"Given the quality of coal in Turkey due to the very complicated geological structure in Anatolia, Turkish coal mining companies have remarkable challenges to mine their coal." -Vecip Kaci
DMT was working on 10 coal projects in 2014 and had 18 exploration projects in the pipeline. Could you provide a case study of a project you have worked on since then?
UR: One of the biggest projects we have worked on is the coal project of Polyak Eynez Mining Company in the Soma area of Turkey. We have been working with them for the last five years and have helped them with mine planning, gas calculations, rock mechanical engineering and support design for their vertical shafts and drift. We then went with them to China to assess the technical capabilities of Chinese shaft sinking contractors. Both vertical shafts are now sunk and the Chinese contractor is still working on the site on other roadway developments. DMT’s current task is to upgrade Polyak Eynez’s coal resources. It will be a hard lignite coal mine and the deepest in Turkey and they will mine with the longwall top coal caving method (LTCC) at a depth of 900m to 1000m.
Coal is of strategic importance to Turkey given it is aiming for energy self-sufficiency. Are you seeing much demand from this sector of the mining industry?
UR: The government is pushing a handful of very big coal power plant projects, and wants to ensure all the mined coal comes from Turkey, as it seeks to reduce energy imports from Russia and CIS countries. The new power plants and mines feeding them will all be finished in the next five years.
Compared to international standards, geology has not been very kind to Turkey, as in the United States, Australia and China there is 5,000 to 7,000 kilocalories per tonne of hard coal with undisturbed seams that go in one direction for kilometers. Only in the Black Sea region is there hard coal at 4,000 to 6,000 kilocalories but the mines there, owned by state-owned company TTK, are very difficult for fully mechanized longwall mining due to the tectonical structure of the seams. All the other coal reserves are lignite, except in Soma where there is hard lignite and the quality is in the range of 2,500 to 3,500 kilocalories but still poor compared to international standards. In Elbistan, the coal has typically 1,000 to 1,500 kilocalories per tonne only and has much sulfur and water content.
VK: Given the quality of coal in Turkey due to the very complicated geological structure in Anatolia, Turkish coal mining companies have remarkable challenges to mine their coal.
There has also been much investment into base metals in Turkey, such as by Alser and Pasinex. Are you involved in this part of the industry?
UR: Yes, for example we have completed several projects for the biggest chrome producer in Turkey. We were contracted to work in one of their mines in Kazakhstan, where we did rock mechanical engineering work over nearly two years. We also worked for a big copper project in Turkey which is currently under development. Two years ago, we worked on a titanium sand project for another company, looking at sands close to a river.
Computer modelling is being used more often to define reserves. What new technologies is DMT incorporating into its services?
VK: DMT runs a technical division specialized in geophysical exploration and, from Germany, we have invested millions of euros in equipment, such as vibrators up to 27t of weight. We have three sets of equipment to run three seismic exploration projects at the same time. DMT started by applying these in geothermal as well as oil and gas exploration projects in several countries in Europe, Africa and Georgia.
Turkey has introduced the UMREK standard. How high are technical standards generally in Turkish mining?
UR: DMT experts are certified to do reporting according to Australian JORC Code and Canadian Standard NI 43-101 and our Turkish customers demand international standards, however their budgets are constrained. There are limited Turkish accredited experts, which is why DMT offers its independent mining consulting and engineering services in Turkey. The international regulations are very strict and all our chartered professionals must follow them. DMT’s international credibility relies on this. To adapt to local conditions and budgetary constraints, instead of bankable feasibility studies we offer more pre-feasibility or scoping level reports.
VK: Having said that, the state-owned companies, the General Directorate of Mining Affairs and the Ministry of Energy have all said they absolutely want to abide by international standards for resource/reserve evaluation. So, there should be more demand for such services than the recent past and international norms will become more common in Turkey.
What are DMT’s key strategic objectives in Turkey in the next one to two years?
UR: In Turkey, junior companies often buy a new mining license before investing in international reporting, which is not a big investment compared to exploration campaigns. We want to support our customers in exploration from day one according to international standards. This means we will provide standard operating procedures when our clients start drilling, and when the exploration campaign has finished we will support them in sending samples to internationally certified laboratories in Turkey, of which there are few, especially for coal. Then we can build the mine model to estimate the cost per ton of mined material based on international accepted studies at different accuracy levels (scoping, pre-feasibility and feasibility studies).
Furthermore, we are offering, for example, ventilation, gas drainage, rock-mechanical and mining machinery studies for mine planning. Also, our accredited experts are doing HS training and site assessments to reduce risk in mining operations.