Cukaru Peki is the First Green Mine – Zero Pollution, Both Water and Air Protected

Source: eKapija Thursday, 31.08.2023. 13:22
(Photo: eKapija / Aleksandra Kekić)
Thanks to modern technologies, but also world-class environmental standards, the Cukaru Peki mine of the company Serbia Zijin Mining has become the first green mine. Many will be skeptical, but around six kilometers from Bor, it can be seen that mining and ecology can go hand in hand.

When asked “how”, the answer is – by investing “huge” funds.

– Of some USD 670 million in investments, which is how much we have had so far, we have set aside 10% for ecology. We strive to be oriented toward green energy, that is, RES, where we are planning an investment in solar power plants, as well as the expansion of green areas. The aim is to form a green ring around the mine, so as to also present our sustainable mining visually and to show that mining and ecology can go hand in hand – the assistant general manager of the company, Branko Rakocevic, told the journalists gathered during the open media day.

The Cukaru Peki mine is specific for being the only mine in Serbia which does the specific form of mining through filling out the underground spaces.

– We don’t get waste rock on that level like the traditional mines which are currently active in Serbia. The paste fill facility, which is, for now, the only such facility in our country, serves to fill out the underground spaces by using recycled waste rock. So, it is returned to the underground spaces which are excavated, and on the surface, we don’t ruin the nature with it – Rakocevic explains.

Branko Rakocevic (Photo: eKapija / Aleksandra Kekić)Branko Rakocevic

The company’s final product is a concentrate, and electrical energy is used in the production process itself, so there is no emission of harmful gases. Another special feature is reflected in the fact that Cukaru Peki has the so-called “three zeros”, that is, zero pollution.

– We have no emission of waste waters, what’s more, we have a built facility for the filtering of waste waters and all the water which is collected from precipitation or through water intake circulates through the mine. One and the same water is constantly cleaned and circles through all the facilities. As for the air, we have no smelter, so there are no emissions into the air. The complete transport system from the exit from the mine to the flotation is enclosed by a tunnel so there are no dust emissions. We use the most modern technologies and equipment, so there is zero emission of harmful gases and elements into the atmosphere – our interviewee claims.

He also emphasizes that this mining method is now a global trend and that Cukaru Peki is a model which should be followed by all Zijin mines, but also those owned by other companies.

Enclosed transport belt (Photo: eKapija / Aleksandra Kekić)Enclosed transport belt

When it comes to laboratory experiments, Ivana Mitrovic, the deputy supervisor of the Center for Chemical Testing, says that they are carried out in strictly controlled conditions and that the laboratory strives not to emit any harmful matters in the external environment, that is, to have all the acid gases and steams be filtered.

– Also, in various experiments, numerous waste waters are created, which are specially collected in separate pools and drained by a pipeline to the flotation procedure, where the colleagues use them in their processes – she adds.

She also says that, in the process of determining the percentage of gold in the concentrate, lead oxide is used in the reaction itself, so waste is created that way, a part of which is hazardous.

– All the waste is kept in special storage facilities, and in line with waste classification, companies with which we cooperate, and which are in charge for the further processing, come into picture – she adds.

Zijin Mining company with biggest profit for two years in a row

That this is the right move is also shown by the numbers. The Cukaru Peki mine, whose core activity is the exploitation of the ores of copper, gold and other metals, has been number one for two years in a row, and Zijin Mining is the company with the biggest profit.

– Currently, we are at a profit of USD 400 million in the first two quarters of this year, so we have already exceeded the last year, and we hope that the next year will be even better – Rakocevic says.
The minister of mining and energy, Dubravka Djedovic, pointed out during here recent conversation with representatives of Zijin Mining Group that the group had invested over USD 2.5 billion in Serbia and that “thanks to the activities of this company, in the years ahead of us, Serbia will be among the biggest European producers of copper and one of the biggest producers of gold.”

