17 February 1997
I haven't heard from you in quite some time but that may not be because you are not trying to reach me. I continue to have mail problems. Specifically, I can't seem to rely on Peace Corps Sofia to get my mail to me. I continue to receive envelopes that are open, are torn open through handling, appear to have been opened and resealed, or I don't ever receive the weeks mailing (this has now happened 2 times). I think that the large package of mail from Peace Corps Sofia is attracting attention and causing me some of these problems. Therefore, I have decided to have all personal mail sent directly to me here in Zlatograd. This will require whoever is looking for/at my mail to diligently search the mail every day and try to find a single letter rather than a large fat envelope. It will force them to throw my mail away one letter at a time rather than the entire weeks worth.
Edward L. Frey
1, St. Stambolov Str.
Zlatograd 4980, Bulgaria
On 5 February I visited the Gorubso lead/zinc mine at Erma Reka (a village about 16 Km from Zlatograd) and discussed the companies plans and problems with using hot mineral waters that are present in the mine. Descended to the 300 meter horizon and walked through a gallery that has become primarily the site of deep water pumping shafts. The designation of 300 meter horizon indicates that we were at 300 meters above sea level; we entered the elevator shaft at 650 meters above sea level. Therefore, we descended 350 meters, or 1150 feet, to the gallery or what you could call the horizontal tunnel. These pumping shafts were sunk into a large "lake" of underground hot water with the intent of pumping it down to allow for deeper lead/zinc mining effort. However, the inflow is such that to pump is down is very expensive. The water is 87(C , or almost 190(F, and under 18 atmospheres of pressure. So what you have is a superheated mineral water that is under enough pressure that it could shoot about 180 feet in the air. The gallery has enough of this hot water being forced up through faults in the rock that there is some natural flow and it heats the gallery to at least 100(F with ventilation. The waters contain Carbon Dioxide that is being released into the gallery so without ventilation you would soon die from lack of oxygen. An additional problem is the Calcium carbonate that is present in the water which causes a rapid buildup inside any piping through which it flows. This requires the replacement and or removal of the pipes and the buildup or flows will be choked off within a short time. This is obviously an expensive issue also. There is hope that the waters can be used as mineral waters to drink, for mineral water baths, for greenhouse heating, or mine building heating. The expenses of extraction and the Calcium Carbonate problem may make some of these hopes only that; the profitability of the plans is suspect and does not appear to be well thought out. This is a State company that is on the "isolation" list. This list includes stat owned companies that will receive no further credit and must become profitable within the next year or be closed. The Erma Reka mining site is not the only one in this area but it is the closest to Zlatograd and employs 318. There is also a branch administrative office of the company here in Zlatograd that probably employs another 300-400. When, or if, the company is closed it is going to effect the town in a big way. However, it has already effected the town because of the workers drastic decline in real wages in the last 9 months. Their real purchasing power has declined by a factor of 5 during that time so they obviously haven't been putting as much money into the economy. Is a big problem for this area with not much chance that it is going to be corrected anytime soon. The mines would probably have been closed long ago in any free market economy.
The situation here is not good even if you do have money. Since the hyperinflation began this year approximately one half of the shops have closed their doors. Probably closed for a long time with some operators going broke. The shops that are still open have almost nothing for sale because of distribution problems and the problem of not knowing what something is going to cost when it is delivered. Prices are changed every day, sometimes during the day, for those goods that the State does not control. The state controls gas prices and the refining of all gasoline! However this is a good example of what happens to goods that are under State control in a hyperinflationary environment. The most expensive gasoline is now priced at about 400 BGL/Liter. Let us assume that crude oil is at $20/barrel and further assume that the entire barrel can be refined into the most expensive gasoline. Then what you end up with is approximately 220 liters of gasoline that cost $40 that you are selling for about $32. It doesn't take a genius to realize that if you do this for very long you will go broke. It also doesn't take long for people to realize that if they buy Bulgarian gas at 400 BGL/Liter they can take it to Serbia, Macedonia, Rumania, or Greece and sell it for around a $. Guess what? Bulgaria now has a fuel shortage that is further complicating the distribution problems of goods and peoples ability to get around.
I will close for now. Hopefully all is well with you and I will hear from you soon. Please put this into the "tree" so that anyone that may have written, or may want to write, will understand the new address issue. How are you coming along with your e-mail resolution for 1997? That seems my best media for communicating. There may be people here that are reading all my e-mail but from all indications they haven't been able to throw any of it away!