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Ellatzite-Med with project for life time extension of the mine until 2041

Ellatzite-Med with project for life time extension of the mine until 2041

Ellatzite-Med AD, part of GEOTECHMIN GROUP, is among the leading mining companies in Bulgaria, dealing mainly with open-pit mining and primary processing of porphyry copper gold-bearing ores from the Ellatzite deposit. The company operates on two work sites - Mine Complex, Etropole and Flotation Complex, Mirkovo. Ellatzite-Med is one of the major investors, taxpayers and employers in Bulgaria. Today the company employs over 2,000 people.

Among the most important priorities of the company are optimal utilisation of natural resources, innovations, improving safety measures, responsible investments in the environment and corporate social responsibility.

Ellatzite-Med AD is certified in the international standards ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, ISO 45001:2018, and ISO 50001:2018.

The company adopts cutting edge technologies and intends to invest EUR 600 mln in its development

Every person is faced with the pressing question of how to reduce the carbon footprint on our planet and complete the energy transition. European leaders have set concrete targets, which need to be accomplished by 2050. In this context, the mining industry is of strategic importance for fulfilling the European ambitious targets for decarbonisation. Part of the minerals that we extract are necessary to achieve that. Among others, copper is one of the key metals here. The global exploration of copper will increase twofold by 2035, against the backdrop of diminishing global copper reserves.

Where is Bulgaria on this roadmap – a small state but with a potential to be part of the EU transition to a low-carbon economy? Bulgaria is the 4th largest copper producer in the EU. Significant investments and digitalization enable the mining sector to adopt the latest industrial trends. In this regard, Ellatzite-Med, part of GEOTECHMIN Group, is a Bulgarian example of how one deposit-Ellatzite, can be sustainably and gradually developed for extraction of porphyry copper ores.

Initially, the mine was to be closed by 2006. After ore reserves and resources were reevaluated by the team of GEOTECHMIN Group, the concession licence has been extended twice. The current one is valid until 2031. There is an agenda for another 10-year extension, at least until 2041. The company has started the procedure for the additional mining of porphyry copper and gold-bearing ores from Ellatzite deposit. This is going to provide work availability for the population of seven municipalities for at least 18 more years. This, in turn, provides long-term work opportunities and good living standards in the regions of Etropole and Srednogorie.

The project for the mine’s life extension and the existence of the company cannot happen without applying the most modern technologies nowadays and enhancing efficiency. Geotechmin, the main company which is part of the GEOTECHMIN Group, is a pioneer in Bulgaria in the implementation of highly specialised modern software since the 90s of the 20th century. Such software products are DATAMINE and Whittle 4D, designed for modelling, multi-variant design, economical evaluations, scope and development optimization of the mining process in open pits. In addition, Geotechmin’s experts have developed their own software for applying the classical method of geological blocks for calculation of ore reserves, which is broadly used. All of these factors contribute to ensuring the stability and consistency required for a reliable assessment of the overall potential of the deposit, as well as the optimal options for its development and utilisation. Based on this groundwork, the Ellatzite mine's lifespan has been maximally extended, leading to the development of the company into its current high-tech production state. Since the privatisation of the company, over EUR 660 mln has been invested, with an additional approximately EUR 600 mln required for the life extension design and production improvement.

Digitalization and automation

Since Ellatzite-Med's privatisation in 1999, the company has undergone continuous modernization of equipment and digitization processes. Initially focusing on fundamental process lines, this initiative later expanded across the entire company operation. Geotechmin experts developed a specialised software, GTMData, for managing and analysing geological data, which has since evolved to include GTMPlan for open-pit mine planning, both renowned for precision in everyday planning. Strategic mine planning now utilises HEXAGON MINNING's MinePlan™3D software.

To facilitate easy and fast data exchange between technical departments, Ellatzite-Med internally developed the AutoCad-based ASMO Module. This system involves complex tools for multiple-step operations and digital model maintenance, adapting and becoming more intricate over time. The rapid pace of digitalization at the company necessitated the integration of all automated systems into a single database managed by PULSE SCADA, a software platform for data collection, process analysis, and information summarization for overall production.

In 2015, Ellatzite-Med upgraded for the third time in 20 years its automated system for managing mining activities, incorporating elements of artificial intelligence to maximise the utilisation of heavy machinery. The system uses AI elements and includes a precise navigation system for mining excavators and drilling machines, enhancing operational efficiency to near 100% perfection.

In 2021, the company introduced the ASMO Mobile application, a unique tool in the mining industry. This application allows mining engineers in the field to track machine locations and activities on their smartphones, providing visibility into nearly all processes at the Mine Complex.

Ellatzite-Med is committed to environmental protection, implementing projects aimed at maximising the use of natural resources. Notably, the Triman crushing and sieving mobile plant, commissioned in 2019, focuses on ecologically oriented processing and utilisation of waste rock volumes from the extraction of porphyry copper gold-bearing ores, yielding construction aggregates as a final product. In 2023, a centralised control system was added to enhance monitoring and control.

The company also invested in an innovative flying drone system, WINGTRAONE GEN II, commissioned in 2023 for precise geospatial data collection in open-pit mines. This advanced solution, the first of its kind for Bulgaria, was developed by experts from the Surveying and Geotechnical Departments. It replaces but does not exclude traditional survey methods. The resulting 3D model and ortho photogrammetric imagery is also successfully used for geotechnical mapping of open-pit slopes.

Modern mining machines

Ellatzite-Med constantly invests in modern mining machines to reduce the environmental impact of mining activities. Two new Hitachi excavators, including the first European market-produced HEX2600-7 LD model, were put into operation in the last two years. The excavator is very reliable, productive and efficient in fuel consumption. It has a new generation internal combustion engine, Euro Stage V, which allows 10% fuel savings compared to the previous model. Additionally, an electrical hydraulic excavator, Hitachi EX2600E-6LD, equipped with modern technical systems and emitting zero CO2., was commissioned at the end of 2022.

Responsible waste management

A modern waste management system operates at the two sites of the company – the Mine and Flotation Complexes. It collects, receives, unloads, preliminary treats, and temporary stores different wastes. It allows for the treatment of more than 40 waste types. As a result, almost 3,640 tonnes of waste is collected and handed over to different certified companies for reuse and recycling. 

Power efficiency and green energy

Ellatzite-Med is the first in the Bulgarian mining sector to be certified in the ISO 50001 energy management standard. In 2023, the company built a photovoltaic plant for internal power consumption, aligning with its long-term strategy for green power capacity investment and increasing the share of renewable energy sources in its power mix. This pilot project aims to decarbonize production and gain experience in solar plant power management and balancing.