position clear as well.
“We have been working in unison with other associations that are struggling with the same problem,” said Maria do Carmo Mendes, a member of the Guardians of Serra da Estrela, one of the groups confronting mining in sites of community importance. She said that the group has already sent a letter of complaint to the Directorate General for Energy and Geology, the administration that oversees mining developments in Portugal. And together with other local organizations, they are pressuring the directorate for “absolute transparency in the process of granting mining licenses,” in addition to having an outside entity conduct environmental impact studies before a decision is made.
In the north of Portugal, in a rural town called Covas do Barroso, a group of residents has united to defend their land and livelihoods from big mining interests. They came together after finding out about requests for open-pit lithium mining in their area, which is classified as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. A spokesperson from the Association United in Defense of Covas do Barroso, announced that the local community realized they would have to fight “powerful economic and political interests.” Therefore, they decided “to unite and speak in unison” to ensure that the rights and needs of the community are respected.
The group has been working to educate the community and has organized protests to persuade the national government to withdraw lithium prospecting concessions in Covas do Barroso, which is already causing environmental and social problems. Last month, after a visit from the state secretary for energy in the City Hall of Covas’ municipality, dozens of residents surrounded the secretary’s vehicle making it difficult for him to leave. As they held posters with messages against lithium mining in the area, protesters shouted: “No to the Mine, Yes to Life.”
Also, citizens from two neighbor municipalities in central Portugal have united to defend the preservation of the Serra da Argemela region and to “protect the environmental, health, economic and cultural heritage” of its community. The Group for the Preservation of Serra da Argemela, or GPSA, has organized several demonstrations, public meetings and interventions against mining for lithium and other minerals in the region since 2017. This year, following a petition that gained the signature of many residents, organizations and representatives of local government, the group persuaded the national authorities to reject current mining requests in the Argemela (at least, until an Environmental Impact Study is officially presented by mining companies).
“A big victory would be if citizens could rest assured that their rights will always be defended by the state,” GPSA member Ana Morão said, when asked if the Portuguese government’s move was a victory for them. “Until then, in addition to the right to demonstrate, the GPSA will exercise its rights of reply and contestation, particularly in the context of the public consultation that will be carried out alongside the Environmental Impact Study.”
Residents across the country have also been organizing online, through Facebook groups, for instance, to exchange information about the mining development plans and their implications, and to mobilize offline demonstrations.
The Movement Against Mining Beira Serra, is one of the Facebook groups created this year in response to the lithium mining boom, which now has over 5,000 members. Nik Völker, an administrator of the group, said that they are currently focusing on raising awareness around the issue, but have already taken part in local and national demonstrations, information sessions and campaigns in cooperation with other similar movements.
“Our main demand is the right to free, prior and informed consent of any local community being considered for any new mineral exploration or exploitation project,” Völker said. “As long as these conditions are not met, both companies and government will have to deal with our local and national peaceful protest, and possible legal interventions in the near future.”
Vítor Afonso, one of the members from the Movement Against Exploitation of Mineral Resources in the Municipality of Montalegre, a Facebook group with more than 3,600 members, created in May 2019, explained that he is against open-pit mining for lithium and other minerals not only in his area but throughout the country. “It’s not a desirable or sustainable development model,” he said. “The planet has no capacity to regenerate if it continues to be exploited the way it has been.”
As a form of protest against the lithium mining plans for Montalegre, residents decided to boycott the European elections in May and the local elections in October. In addition to demonstrating on the streets during election day, they also placed banners that read “No to the Mine, Yes to Life” in front of the City Hall and across public spaces.
A national platform called Say No To Mines was recently created to facilitate the learning and cooperation between activists and movements that oppose the mining plans, especially for lithium, adopted in Portugal. Yet the Portuguese people are far from being alone in this endeavor. Yes to Life, No to Mining is a global network of and for communities that are battling against destructive mining projects and seeking life-sustaining alternatives.
Contesting the political economy strategy
The exploitation of lithium — considered a fundamental step for an “energy transition” by the Portuguese government — has been systematically contested by the National Association for Nature Conservation, called Quercus. The organization publicly requested an “immediate suspension of the government’s strategy for lithium,” after conducting a study that concluded the process of mining for lithium, a non-renewable resource, will result in “high levels of CO2 emissions.” They estimated that each lithium mine will emit an additional 1.79 million tons of greenhouse gases per year, which means it’s an energy development plan that’s still environmentally unsustainable.
Quercus also organized the first National Forum on the Environment and Lithium, on June 22, that was attended by several representatives of movements, organizations and political parties, who are concerned about the consequences of lithium mining. The event was developed in partnership with the organization Environment in Uraniferous Zones, which has been fighting for the environmental recovery of abandoned uranium mines that still affect the health of local populations in various parts of the country, since 2002.
