ADA TEPE: ARGUMENTS PRO AND CON
The report which evaluates how the development of a gold containing ores field in the Ada Tepe section near Krumovgrad will affect the environment will be discussed in public on 17 and 18 August. As it is well known, Balkan Mineral Mining EAD (owned by the Canadian Dundee Precious Metals) is authorized to implement the exploitation of the field. This is the last chance of the coalition of environmental organisations (the Green Balkans federation of environmental unions, the ecological union For the Earth, the Eco Club 2000, and the Ecology Information and Educational Centre), for the entrepreneurial committee Life for Krumovgrad, and for the citizens of Krumovgrad to convince the experts of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) that the project it is financing contradicts the ecological laws.There are lots of pros and cons regarding the development of the mine. The report has been thrown up on the desks in the Ministry of Environment and Water since June 29 and waits for either denial or vindication. As to the EBRD, it will have to make quite a difficult decision.Balkan Mineral Mining EAD is planning to build Bulgaria's first gold production installation that will process ores obtained from Ada Tepe. According to the plans, 850,000 tons of ore will be produced annually for about six years. Experts say that 5 grams of gold will be extracted from each ton of ore, which means that nearly 24 tons of the precious metal should be produced from that field.The development of the field will be carried out in several stages - projecting, construction, exploitation, shutdown and recultivation. Three hundred jobs are expected to be opened during the construction works as well as 200-250 when the exploitation begins. About 50 people will be engaged in the shutdown and the recultivation. The ore will be extracted through an open method. The choice (the alternative was an underground method) was influenced by the fact that the field is situated near the surface. The ore will be obtained through the classical method (by explosion) and will be loaded on dumpers that will transport it to a platform for temporary preservation. Then it will be sent for processing in an installation with capacity of 106 tons per hour. The rocks from which gold has already been obtained will be kept in a radioactive waste dump. According to the report on the evaluation of the effect on the environment, Balkan Mineral Mining is planning to start recultivation of the place several years before the exploitation of the field is finished and to continue the work five years after it is finished. Subsequent maintenance and control of the recultivated ground is planned in the course of twenty years. Currently, Balkan Mineral Mining is waiting for confirmation that there are ore reserves in four other sections near Krumovgrad - in Skalak, Surnak, Kuklitsa and Kupel. Their possible exploitation will provide 850,000 additional tons of ore as well as the respective amount of gold.According to the report, USD68MN will be invested in the project. Besides, USD18MN will be spent every year. Concession payments costs exceed USD5MN. According to preliminary plans, USD21MN will be spent for taxes and USD5MN for social security and individual tax liabilities.However, environmentalists find several disturbing moments in the project. Part of them have not been mentioned in the report, they claim. In an open letter to the president of the republic, the chief prosecutor, the EBRD directors, the parliamentary commissions and the media, they explain they have made quite different calculations for the financial effect of the investment. The gold will be exported abroad, they say, and that will mean missed profit for the country.In their letter the ecologists remind that the state has financed geological research works in the region for thirty years. It means that the discoveries of Bulgarian geologists will bring profit to foreign companies. They also underline that the gold production concessions are taken without a tender or bidding and are given at conditions that are not favourable for the country. That is why it has to be investigated how the concessions for research and production near Krumovgrad (the concessions for the Khan Krum gold field) and near the village of Popintsi have been given. According to the environmentalists, the main problems in that aspect are the corruption and the lack of dialogue between local people, on the one hand, and the institutions and concessioners, on the other.Still, people who live in the small town in the Eastern Rhodope mountain remain concerned about the ecological damages that this project could cause to the region. According to the above-mentioned report, there are sufficient guarantees that the health of both people and nature will not be harmed. However, environmentalists take a different view.One of the issues most discussed in public lately related to the usage of cyanide (a strongly poisonous compound) in the extraction of gold from the ore. It is written in the report that of the 875 gold mines operating in the world in 2000 460 (52%) used cyanides. Besides, cyanide technologies are used in 90% of the installations for gold production from this type of ore. Defending the project, the concessioner promised that the content of residual cyanides in the waste will be much lower than it is allowed by all international, European and Bulgarian regulations (up to 10 mg per litre). Their content in Ada Tepe is expected to be less than 1 mg per litre after the waste passes through their destruction cycle. However, the open letter of the ecological organisations explains that the cyanide technology is among the most dangerous ones for the people and the wild nature. They warn that in case of trouble the cyanide contamination will affect the entire valley of the rivers Krumovitsa, Arda and Maritsa and will reach the Aegean Sea. They say a risk exists even after the exploitation of the mine has been finished.A proposal for establishment of an Eastern Rhodopes natural park has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Water, because the region is famous for its extreme natural resources and cultural heritage. The park will include several municipalities and part of the municipality of Krumovgrad which includes the Vulchi Dol reserve, four waterfalls and two sage fields. There are also three places of ornithological importance there - Krumovitsa, Studen Kladenets, and Byala Reka. In the municipality of Krumovgrad there are 88 rare animals threatened with extinction. It is written in the report that most of the protected territories are situated at 3 to 20 km to the north of the town, while Ada Tepe is 3 km to the south.Besides, ecologists claim that part of the equipment of the future mine is located at 800 m away from the hospital of the town.It is difficult to find an explanation to the neglect shown in the report towards the archaeological monuments. Twenty-five cultural monuments (ore galleries, Thracian sanctuaries, mounds) have been registered on the territory where the ore will be obtained and nine of them may be damaged by the exploitation of the Ada Tepe. There are already a few that have suffered damages because of the excavation works. The report coolly notes that the development of the field will certainly destroy a Thracian sanctuary, ore galleries and a tomb. However, the future losses do not trouble the Bulgarian state institutions. Local people and archaeologists remind that back in 2001 a bulldozer destroyed two Thracian sanctuaries. Environmentalists explain that both the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage and the Bulgarian legislation have been violated. In their letter they insist that the data for the destruction of the cultural monuments in Krumovgrad be thoroughly investigated.The differences between the conclusions made in the report and those made by the environmentalists are more than apparent. That is why the ecologists asked that independent experts evaluate the report and that the licenses of competent people who gave inaccurate data be suspended. Besides, they insist on organising an independent sociological research about the attitude towards the investment plans for production of precious metals near Krumovgrad and Popintsi and on taking into account the opinion of the society.