Cyprus Mail

Viability of gold mining in Cyprus still open to question

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Cyprus gold deposits may get highlighted in periodic announcements by prospecting companies but the viability of gold mining on the island is far from confirmed, experts said on Monday.

In an interview published in daily Philenews, mining services director Stelios Michael said that although foreign companies have shown an interest in gold exploitation, so far no deposits feasible for extraction have been identified. If economically viable deposits are found, the Republic would collect one per cent of the sales from the licensed mining company.

The island’s mineral reserves, including gold, are largely known, Michael said, adding that five-year prospecting permits which have been issued to several companies cover large areas and the companies are obliged to present their results to the state.

There have been times historically when gold and silver were the main focus of mining activity on the island, such as during the period of 1934-1944, when the Cyprus Mines Corporation (CMC), an American mining company, produced over 5 US tons of gold and four times that amount of silver.

The largest amounts of gold and silver were found in Skouriotissa. Mining of the so-called “devil’s mud” there began in 1933 and was exported without processing to Hitler’s Germany.

In 1934, the first gold-processing plant using cyanide for extraction was installed in Xeros by CMC for both gold and silver production. Similar factories were installed in Mitsero and Vassiliko by the Hellenic Mining Company, in Limni by the Cyprus Sulphur and Copper Company and in Troulloi by the Berdy Company, to process oxides that existed in these areas.

An estimated 1.2 million tons of gold-bearing oxide material with an average gold content of 1.1g per ton is still present at Skouriotissa.

Prospecting companies are first issued a limited surveying licence which does not automatically confer exploitation rights.

Cyprus does currently boast an active gold export market, but this comes from a different source altogether: residents who, due to the financial crisis, started selling private gold jewellery. Gold sales from Cyprus to the UK, according to Philenews, a few years ago amounted to €20 million.

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