Alternatives to lithium mining were also discussed in the forum, including the various technologies that can support a sustainable energy transition and electric mobility, such as the use of hydrogen and biogas fuel, which are renewable and generate low or zero carbon emissions. The next steps agreed upon at the event include organizing a formal meeting with all political parties, the minister of environment and energy transition, and Portugal’s president to debate problems with the lithium mining strategy and potential alternatives.
The anti-mining movement that is emerging in Portugal, and growing globally, is a clear sign that a “business as usual” development model — oriented to the ever-increasing exploitation of natural resources and unfair economic practices — is no longer accepted by society. And decision-makers will have to respond accordingly.
“Article 66 of the Portuguese Constitution states that ‘everyone is entitled to an environment of human life, healthy and ecologically balanced, and the duty to defend it,’” Afonso said. “The duty to defend our territories will certainly be exercised [by the people].”
Serbia is suffering an enormous damage from the uncontrolled exploitation of ores
Serbia is suffering enormous, and especially environmental, damage from the uncontrolled exploitation of mineral resources, and the State Audit Institution (SAI) recently pointed out the problem of calculation and collection of ore annuities, said economist at the Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, Petar Djukic.
He pointed to insufficient environmental or green funds, which should be used to remedy the environmental consequences of mining.
Djukic cited the example of Lazarevac municipality, which, due to coal mines and TPP Kolubara, has many environmental problems and which until 1991 had so-called An annuity fund, which has been used for environmental protection, protection of public health, restoration of green infrastructure and reclamation of the area.
Since 1991, that fund has been terminated for Lazarevac as a suburban municipality and transferred to the Environmental Protection Fund for the city of Belgrade.
“What to do today in Lazarevac, Kostolac, Bor and other municipalities in a time when environmental and other damages from the extraction of mineral resources have become enormous”, Djukic asks. He also warned about the fact that the rent for oil extraction in Serbia is much lower than abroad.
Djukic said in particular that domestic research from the early 21st century shows that the environmental damage from the extraction of mineral resources in Serbia is at the level of one and a half to two billion euros a year.
Foreign research has shown that these damages are at the level of 6-12 percent of Gross Domestic Product, and that they are up to 20 percent of GDP in underdeveloped countries that do not have developed infrastructure.
Serbia is closer to the latter category and in our country these damages amount to between 10-15 percent of GDP, Djukic points out.
He points out that in poverty it is difficult to be fair and efficient and that it is difficult to capture a part of the income that would fully cover the environmental and other damage caused by the exploitation of mineral resources, as it could lead to the collapse of these companies and the loss of jobs.
This requires laws, political will and independent institutions.
It is positive that the State Audit Institution pointed to the problem of calculation and collection of ore annuities, Djukic points out and recalls that SAI announced that revenues from fees for mining of minerals in 2018 amounted to six billion dinars, and that the debt earlier this year it amounted to 2.6 billion according to the Serbian budget.
Rio Tinto Jadar Lithium project, exploitation environment impacts
Lithium borate reserves at the site near Loznica have been estimated roughly at 135 million tons. Vladimir Simic, a professor at the Faculty of Mining and Geology, says the underground will be exploited. “There should be no problematic effects, because I suppose as with most borates and similar minerals – these are easily soluble minerals that will be converted into lithium and boron in some technological process,” he added.
The Jadar project, developed by one of the leading mining companies Rio Tinto in Serbia, includes one of the world’s largest lithium borate deposits. Jadar is a unique deposit of a new lithium sodium borosilicate mineral of jadarite discovered in 2004 near Loznica in western Serbia. Rio Tinto has invested more than $ 130 million so far in the development of the Jadar project, and if the investment is approved, the planned construction of mines and processing plants could begin in 2021.
The jadarite ore was discovered in 2004 and recognized as a new mineral in 2007, and 15 years later we talk about the final phase of the exploration, which we heard after a meeting between Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and the Minister responsible with company representatives.
Vladimir Simic, a professor at the Faculty of Mining and Geology at the Department of Economic Geology, explains that the final phase of the exploration means, according to our laws, that a resource and reserves study will be finalized to determine exactly how much ore is available, which is a part of commercially available to take out, in what way, under what conditions, at what cost and finally at what profit.
“About 135 million tonnes of ore have been investigated so far, according to the available Rio Tinto materials. It is no small amount for a single bed that spans six to seven square kilometers. Of course, these are not fully defined reserves yet, we do not know if all this can be taken out commercially or not, “says Simic, adding that additional studies and analyzes are needed and that this is a big deal.
