Amynteo reports on landslide cause making slow progress

Examinations by local authorities looking for the cause, or causes, of a major landslide that struck and wiped out the country’s Amynteo lignite mine on June 10 are making slow progress. No findings have yet to be delivered.

The main power utility PPC was the first to announce that it would assemble a committee to examine the landslide’s cause, noting the study would be completed by the end of June. Soon after, energy minister Giorgos Stathakis announced he would put together his own team of authorities to investigate the incident, while a third team of mining inspectors also announced it would look into the issue. No findings have yet to be delivered by any of these three teams.

According to latest reports, the mining inspectors are awaiting the release of PPC’s findings before they deliver their own. The energy ministry’s effort is believed to be at a preliminary stage as its team was assembled with some delay, on June 20.

PPC and the mining inspectors ought to have completed their investigative efforts and delivered their respective findings by now, given the initial announcements made.

From early on, Stathakis, the energy minister, has not been convinced by PPC’s claims, which have more or less presented the landslide as a geological phenomenon that could not be foreseen, even though the existence of fractures at the Amynteo mine had been known for decades.

Certain local authorities argue that the Amynteo mine landslide was bound to eventually occur, but the scale of the accident was unexpected.

Michalis Kavvadas, an Associate Professor at the National Technical University of Athens’s Department of Geotechnical Engineering, who is a member of the PPC committee assembled to investigate the landslide’s causes, had precisely predicted the incident’s timing but not its intensity and extent.

The professor had traveled to the mine to survey the situation on June 8 and 9, shortly before the incident occured. He had warned PPC officials that a landslide was just hours away. Kavvadas also advised staff on where to position large excavating machines so that they could be protected from the avalanche waiting to happen. This was not to be avoided.

The major landslide ended up covering a large part of the mine, equipment, and the lignite deposit, estimated at 28 million tons, depriving PPC’s two Amynteo power stations, both lignite-fired and possessing a total capacity of 600 MW, of needed fuel.

It was announced yesterday that Greek authorities have reportedly already begun work on an alternative follow-up sale package proposal of PPC units, a bailout requirement, as a result of the European Commission’s dismissal of an initial plan, which, according to officials in Brussels, failed to meet conditions that had been set.

Greece’s initial proposal, a lignite-only package, included the two Amynteo power stations and mine, despite the landslide. The two Amynteo units will most likely be replaced by other PPC units in the alternative plan.


Amynteo damage ‘absorbable, smaller than initially thought’

The damage caused to main power utility PPC’s Amynteo coal mine, close to Florina, northern Greece, by a landslide on Saturday is severe but manageable, while the development was prompted by the activation of a second tectonic fault not detected by the utility’s technical team, the utility chief Manolis Panagiotakis clarified today.

“We were shocked by the incident but will absorb it,” noted Panagiotakis, who was speaking at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting staged at Larco, the troubled state-controlled general mining and nickel producer.

The extent of the damage at the Amynteo coal mine would be known in about two weeks and should be smaller than claims made by local media immediately following the incident.

PPC will cover half the cost of the necessary relocation of the nearby village Anargyroi, while contractors involved in the project’s mining activity are already providing emergency needs for locals, according to Panagiotakis.

The cost of the damage caused by the landslide will greatly depend on whether any exisiting mining equipment can be salvaged as well as by PPC’s ability to continue mining at part of the lignite deposit, the utility chief noted.

Panagiotakis explained that a sufficient part of the mine’s lignite deposit was not affected, meaning that the Amynteo telethermal facilities could continued operating next winter.

Prior to the landslide’s devastation, the Amynteo lignite-fired power stations were estimated to have 17,000 hours of life remaining.

Panagiotakis said PPC’s team of 600 employees working at the mine would be transfered to other projects.

As for the Larco meeting, shareholders endorsed a new electricity supply tariff agreement reached with PPC. As was pointed out by Panagiotakis, Larco has continued to struggle covering its electricity bills, but added that the new agreement should help.

Larco, a loss-incurring enterprise that stands as the country’s second-biggest electricity consumer, currently owes PPC an amount estimated at 210 million euros. As part of thew new agreement, Larco will need to cover 37 million euros by late-2019 or early 2020.

PPC has demanded a business plan from Larco, which will be used to design the payback schedule for the remainder of the debt owed by the nickel producer to the utility.


‘Extra safety measures’ taken at damaged Amynteo mine

Additional safety measures were taken at the Amynteo coal mine, close to Florina northern Greece, for a slant with a 1:6 ratio compared to the usual slant ratio of no more than 1:4 created at other mines, a PPC official has told energypress following a landslide that devastated the mine, the nearby village of Anargyroi and PPC’s mining equipment.

The measures taken were obviously insufficient judging by the scale of the destruction, whose effects include the necessary expropriation of Anargyroi, a village in the area, according to energy minister Giorgos Stathakis.

The Amynteo mine runs 200 meters deep, while the tunnel from the surface to the coal seam ran for 1,200 meters rather than 800 meters as is the case at other PPC mines, the official explained.

The landslide was caused by an enormous tectonic fault that runs parallel to the provincial road through the Anargyroi community, from the southwest to northeast, and has a length that can reach even ten kilometers, experts have noted.

The first signs of movement emerged on May 24 and began gaining speed to increase from a rate of 200 mm per day to 600 mm per day. An earth mass weighing roughly 80 million tons ended up shifting many meters in the landslide.

According to the head of Genop, PPC’s main union, Giorgos Adamidis, the problem is also linked to interventions made by archaeological authorities. This delayed the delivery of a mining license, which would have helped decongest the mine’s upper level, he noted.

The landslide has caused multiple problems for PPC, ranging from its ability to keep perform lignite mining operations in the area to a prospective unit sale list that must be prepared by the dominant electricity producer and supplier as a bailout requirement. This list, which needs to represent 40 percent of PPC’s lignite-based capacity, is expected by the end of this month but its delivery will most likely be impacted by the damage in Amynteo.

PPC’s two lignite-fired power stations at Amynteos, whose capacity totals 600 MW, will be sidelined for as long as the mine remains closed. The mine supplies both these power stations.