The construction of the Buchim mine, located in south-eastern Macedonia, began in 1976. The mine launched operations in 1979 as a conventional open pit copper and gold mine and flotation mill. The mine went bankrupt in 2000, due to the depletion of the high-grade portion of the mine during the Yugoslav era and inefficient management, which left the facility ill-equipped to deal with prolonged periods of low metals prices.
Solway acquired the Buchim mine in 2005 when it won the Macedonian government’s international tender. Within a short period of time, Solway repaired and replaced the mining fleet, and implemented upgrades to the flotation circuit.
Today, Buchim is an open pit mine which produces premium flotation concentrate containing copper and gold, and a SX/EW operation producing LME-grade cathode copper. Buchim processes over 4.5 million tons of ore annually. Over 40,000 tons of copper concentrate containing gold are produced each year. Buchim’s ore contains 0.2–0.3% of copper and 0.2–0.3 gram per ton (g/t) of gold. The copper concentrate does not have any significant impurities. There is strong demand from European smelters, and Buchim’s end product is transported to copper smelters in Bulgaria.
Since 2005, Solway Investment Group has invested over €36 million in the Buchim mine. These investments have supported the modernization and development of the mine. Improvements included the introduction of automated processing operations, upgrades to the flotation circle, construction of a new mine tailing dump and a workshop for mining reagents, renovation of an old tailing dump, and implementation of a closed water consumption cycle.
In 2011, the Group invested €12 million in a solvent extraction and electrowinning (SX/EW) plant to process the oxidized part of the deposit and extract residual copper from the waste stockpiles which remained from the previous decades of Buchim’s operations. Today, the SX/EW plant has an annual production capacity of over 2,000 tons of 99.999% cathode copper. The SX/EW plant also reduces the mine’s impact on the environment.
With 650 employees, the mine is the largest local employer in the region and is fully committed to its social and environmental responsibilities.
Since 2005, Solway has invested over US $2.7 million in the development of civil infrastructure and environmental protection in the Macedonian towns neighboring the Buchim mine. We have upgraded local athletic, cultural, and educational facilities, purchased medical equipment for local hospitals, constructed municipal roads and improved other local infrastructure. Solway has also introduced a closed loop and environmental management control systems.
Our operations in Macedonia have been granted complex, integrated environmental permits, as well as international certificates of environmental management systems (ISO 14001) and production system management (ISO 9001). Within the Buchim project, Solway is developing the Borov Dol mine which will extend the life of the Buchim operation to at least 2028. The proposed mining area contains proven and prospective reserves of 42.5 million tons of ore containing 0.235% copper and 0.2 g/t of gold. The life of the mine may be substantially extended further when new reserves to the north of the ore body are delineated.
In 2018, US $21 million will be invested into roads, transportation, the mine’s infrastructure and stripping operations. An estimated US $56 million of total capital expenditures will be dedicated to the Borov Dol project. By the end of 2019, the Borov Dol project should be fully operational. The first ore is expected to be extracted by September 2019.