The following is a brief overview of the mining sector in Bulgaria, created as an intro for a longer project.
Bulgaria’s mining history has mostly been one of untapped potential. The nation has long been a frontier to other powers. To the Greeks it was Thrace, a land of fierce warriors. The Romans and Saxons both explored here and mined gold in small amounts, realizing the potential of the mineral wealth here. However, Bulgaria’s history would lead it down the path of being on the front line of many of the great struggles of history – between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, between the Allies and the Axis and between Capitalism and Communism. This all lead to Bulgaria’s mining sector to go mostly untapped, with the Communist government that emerged after WWII being not too interested in foreign investment in or local development of the mining sector. Through most of the 20th Century, the only gold mining project in Bulgaria was a single mine at Chelopech.
In the 21st Century, after the fall of Communism, this closed system began to open up, most famously through the Canadian Company Dundee, which acquired Chelopech and began extracting gold, silver and copper from that location. The potential for gold mining in Bulgaria in the 21st century has opened up to companies from Canada and further afield, as the untapped potential is realized.
The mineral resources of Bulgaria can be somewhat divided into two parts, encompassing northern and southern Bulgaria. In Northern Bulgaria, amidst lowlands and the Black Sea itself, there are huge deposits of fossil fuels – coal, petroleum and natural gas. Large gas and oil deposits have been found across northern Bulgaria, and into its EEZ in the Black Sea. Overall, these are notable but not huge assets – Bulgaria itself tends to rely on Thermal, Nuclear and Renewable sources for power. In the mountainous south of the country, along the border with Greece, the major mineral resources are copper, zinc and lead. To a lesser extent this area also includes reserves of iron, manganese and gold. Out of these, copper is the most widespread and significant, though there have been many recent promising gold projects in the area.
After the fall of communism, Bulgaria progressed along the path to democracy, having achieved much greater stability, and has even become an EU member. Bulgaria is also strategically located at a nexus of rail and road connections throughout south-eastern Europe. The country has become much more open to foreign investment in its own sectors. Bulgaria has traditionally had a strong science and research sector. However, the country is still poor when compared to its EU compatriots. This had led to a significant “brain drain”, with Bulgaria being one of the, on average, oldest countries in Europe as many of its youth and students go elsewhere to seek educational opportunities and work.