Albania’s chromium industry is growing thanks to the expansion of new investments, and the production of this metal in 2018 has grown at the fastest pace in the previous decade.
Official data from the National Natural Resources Agency shows that chromium production reached over 1.1 million tonnes last year, up 43% from 2017. Compared to 2010, production increased by 258%.
Production has increased thanks to new investments by the mine owner, “Albchrome” company. Along with the increase in chromium production, the quantities processed also increased. In 2018, the production of chromium concentrate reached 66 thousand tons, which is 35% more than in the previous year. Compared to three years ago, the production of chromium concentrate has tripled.
Chromium ore processing was realized in 9 plants, out of 14 that were built in total. During 2018, the average growth in ore production was 43%, concentrates 35.4% and coloured chromium 16.5%.
The mining sector is expected to grow again this year
The mining sector will grow by 10% in 2019, thanks to investments in production and processing processes, while prices in international markets are expected to be stable, said Mehmet Hasalami, director of the Mining and Industrial Development Program at the Ministry of Infrastructure. Investments of around € 40 million are expected in 2019, mainly in the area of chromium, ferronickel and silicate processing.
The chrome mine in Vlah, Kukes, a 10m-euro investment by Turkish company “Ekin Maden Ticaret”, will be launched this year. The investment is being made in collaboration with the “Balfin Group”, through “Albchrome Holding”, which owns 50% of the mine.
Canadian company “Tirek Resources” will activate an investment in a copper enrichment facility in Rehova. Rehova has four copper deposits (Bregu and Geshtenjes, Rehova-Kanisqel, Ciflig and Dushku and Trash), previously operated by the Albanian state. The investment envisages the construction of a copper processing plant that is being exploited from these four deposits.
The number of employees in the mining sector is expected to reach 7,000 in 2019, from the current 6,700. The mining industry will be strengthened in 2019 thanks to cost reductions in the refining sector.
In 2018, € 25 million has been invested in the mining sector to build two new “Albchrome” processing plants in Bulkiza and Tete Albania in Spac, which should significantly increase the value of exports in 2019.
The investment in “Burrel Ferrochrome” plant was realized with the latest technology, which will increase the value of exports in 2019. Thanks to this investment, the plant will produce 36,000 tonnes of coloured chromium per year, an increase of about 17,000 tonnes per year. All quantities of this product are exported.
The investment of Turkish company “Tete Albania” is worth 14m euros. In addition to copper, the plant was designed to produce zinc and lead concentrates. At the moment, 90% of construction work has been completed and equipment worth over € 5.2 million has been installed. The production line should be operational by the end of 2019.
Currently, there are 15 chromium processing plants in Albania, near the chrome mine in the areas of Bulkiz, Batra, Kalimash, Burrel, Librazhd, Tropoja, which had investments of some 28 million euros in the last three years.
Albania has rich underground deposits of chromium, copper and iron. The rise in the price of minerals and, more recently, chromium in the international markets have reactivated new investments in extraction. The past 30 years of transition, outdated technology and price fluctuations in international markets have left the sector’s development below potential. For years, mineral resources were exported from Albania immediately after extraction, since there was no opportunity for initial processing, which resulted in the loss of added value from sales on international markets.
However, this year, positive developments have been made in the sector, with local and foreign investors opening large mineral processing lines to increase the export profits. “Albchrome” revised the investment plan by adding a new € 10 million investments to the “Burrel Ferrochrome” plant and construction of a new furnace.
The mineral extraction industry, one of the sectors that contributed most to the country’s employment and economic growth during the dictatorship, has recently been trying to grow with the introduction of modern technology.
The Albanian industrial sector has mainly attracted Turkish investors. Turkish company “Ekin Maden Ticaret” has activated works on a chrome mine in Vlah this year. This ambitious project envisages the production of around 98,000 tonnes per year, with an investment value of 1.3 billion lek (€ 10.8 million), which will complete the country’s complete chrome processing process.
Also, Turkish company “Beralb”, a copper mine concessionaire, resumed operations after a nearly two-year long pause.