Although miners at the only working Slovak precious ores mine, in Hodruša, have been working on a restricted basis for eight years, recent research has suggested that a revival could be in prospect. “Some signs of the basic continuation of the bed of lead, zinc, copper, gold and silver ores in the Rozália mine have been checked, but they have to be confirmed by further research and opening works,” the head of the Slovenská Banská s.r.o. company, Richard Kaňa, told the TASR newswire.
Slovenská Banská operates the Rozália mine. However, a return to the level of mining seen 15 years ago, when the mine employed more than 300 people and the volume of ore extracted was about 60,000 tonnes annually, seems unlikely. According to Kaňa, most people think –following rises in the price of gold on the London Stock Exchange – that mining companies are enjoying huge profits. But he said the value of the US dollar has plunged, so the real price of gold is much lower.
“People often imagine we directly mine gold or silver; but that’s not true,” Kaňa explained. From a depth of 500 metres, the company mines only polymetallic ores with trace amounts of gold and silver. The ore is then processed to make a so-called collective flotation concentrate which is then sold to foreign clients who process it further. The company has mined about 640,000 tonnes of raw material since 1993, of which non-ferrous metals made up less than 1 percent. For example, there are normally only 7.5 grams of gold and 5 grams of silver in one tonne of extracted ore. The company intends to preserve the current level of mining at about 20,000 tonnes annually, which will result in production of about 600 tonnes per year of flotation collective concentrate. The company currently employs about 80 people at the mine, and wants to maintain that level in the near future.
The operation of the mine in Hodruša became loss-making after a steep decline in non-ferrous and precious ore prices in 1998. In January 2001, Slovenská Banská was forced to restrict production and was expected to close the mine on December 31, 2001. However, the company later decided to continue limited operations. The number of employees was reduced from 300 to about 40. Production began to rise again in 2004, and in 2005 geological research was renewed, financed by the Environment Ministry and the company itself. Work aimed at evaluating an ore bed known about since 1991 and used since 1993 were finished in 2008. According to Kaňa, the mining company has been taking steps to continue mining activities. If everything goes well, the extraction of ore from new shafts could begin in spring 2010.