Bulgaria Environmentalists Defy Govt over Gold Mine Plans

Business | December 1, 2011, Thursday // 22:01
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Environmentalists Defy Govt over Gold Mine Plans A total of 27 tons of gold lie hidden below the prominent Ada Tepe hill, according to estimates of Canadian mining company Dundee Precious Metals. File photo

Bulgaria's environmental organizations have challenged in court the decision of the environment minister to grant a go-ahead to Dundee Precious Metals' plans for a big open-pit gold mine near the town of Krumovgrad.

"The decision of the environment minister is not acceptable and does not protect the interests of the state, the society and the nature," according to the organizations "Balkans" and "For the Earth".

They submitted on Thursday a joint complaint to the Supreme Administrative Court against the ministerial green light for the controversial project.

Earlier in the week the people living in the poor Bulgarian town of Krumovgrad have resumed their vehement protests against plans by Canadian mining company Dundee Precious Metals to open a big open-pit gold mine, spurred by the worldwide gold rush.

"We have established an initiative committee, launched a sign-up and will not hesitate to approach the European Commission. We won't let them poison our lives and our land," Margit Vassileva, leader of the environment association "Life for Krumovgrad" told Trud daily.

A group of European Commission experts are expected to come from Brussels and examine the situation on the field.

The fierce opposition of the local community comes days after Bulgaria's Minister of Environment and Waters provisionally granted Dundee Precious Metals a go-ahead, signing a resolution that approves the environmental impact assessment ("EIA") for the company's Krumovgrad gold project.

The people from Krumovgrad and the nearby villages in the picturesque Rhodope mountains, predominantly ethnic Turks and Pomaks, are worried that the planned waste facility would be just one kilometer away from the town and one kilometer away from the river.

"Toxic arsenic and heavy metals will be released directly into the Krumovitsa River, it will be poisoned," said Krumovgrad mayor Sebihan Mehmed, referring to the major supplier of drinking water and irrigation for the region, which is also part of the Maritza River Basin.

"There will be blasts nearby, poisonous dust everywhere, which we will breathe in. I am shocked by the refusal of the Health Ministry to inform us about the risks for the human health that the gold mine will pose," the mayor added.

The municipality and Green Balkans wildlife society have both challenged in court the granting of concession for gold-mining to Balkan Mineral & Mining, the Bulgarian subsidiary of Dundee Precious Metals. The complaints however were ignored by the Supreme Administrative Court and not considered.

The Bulgarian cabinet gave on a 30-year concession the gold mine near the town of Krumovgrad to Dundee Precious Metals in February this year.

The gold mine is located in the Krumovgrad municipality on lands of the villages of Guliya, Dazhdovnik, Zvanarka, Kaklitsa, Malko Kamnyane, Ovchari and Sarnak.

The Toronto-based mining company has repeatedly assured that Krumovgrad gold project will be beneficial for Bulgaria and the local community.

Under mounting public pressure the Canadian company was forced to abandon plans for using cyanide technology after a Bulgarian court ruled against the cyanide gold extraction at the other mine operated by one Dundee's subsidiaries in the country, Chelopech Mining.

The company has committed to invest USD 130 M in the project.

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Tags: gold, cyanide, Namibia, Krumovgrad gold mine, Balkan Minerals and Mining, Chelopech Mining, environmental assessment, Alex Nestor, concession, mining, Krumovgrad, Chepelare, Chelopech gold mine, Chelopech, Dundee Precious Metals, concession, Bulgarian cabinet, canada, toronto, Canadian, European Commission
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