October 6 (SeeNews) - Bulgarian lead and zinc smelter OTZK will be able to increase zinc production by 40% after it received the green light for an upgrade of its zinc plant, it said on Tuesday.
The Environment Ministry adopted the respective decision on Monday, the company said in a statement.
The project at the zinc plant will be completed by the end of 2011. The needed equipment has already been delivered. When completed, the modernisation will allow the smelter to produce top-notch zinc 99.995.
OTZK, based in Kardzhali, has said it plans to invest 120 million euro ($176.7 million) in upgrading its lead and zinc production facilities, raise zinc output to 45,000 tonnes per year from 27,500 tonnes and lead output to 60,000 tonnes per year from 33,000 tonnes.
The upgrade of the smelter's zinc production facilities has been stalled for around three years in which former Environment Minister Dzhevdet Chakarov refused to endorse the launch of construction works for the modernisation of the plant, the statement said. OTZK has appealed the refusal at the Supreme Administrative Court, which overturned it. The ministry, in turn, lodged an appeal against that ruling.
Meanwhile, a new centre-right government took office in Bulgaria in July, ousting from power the previous Socialist-led tripartite coalition, and the ministry withdrew its appeal following talks with OTZK.
The smelter is also awaiting the ministry's approval for an upgrade of the lead production units.
OTZK raised its lead output by 1.9% to 26,255 tonnes and increased zinc production by 3.8% to 27,850 tonnes last year. It plans to keep output unchanged this year and to turn to profit from a net loss of some 38 million levs ($28.6 million/19.4 million euro) last year.
The smelter is part of local Intertrust Holding group set up in 2005. The holding group has 21 subsidiaries in four countries. It also owns lead and zinc miner Gorubso Madan, lead and zinc concentrates producer Gorubso ROF, machine construction company Fintechmash, and lead and zinc mines. It also owns Macedonian vegetable producer Interagro, Serbian pre-painted galvanised (PPG) steel sheet and sandwich panels producer Interlemind and Serbian metal forging plant Zastava Kovacnica.
($ = 0.679 euro)