The EBRD and UniCredit Bulbank announced they will support a modernisation programme and energy efficiency improvements at Bulgaria's Chelopech mine, the largest gold deposit in Europe that is still in production.
The two institutions are providing a loan of USD 66.75 M to the mine operator Chelopech Mining EAD, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canada's Dundee Precious Metals Inc. Chelopech Mining produces copper-gold-silver concentrate at its mining facilities located approximately 70 kilometres east of Bulgaria's capital Sofia.
The funding will finance an expansion programme at Chelopech Mining that involves the introduction of state-of-the-art equipment and new technology of the highest quality.
According to EBRD, the project will enable the company to double its annual production volume to 2 million tonnes of ore per annum, while cutting its fuel consumption by approximately 50 percent per tonne of ore mined. The investment will bring considerable environmental benefits to the mine's operations by optimising the production process and reducing to a minimum reliance on external sources of water.
The EBRD is providing USD 48.75 M of the total loan amount and UniCredit Bulbank – USD 18 M.
"The EBRD is pleased to support Chelopech Mining in its drive to increase ore production with the implementation of the best available technology. We are delighted to partner with UniCredit Bulbank in financing this important project that will help Chelopech Mining to improve its operations and raise environmental standards", said Kevin Bortz, EBRD Director for Natural Resources.
"This is the next major phase of investment we are making in Bulgaria. This investment will position the Chelopech Mine for long term sustainable success and secure the future for our employees and the communities in which we operate", said Richard A. Howes, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Dundee Precious Metals Inc.
"The agreement is а consecutive proof that good projects may rely on financing from the banks. Such good projects and the entrepreneurship will take us out of the crisis. Joining the EBRD for this loan, which will bring essential benefits for the environment, UniCredit Bulbank underlines again its engagement to the sustainable development of the Bulgarian economy", UniCredit Bulbank CEO and Chairaman of MB Levon Hampartzoumian commented.
Toronto-based Dundee Precious Metals Inc. confirmed in the summer that the expansion of the Chelopech mine in Bulgaria is fully underway and on schedule.
The company said a recent court decision in Bulgaria to revoke the project's environmental impact assessment likely means the proposed metals processing facility will be shelved.
But it stressed that the court decision doesn't affect its mine/mill expansion to 2 million tonnes a year that is currently underway at Chelopech.