The vice-president of Zijin Mining Group, Wang Chun, said that Zijin Mining Group, containing Zijin Copper and Zijin Mining, was satisfied with its operations in Serbia

– Our idea is to additionally increase the production of copper and gold, but also to continue the considerable investments in environmental protection. We have decided to open an office in Belgrade which will coordinate the international activities of Zijin Group, which shows our dedication and intention to continue successful operations in Serbia, which is very important to our company – he said, as announced on the website of the ministry.

He says that the company’s short-term plans are for the capacity of the flotation to increase from 10,000 tons of ore processing to 12,000 tons.

– We are also preparing the planning and project documentation for the exploitation of the upper zone 2, which is another ore site by which, once we start the official exploitation, after obtaining all the permits, we would also increase the exports of the concentrate – he adds.

As said, the final product of the company is the concentrate, for which they have a stable market. As our interviewee says, the purchasers are in Canada, Spain, Bulgaria, Korea and Brazil. The majority of the purchasers is in China, and when it comes to the price, he believes that there will not be big oscillations anymore.

Around USD 80 million invested so far in environmental protection projects

So far, around USD 80 million has been invested in the Cukaru Peki mine in environmental protection projects. According to Dusan Visnjic, an engineer of environmental protection in mining and a manager at the mine, the aim is to create a synergy of a green park and a green mine.

Dusan Visnjic (Photo: eKapija / Aleksandra Kekić)Dusan Visnjic

– We prevent the possibilities of pollution through a regular control of all the living environment parameters. Through regular operations, we monitor and form plans for the monitoring of water, air and ground. The monitoring gives us the data in order to prepare the work plans and studies of environmental impact studies, which are our basis for the further operations during the mine’s life cycle – he explains.

When it comes to the waste rock which can’t be returned underground, he says that it is disposed of at the flotation waste rock disposal site:

– That is the first facility of its kind built in Serbia and it represent the disposal of the waste rock which is constantly under water, which prevents the spreading of air pollution. The impact on the underground waters is stopped by covering the entire surface of the waste rock disposal site by a waterproof earth layer, and then also HDP foils which serve to prevent contact between the waste and the land, and also, beneath and around are drainage canals, so that we would stop the contamination of the waters around the waste rock disposal site.

After they excavate all or most of the ore, they are legally obliged to do the recultivation.

– We are ready and we want to work even above the standards of the Republic of Serbia, which are very high, and we are also harmonized with the EU standards. When it comes to the future plans, we want to raise the carbon neutrality – our interviewee points out.

Friendship Park (Photo: eKapija / Aleksandra Kekić)Friendship Park

A mine that looks like a park

The company manages around 100 ha of green areas. They have gardens and parks, and they also renew forests. The plan is to renew 27 ha of forests in the next 10 years.

The construction of a stadium, which will be available to the residents of Bor and its area, within the mine is in progress. As Branko Rakocevic says, the mine is designed so that it doesn’t look like a mine. Instead, the idea is to form it so that it looks like a park.

– We are planning the construction of artificial lakes, parks, promenades, throughout the entire mine area and the exploitation field, so the residents will have the opportunity to enjoy it – he says.

Dusan Visnjic especially highlights the Friendship Park. As he says, the aim is to combine the working and the living environments:

– It’s full of greenery all around us, and the function is two-way: to have things be pleasant and nice, but also to reduce the amount of the dust that could potentially be released into the environment. The aim is to create an industrial park where we can spend time enjoying ourselves.

Chen Yong (Photo: eKapija / Aleksandra Kekić)Chen Yong

The managing director of Zijin Mining, Chen Yong, says that the aim is for the mine to serve as an example in Serbia, Europe, but also the whole world.

– We are working on having the mine be in the form of a park, gardens, forests. We want to contribute to the development of the social community and economy of Serbia and to work further on strengthening the bridge of friendship – he pointed out.

Aleksandra Kekic

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