He thinks that the bearing, geologically speaking, is well defined.
Otherwise, it states that the basin where the jadarite was found was drilled from tens of thousands of wells during the 1970s and 1980s, when uranium was being explored. “And I just can’t believe no one has ever drilled jadarite before,” says the professor. But he states that the state was working on purpose at the time – if uranium was being explored, it was done and there was no budget for other more detailed examinations of all the sediments that had been passed.
Lithium borate reserves at the site near Loznica have been estimated roughly at 135 million tons. Asked how much it can be exploited, Simic says – it depends on Rio Tinto.
Talking about the benefits to the state, he states that it is certainly something that would lead to the employment of people. He said that we have good experts.
“They will invest in it, they will pay the state a fee for the use of mineral resources that is required by law … I do not know about lithium, because it does not appear in existing laws, it will probably be something similar to other non-metallic mineral raw materials, maybe up to five percent of profits – though it is never clear to me out of which profit. It is not clear to me, and I have been dealing with mineral raw materials for 30 years, ”the professor said.
When asked what this will mean for the environment, the professor says that since the jadarite is located in three levels, the depth of the reduced level is from 100 to 700 and below meters, and that the best is the lowest layer, therefore at the greatest depth – it will have to be exploited underground. “There should be no problematic effects, because I suppose, as with most borates and similar minerals, they are easily soluble minerals that will be converted to lithium and boron in some technological process,” Simić added.
Lithium is used in the manufacture of batteries that power vehicles, computers, mobile phones and industrial systems, as well as alloys for the aviation industry.
UK Mineco Group lead zinc mines in Western Balkans marks full results in 2019
Mineco Group System, Business Results Summary for 2019
Mineco Group has fulfilled its Plans
The British company Mineco Group, one of the largest mining investors in Serbia and the Western Balkans, is pleased with the results achieved in 2019, as it fulfilled its investment plans and the mines in the Group had certain sales of products.
“In terms of Mineco results in this region during 2019, this was a year of great and many small challenges. First of all, it was successful because we managed to provide certain sales of the products from our mines and to maintain the level of planned investments, although the situation on the market for the metals we deal with, became even more complex due to disruptions in the US-China trade relations”, said Mineco Group Director Bojan Popovic in Belgrade.
Popović reminded that Mineco achieved the best results in 2017 since its establishment, while in the second half of 2018, prices on the international market of non-ferrous metals decreased, which directly affected the mines resulting in lower revenues. “This trend continued into 2019, but it did not slow Mineco’s development programme,” he added.
The mines operating within Mineco Group at full capacity – Rudnik Mine and Flotation near Gornji Milanovac, Veliki Majdan near Ljubovija and Gross Mine near Srebrenica, have continued a number of successful years – having fulfilled their production plans, continued exploration works and confirmed mine reserves.
Popović pointed out that Rudnik Mine on the Mountain of Rudnik achieved a special success because it managed to discover and confirm new mineral resources. “Four years ago, geological services followed with concern the diminishing reserves in ore bodies, but with great effort and millions of investments, new mineral resources have been found and now they are already being exploited. Now, this old mine has reserves confirmed for at least another ten years of production of lead, zinc and, to a lesser extent, copper concentrates, while future explorations will be focused on verifying the existence of other ore bodies based on new indications”, said Popović.
According to him, the impetus in the mineral exploration activity has inspired Mineco to include this activity in its regular business operations over the past two years – by purchasing sophisticated rigs for drilling at depths up to 500 meters, but also by engaging expert staff and retraining new personnel to perform these site work activities.
These expert teams have facilitated accelerated explorations on the Rudnik Mountain and at other sites, primarily near Foča in the Republic of Srpska, where Mineco has a concession for exploration and mining of lead, zinc and copper ores.
Mineco Director also said that he was particularly pleased that the construction of a brand new cerussite mine, lead oxide mineral, in Olovo, north of Sarajevo and a Plant for processing of that ore into lead concentrate was completed.
The first new mine with underground exploitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last 30 years was opened almost two years ago, but for the processing of ore in that mine it was necessary to construct a completely new gravity separation plant, which was purchased in South Africa. The delivery of this equipment to the mine was very complex and kilometres of forest roads were built. “Now all of the individual systems are installed in one technological unit at the mine site, and the production of concentrate has been commissioned and our experts are currently optimizing production parameters and the further training of operational personnel is underway“, said Popović.
As for another mine in this region that Mineco is developing, the Bosil-Metal mine in the Municipality of Bosilegrad, Popović recalled that a year and a half ago, a pilot project for flotation ore processing was commissioned, and a Feasibility Study Concerning the Construction of Commercial Lead, Zinc and Copper Ore Flotation Process was ordered and prepared during the last year.
