The construction of the Bucim mine, located in south-eastern North 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 Bucim 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, Bucim is an open pit mine which produces premium flotation concentrate containing copper and gold, and a SX/EW operation producing LME-grade cathode copper. Bucim processes over 4.5 million tons of ore annually. Over 40,000 tons of copper concentrate containing gold are produced each year. Bucim’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 Bucim’s end product is transported to copper smelters in Bulgaria.
Since 2005, Solway Investment Group has invested over US $50 million in the Bucim 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 US $16,7 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 Bucim’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 $2.8 million in the development of civil infrastructure and environmental protection in the Macedonian towns neighboring the Bucim 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 North Macedonia have been granted complex, integrated environmental permits, as well as international certificates of quality management (ISO 9001), environmental management (ISO 14001) and occupational health and safety management system (ISO 45001).
Within the Bucim project, Solway is developing the Borov Dol mine which will extend the life of the Bucim operation to at least 2030, and will be beneficial for the local communities in three municipalities – Konche, Shtip and Radovish. Borov Dol is expected to begin operations in September 2020. The projected life expectancy of the mine is currently estimated at 10 years, with the possibility of further extending the life of the mine. Borov Dol is expected to produce approximately 4.5 million tonnes of copper ore annually.
The total cost of the Borov Dol project is estimated as US $66,5 million / EUR 60 million. The Borov Dol project is replacing the 40 year-old Bucim mine which is currently in the process of closing. The construction and operational plans have been developed to ensure a minimal environmental impact on the neighboring regions, and for the mutual benefit of the employees, investors and residents of the neighboring municipalities.
To minimize potential environmental impact, the infrastructure development plan uses most of the Bucim’s existing processing and storage facilities, while transporting the extracted ore via a 7 km long covered conveyer belt. This modern engineering solution for ore delivery controls the spread of dust and reduces air pollution to a minimum. This new project preserves the jobs of most of the employees currently engaged in Bucim’s operations, and also creates new job opportunities for the residents of the neigboring municipalities.
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.