Albania – Not Quite the Land that Time Forgot: In the not too distant past, with one of my other hats on, I was very involved with the mining scene in Albania. At the time I headed a company that desperately needed to diversify away from the mammoth country risk involved in doing business in Turkey (therein lies another story) and my glance turned to Albania for a couple of reasons.
Firstly it was a country with a very strong mining history (in fact its fate post-WW2 was directly linked to mining). Secondly, its major resource was chromite, for which I have a particularly soft spot (as evidenced by my recent writings on Tasman’s diversification into this metal). Thirdly it is geologically governed by the Eastern Ophiolite Belt which is a spur of the great Tethyan Copper Belt that stretches from the Carpathians in Slovakia, all the way through the Balkans, across, Turkey, Iran and ending in Afghanistan or Pakistan depending on your point of view.
I am more conflicted as to whether it is a positive or negative for the country that it is not currently a member of the EU.
Albania, with a population of approximately 3.5 million people, has had an open market economy since 1991 though the country’s potential (mineral and otherwise) remains largely untapped. The population of Albania is relatively young, (average age of 32) and the majority of people speak English, Greek and/or Italian. There is an ongoing effort in the country to improve infrastructure, sanitation facilities and wealth creation amongst its population as part of an overall bid to eventually join the European Union.
Mining in Albania
Albania’s mineral deposits included chromite, copper, ferronickel, limestone, and petroleum. After WW2, Communist state-run initiatives to mine became a priority.
Under central economic planning, especially from the late 1970’s through 1990, Albania’s chromite mining operations were among the most important components of the mineral industry. Indeed such was the strategic importance to China of Albanian chromite that the Chinese courted the Albanian supremo, Enver Hoxha, and managed to peel Albania off the Soviet Bloc and Albania was, for decades, a Chinese satellite rather than a creature of Moscow.
Albania had also been a producer of copper and nickel since the 1930s. Collapse in mining production of chromite, copper et al. followed the demise of the Communist regime and mining has been made into a priority by recent governments as a means to create jobs and export income.
In 1995 the Albanian government adopted a law to privatize the mining industry. Administrative preparation began in 1996 and to date the government continues to grant exploration concessions to international companies and individuals.
In cooperation on environmental issues, Albania participates in the Basel Convention on hazardous waste, the convention on biological diversity, and UN Conventions of the Law of the Seas on climate change.
Chromite – Not What it Was
During the Sinophile period, Albania was a leading world producer and exporter of chromite and often was ranked second in terms of export (after South Africa) and third in terms of production (after the former South Africa and former Soviet Union). The export of chromite and ferrochromium also was among the country’s chief sources of foreign exchange.
Although chromite deposits and outcroppings can be found throughout Albania, the principal commercial chromite deposits are in ultramafic massifs in the Midrita region, in the north-central and northern parts of the country.
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