“During this year, the Main Mining Project for the Bosil-Metal mine and the Environmental Impact Study will be prepared and all necessary approvals of the competent ministries of the Republic of Serbia for the construction of a commercial plant will be provided”, said Popovic, noting that the construction work has been planned for the third or fourth quarter of this year, in order that the commercial operation of the Mine could commence during 2021.
Mineco Director also estimated that 2020 might not bring a significant rise in metal prices on the world markets, but it is important for this company to successfully control the development of its projects. “This will give us an opportunity for two major capital projects to move into the revenue phase, which is an excellent basis for further development of other projects in the coming years,” said Popović.
EV growth to support copper demand, Aurubis
Accelerated growth in electric vehicle (EV) sales will support copper demand but expanding Chinese smelting capacity could weigh on the global balance, Europe’s largest copper producer Aurubis said during London Metal Exchange (LME) Week.
“[Electric vehicles] will be bought by a huge part of the population. Society is changing and people are looking at their footprint,” Aurubis chief executive Roland Harings said.
“The fundamentals for copper are very healthy, electric-mobility is growing and there is more infrastructure and charging points being built,” he added.
The volume of copper used in EVs far exceeds those in conventional diesel engine cars, and the electrification of transport or “electric-mobility” to reduce global emissions is expected to boost copper demand.
According to the IEA, the volume of copper used in an EV is estimated at 183lb (83kg), compared with 18-49lb (8-22kg) for conventional cars.
But unpredictable “black swan” events and trade wars could severely impact the global economy and potentially hit copper demand growth in the electric vehicle sector, Harings said.
“Demand in 2018 was an excellent year but there were some hiccups in 2019. In the first six months of 2019, there was an overreaction to the US-China trade war in the market, but we have seen stabilisation since summer,” Harings said.
The China-US trade war, which started in early 2018, has continued as the countries have failed to resolve differences in trade policies. Subsequent tariffs and retaliatory measures between the US and China have slowed global trade flows and hit investor confidence. As a result of “high degrees of uncertainty”, the World Trade Organisation cut its global trade growth forecast this year to the lowest in a decade on 1 October.
Despite the global economic uncertainty, copper demand is still expected to grow by 1.75pc on the year to 25mn t in 2020, data from research consultancy the International Copper Study Group (ICSG) show.
While global demand is expected to grow, Aurubis believes China’s growing copper smelting capacity could tip the balance.
“There is no problem with supply and demand, supply and demand is in balance, but there is a problem with oversupply of smelting capacity in China,” Harings said.
World refined copper production is expected to grow by 4pc on the year to 25.6mn t in 2020, mainly driven by smelting capacity expansion in China and improving output in Africa, according to ICSG.
Copper production costs to rise
Aurubis expects copper production costs to rise in the coming years as global mined ore grade deteriorates. In addition, arsenic levels in copper concentrates have been rising but the firm could resolve the issue by blending the complex feedstock in-house prior to smelting.
Chinese smelters required copper concentrates to be blended prior to processing in the smelters. Many copper concentrate cargoes that did not meet China’s standard on the level of arsenic, lead, fluorine, cadmium and mercury level have been rejected.
“The condition of the concentrate is changing all the time, we see more complex concentrates in the market at the moment, and we are able to handle all these complex concentrates. Aurubis is not as exposed compared with other Chinese smelters,” Harings said.
As a result of Aurubis’ ability to treat complex copper concentrates, the firm said that its treatment costs and refining charges (TCs/RCs) — the fee paid by mining firms to smelters for converting copper concentrates into cathodes — are higher than benchmark TCs/RCs in Europe.
The firm hopes to grow its recycling business through the acquisition of Belgian recycler the Metallo group, which is pending regulatory approval by the end of this year.
Metallo, which is being sold by investment firm TowerBrook Capital Partners, specialises in recycling and refining non-ferrous metals from material with lower metal content. The firm has sites in Belgium and Spain.
“The acquisition of Metallo group complements our business. With Metallo we can optimise our total flow sheet, our treatment network. We can go much more towards zero waste. It help us moving towards the circular economy. We are growing our recycling business with Metallo, we can take more scrap and different kinds of scrap,” Harings said.
“The lowest cost is when there is no need for any conversion, and copper scrap with the highest copper content can be directly remelted. Everything that can be directly remelted is remelted today,” he added.
Aurubis is also Europe’s largest copper recycler — more than 40pc of Aurubis’ copper cathode output is produced from scrap, and copper concentrates account for the remaining raw material feedstock.
Aurubis produced 1.162mn t of copper cathode, 774,000t of copper wire rod and 19,600t of shapes in the 2017-18 financial year.