The Chelopech gold-copper mine is located on the foot of the Balkan Mountains approximately 75km east of Sofia, Bulgaria.
Chelopech Mining EAD, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dundee Precious Metals (DPM), holds the mining rights and operates the underground gold-copper mine.
DPM announced the update to the existing definitive feasibility study (DFS) of the Chelopech mine expansion and metals plant project in March 2009.
An Updated Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve Estimate was announced by DPM in March 2023. The mine hosts proven and probable mineral reserves of 1.6 million ounces (Moz) of gold and 312 million pounds (Mlbs) of copper.
The Life of Mine (LoM) was also extended to 2031.
The Chelopech Mine is adjacent to the Chelopech village, at an elevation of approximately 700m above sea level.
The mining licence covers an area of 266 hectares, including the Chelopech mining operation and the immediate surroundings.
DPM fully owns the land where the facilities are located and operates under a concession agreement that was granted by the Republic of Bulgaria in 1999 for 30 years.
History of Chelopech Mine
The mining operations at Chelopech began in 1954.
Until 1990, the concentrates from Chelopech used to be transported to the Pirdop smelter towards the east of Chelopech. In 1992, the mine was placed on care and maintenance.
In 1993, Navan became the owner and operated the mine until 2002.
DPM fully acquired the Chelopech mine from Navan Mining in September 2003.
In December 2005, DPM’s Board of Directors approved an investment of $150m to expand the Chelopech Mine based on Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS).
The expansion included increasing the production capacity to 2 million tonnes per year (Mt/a) and upgrade of existing flotation concentrator. It also included a metal production facility, upgrading existing tailings management facility (TMF) and building a new facility for storage of POX-CIL tailings among others.
Geology and Mineralisation
Chelopech mine is an epithermal copper-gold deposit with high sulfidation. It is located in the Panagyurishte mining district, which also includes other epithermal gold-copper deposits and porphyry copper-gold deposits such as Elatsite, Assarel, and Medet.
The high-sulphidation mineralisation occurs as quartz-sulphide and sulphosalt-rich replacement zones surrounded by haloes of silica and advanced argillic alteration. Gold occurs as a native element forming Au-Ag alloys, as well as micrometre-scale inclusions in sulphosalts and pyrite grains.
Chelopech Mineral Resources
The mine has a total Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources, exclusive of Mineral Reserves, of 1.3Moz of gold and 281 Mlbs of copper.
Total mineral reserve estimate, as of December 2022, stands at 18.2Mt grading 2.64 g/t Au, 8.2 g/t Ag, and 0.77 % Cu for 1.55 Moz Au, 4.78 Moz Ag and 311.5 Mlbs Cu respectively.
Mining and Ore Processing
At Chelopech, underground mining production is performed using the sublevel long-hole open-stoping (LHOS) method. Depending on the geotechnical conditions, the length of the stope ranges between 20m and 60m.
The ore from the deposit is delivered to the Run of Mine (ROM) bin above the crusher via ore passes, or trucks. The crusher feeds up to 400 tonnes per hour (tph) to a system of eight conveyors, to transport the ore to the surface stockpile.
The processing comprises conventional crushing of run-of-mine (ROM) ore in a primary jaw crushing circuit, grinding in a semi‐autogenous grinding (SAG) milling circuit, rougher/scavenger and three-stage cleaner flotation and concentrate dewatering to produce both a copper/gold concentrate and a pyrite/gold concentrate.
Finally, the copper concentrate is shipped to the DPM’s Tsumeb smelter in Namibia and to smelters in China.
The Chelopech mine is near major roads and rail, powerlines, communication facilities and water sources. The project is situated approximately 350km west of the Black Sea port of Burgas.
The project is permitted to obtain its water from nearby storage facilities. Power required for the project operations is supplied from the Bulgarian national transmission grid at 110kV, via substations at Stolnik and Zlatitza to the mine substation (110/6 kV) with two transformers, 16 Mega Volt Amp (MVA) each located in the southeast area of the project.
CSA Global (UK) was engaged by DPM to prepare the updated Mineral Resource Estimate for the Chelopech mine.
GRD Minproc conducted the Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) of the gold-copper mine.