Maritsa mines

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The Maritsa mines, known as the Mini Marista Iztok EAD, are operated by Maritsa East Mines EAD (MMI), a subsidiary of Bulgarian Energy Holding, producing 28 million tonnes per annum, in near Lyubenovo, Stara Zagora Province, Bulgaria.[1]

The mines, which include three pits Troyanovo North, Troyanovo 2, Troyanovo 3, account for about 96% of Bulgarian coal production. They are part of the Maritsa Iztok Complex and provide coal to the Maritsa Iztok-1 Power Station, Maritsa Iztok-2 Power Station, and Maritsa Iztok-3 Power Station.[1]


The satellite photo below shows the exact mine site in Stara Zagora Province, south-central Bulgaria.

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The Maritsa Iztok Complex consists of three lignite-fired thermal power stations, several mines, enrichment plants, a briquette plant and its own railway system. The development of the thermal power and mining complex at Maritsa Iztok began in 1952, but the lignite deposits used to be known well in the mid 19 century. The Maritsa Iztok mines and power plants are interdependent as the only market for coal is the power plants, while the power plants have no other supplier of coal but the mines.[2] The mines are owned by the state-owned mining company Maritsa East Mines EAD.[3] The company provides raw material for the four thermal power plants in the Maritsa East complex, which generate more than 30% of the electricity in Bulgaria.[4] The mines has 2096 million tonnes of reserves. The maximum extraction capacity of the mine is 35 million tonnes annually. The coal reserves are expected to be sufficient to service the current usage for a period of between 60 and 70 years. The company operates under a 35-year concession granted by the Bulgarian government in August 2005.[5]


Since 2005, Maritsa East Mines has had a concession for coal mining on the land of two villages, Beli breg and Troyanovo, and the fronts of the mines have been advancing. There has been no specific information regarding the deadlines for the residents to leave, and the prices offered by the mines for the properties are low. Maritza East Mines claims the valuations were made by "independent" appraisers hired by the Mines, though other licensed appraisers gave higher prices to locals. The advancement of the mines affects the properties; houses are cracked and wells are drying up, further reducing the value of the properties. About 20 percent of the hundred houses in Beli Bryag have already been bought, and in Troyanovo, about 60 percent of homes have been purchased, half of which have already been demolished.[6] For almost two decades the development and upkeep of these villages has been stopped - the inevitability of the mine expansion paralyses any improvement work. Construction is forbidden, infrastructure is not maintained. The full expropriation of Beli Bryag is expected by 2023 and for Troyanovo by around 2030. People are waiting for a fair price for their houses and land. But the only possible buyer of the houses in this context is Maritza Iztok Mines, which means the company is setting the rules. The compensation offered does not cover the loss experienced in a way that allows landowners to restart their lives while maintaining their current standard of living.

Za Zemiata (a Bulgarian environmental organization) is now working closely on the case of Beli Breg with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) team of the Central and Eastern Europe Bankwatch Network. The involvement of the EBRD in the funding of projects by Maritsa East Mines might mean that the company will be forced to adhere to fairer standards.[7] Because the EBRD relocation standards require that displaced people be made better off – not worse – as a result of the move, the villagers of Beli Bryag have turned to the bank’s redress mechanisms to complain about the mining company’s practices. Villagers argue that the amounts offered by the company – as a result of evaluations done by specialists whom the villagers consider subjective, having all worked for Maritsa East in the past – are insufficient for them to buy new homes in the region.[8]

In 2018, the Bankwatch Network supported mediation between the mining company and the communities.[9] If the dispute is not settled in 2019, people’s properties will be expropriated. If they do not receive better compensation than what the company is currently offering, they will be kicked out of their homes; deprived of their livelihoods from vegetable gardens, farm lands and animals; and separated from the community in which they’ve lived their entire lives.[10]

Project Details

  • Owner: Maritsa East Mines EAD
  • Parent company: Bulgarian Energy Holding
  • Location: Stara Zagora Province, south-central Bulgaria
  • GPS coordinates: 42.167000, 26.037577 (exact)
  • Mine status: Operating
  • Start year: 1952[5]
  • Mineable reserves: 2096 million tons[5]
  • Coal type:
  • Mine size: 240 sq. km[5]
  • Mine type: Surface
  • Production: 28 million tonnes[1]
  • Capacity: 35 million tonnes[1]
  • Additional proposed production:
  • Equipment: Opencut mining[5]
  • Number of employees: 7000

Project Phase 1 Expansion Details

  • Status: Proposed
  • Production Capacity:
  • Mine expansion size:
  • Start Year: 2023
  • Source of Financing: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Project Phase 2 Expansion Details

  • Status: Proposed
  • Production Capacity:
  • Mine expansion size:
  • Start Year: 2030
  • Source of Financing: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Articles and resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 EuraCoal, Bulgaria, accessed September 2020
  2. Bulgaria Maritsa Iztok Picks Favourite, SeeNews, June 8, 2007.
  3. AES starts operation of its 600-megawatt power plant in Bulgaria, AP, June 3, 2011.
  4. Mini Maritsa Iztok EAD, Bulgarian Energy Holding, accessed October 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Coal mining, Bulgarian Energy Holding, accessed October 2019.
  6. The eviction of the villages of Beli breg and Troyanovo, Stara Zagora district,, November 26, 2014.
  7. Maritsa Istok mines cause forced evictions in Bulgaria, Just Transition, accessed October 2019.
  8. Bulgarian villagers in chronic limbo over coal mine expansion, Bankwatch Network, May 6, 2019.
  9. Bankwatch in 2018, Bankwatch Network, 2018.
  10. Bulgarian villagers call on the EBRD to ensure fair resettlement by coal company it finances, Bankwatch Network, May 29, 2019.

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External resources

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