Statement of the Minister of Energy and Industry, Damian Gjiknuri:
I am here today to make public the latest decision of the Council of Ministers on the approval of dangerous mining areas, and of the new 3-year program for the mining activity in the country.
The decision revises and defines 62 dangerous mining areas, mainly in Bulqizë and Batër, where issuance of mining licenses and mining activities will be banned. Specifically, in the region of Bulqizë which is rich in chrome, the mining activity will be banned in part of the D area, which is considered of high risk for the life of employees.
Determining dangerous zones will increase the safety for the miners’ life. Licenses will be revoked permanently if the mineral is used in these areas and if it falls in the dangerous mining area. In addition, licenses will be partially revoked if operating areas are located in a dangerous part of the mining area. There is a total of 18 licenses which will be revoked, with the primary aim at increasing safety at work, and partially suspending activity in the dangerous area.
Monitoring these dangerous areas will be performed in coordination with the State Police and the Labor Inspectorate, and any illegal activity that endangers the lives of citizens will be prohibited.
Let’s look back at the situation that we inherited, beyond allegations made. There were approximately 430 mining licenses in 2005, and two years ago we found over 800 mining licenses, all issued in a chaotic way and with an extreme fragmentation. The Democratic Party government dealt with this industry in a very irresponsible way, because it doubled and fragmented mining areas in a criminal way.
Although accidents in the mining industry occur worldwide, the barbarous exploitation during the eight years of the right-wing government worsened the situation, by taking the lives of dozens of miners, in addition to affecting the fundamentals of safety at work, creating conflicts which transformed Bulqize mainly in an Albanian Far West, where the number of victims inside and outside the mines grew worse.
The first step we took was the performance of periodic inspections in these mining areas. We started with the process of individual inspection for every subject, not only to check if they meet requirements of work safety, but also to ascertain that they fulfill financial obligations towards the state. We revoked over 200 mining licenses that didn’t meet technical requirements and didn’t pay dues to the state, while another 32 licenses are about to be revoked. The activity of hundreds of subjects has been partially suspended until they meet safety requirements.
Through the legal interventions of last year, we solved the conflict on the pathways in the tunnels, in addition to eliminating the phenomenon of superimposition by revoking 20 mining licenses. We suspended the exploitation of sterile waste. The image of women and children being exploited in the sterile mining waste two years ago is still vivid. This activity has been definitely banned.
We put under control the frequent changes in the borders of mining areas by curbing uncontrolled expansions; sanctioned by law the progressive environmental rehabilitation by forcing subjects to freeze funding for restoring the previous state of environment. 119 abandoned galleries have been closed for 2015, and another 64 others are expected to be closed.
Unlike the previous government who left miners adrift, this government kept its promise to them such as reducing by 5 years the retirement age, or doubling pensions for 3840 miners. These promises are a reality today. Unfortunately, we have had victims in the mining activity even during these two years, and we have to admit that the mining industry has an added risk and its activity can always cause victims. We are aware that there is still a lot of work to do to settle this sector which has gone completely off the track during the 8 years of the Democratic Party government.
You know that the unfavorable conjuncture of mineral prices in the world market has lowered demand for Albanian minerals.
However, in addition to strengthening safety measures we are working intensively on the development of the sector as a whole, and the manufacturing industry in particular. We started for the first time after a long time investments on the deep well in the largest concessionaire of Bulqizë, which will extend the life of the mine, thanks to the intensive controls and the obligation that this government fulfilled towards this main concessionaire.
Work continues to open the main gallery of Qaf Buall and Klos serving the water discharge from the spring of Bulqizë. In addition, over $ 3 million have been invested in the chromium plant selection in Klos, the Ferro-chromium Plant in Burrel and the Ferro-chromium Plant in Elbasan.
The quantity of Ferro-chromium produced has increased by 35% compared to the years of the previous government. Investments are expected to be done in the mines of Perlat and Spaç. In addition, investments are expected to be done in the copper mine in Rehove, and in the iron-nickel mine in Myc, Mamëz, Kukës. The plant for the chrome enrichment will become operative this fall, where investments have amounted to approximately $ 7 million. Given the inherited situation, restoration of legality in the mining sector is a difficult process, but the government is fully committed to restore it thoroughly.
Through the measures that have been already taken and those to be taken, I am convinced that we are on the right track to increasing security, investments, exports, and to developing the mineral processing industry.
Restoring the mining sector on the tracks of the law means more security for the lives of miners and greater benefits for the budget and the economy.