Russian company has bought a majority stake in Armenia’s largest mining enterprise
Russian company has bought a majority stake in Armenia’s largest mining enterprise and immediately ceded part of it to the Armenian government.
The GeoProMining group and the government announced the deals in a joint statement issued on Friday more than two months after law-enforcement officers raided the offices of the Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC) in a crackdown promised by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
The statement said a GeoProMining subsidiary acquired 60 percent of ZCMC on Thursday and then “granted” a quarter of that stake to the Armenian government.
“The granted 25 percent of the shares constitute 15 percent of the equity of ZCMC that will consequently belong to the Republic of Armenia,” it said.
“We intend to expand cooperation with the Government of Armenia,” the GeoProMining owner, Russian billionaire Roman Trotsenko, was quoted as saying.
The statement gave no clear reason for Trotsenko’s lavish donation to the government. Nor it did specify from whom the Russian company purchased the majority stake in ZCMC.
The Armenian mining giant employing some 4,000 people is based in Kajaran, a small town in southeastern Syunik province. A German metals group, Cronimet, officially owned 75 percent of its stock for many years. The rest of the company belonged to two obscure Armenian firms.
ZCMC’s ownership structure changed significantly but remained opaque after Cronimet reportedly sold its controlling stake in 2019. A former senior Russian government official, Mikhail Zurabov, became one of its new minority shareholders.
ZCMC was believed to be controlled until recently by a group of individuals at odds with Pashinyan’s government. One of them, former Syunik Governor Vahe Hakobyan, is a senior member of the main opposition Hayastan alliance led by former President Robert Kocharian.
Contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Friday, Hakobyan refused to comment on the change of the company’s ownership.
Campaigning for the June 20 parliamentary elections, Pashinyan pledged to crack down on ZCMC’s “corrupt shareholders” and make sure that their shares are “returned to the people.” He accused the ZCMC management of banning workers from attending his campaign rally in Kajaran.
“The Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine, you have crossed the red line, which means that this blue hammer will first smash your heads,” the prime minister declared during that rally. “Whatever you say, your fate is sealed, you just quietly wait for your verdict.”
In July, masked officers of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) repeatedly searched ZCMC’s offices and detained thee company executives. At least one of them remains under arrest.
Also arrested were the mayors of Kajaran and two other Syunik communities affiliated with Hayastan. They are facing different charges rejected by them and the opposition bloc as politically motivated.
Also in July, the Armenian parliament approved a government proposal to impose a new 15 percent tax on exports of copper and other metals. Government officials denied that the main purpose of the measure is to hurt ZCMC owners.
ZCMC has long been one of Armenia’s top three corporate taxpayers. The government collected 41.7 billion drams ($86 million) in various taxes from it last year.
GeoProMining already owned two other Armenian mining companies before the latest acquisition. One of them operates a massive gold mine located in eastern Gegharkunik province.
KAZ Minerals has announced that the Bankable Feasibility Study for the Baimskaya copper project in Russia has been completed
KAZ Minerals has announced that the Bankable Feasibility Study for the Baimskaya copper project in Russia has been completed and approved by the KAZ Minerals Ltd Board of Directors. This represents a significant project milestone enabling the group to progress with the financing and construction of this world-class copper asset.
The Baimskaya copper project is the planned development of a globally significant copper resource with a forecast capital construction cost of $8.5 billion. The mine is expected to have a life of 20+ years and will start up by the end of 2027, with average annual copper production of 300,000 t and gold production of 490,000 oz during the first ten full years of operation.
Life of mine copper and gold processing grades are estimated at 0.47% and 0.27 g/t respectively, with elevated grades expected in the early years of production. The project has competitive net cash costs and is expected to be in the first quartile on the global cost curve. Historic data and drilling conducted during the BFS indicate the potential for the mine life to be extended.
The processing plant will have a total ore processing capacity of 70 Mt/y from two lines, building on the technologies used at the group’s Aktogay and Bozshakol mines in Kazakhstan.
Pioneering works continue at the mine site and the required infrastructure is being progressed with the Russian government in accordance with the Complex Development Plan for the Chukotka region.
A 428 km all-weather road will be constructed between the Baimskaya mine site and a new port will be built at Cape Nagloynyn for the shipment of copper concentrate to market via the Northern Sea Route. Carbon-free power will be supplied to the site from a nuclear facility to be constructed and operated by Rosatom, enabling the Group to produce very low-carbon copper.
Oleg Novachuk, Chair of KAZ Minerals, said: “The completion of the Baimskaya Bankable Feasibility Study marks an exciting milestone for KAZ Minerals as the group progresses the development of one of the world’s largest copper resources. Copper is fundamental to a more sustainable future and Baimskaya will help meet the growing demand for this metal, as well as bringing a range of benefits to Russia and its Chukotka region”.
Russia ready for significant increase of domestic gold mining
Russia plans a further major increase of domestic gold mining in years to come that will be achieved through the development of new gold mines and accelerating the further development of the already existing gold mines, according to recent statements made by representatives of some leading Russian gold mining companies and local media reports.
In terms of gold reserves, Russia currently ranks first in the world with a share of about 13%, while ranking 3rd in terms of production with a share of about 9%. Last year, gold production in Russia amounted to 340.17 tons, slightly less than in 2019 with a reduction of 0.98%. There is a possibility that gold production in Russia may have already significantly increased this year.
The majority of gold produced in Russia in 2020 was sold for exports, the volume of which amounted to about 320 tons. While a few years ago, exports were insignificant, as the bulk of domestic gold was purchased by the Bank of Russia, the situation has changed in recent years.
Alexey Kalachev, a senior analyst at FINAM Group, one of Russia’s leading analyst agencies in the field of mining and finance, said in an interview with the local Regnum newswire, “active gold purchases by the Central Bank supported the domestic gold mining industry during the period of low prices and allowed the state to form significant gold reserves”.
According to recent statements made by the Minister of Natural Resources of Russia, Alexander Kozlov“, at the current rate of production, gold reserves in Russia will be enough to ensure stable production for the next 40 years.”
Mr. Kozlov goes on to say, “Russia regularly increases its resource base for gold”. This is reflected by official data, since 2010 the country has increased its gold reserves by about 6,000 tonnes.
Over the past decade, three large area plays have been further explored, among them are the Natalkinskoye and Pavlik gold deposits in the Magadan region, the Gross gold deposit in Yakutia and the Verninskoye in the Irkutsk region. Kozlov added, “the Sukhoi Log field in the Irkutsk region and several large areas in the Far East are also being prepared for development”.
According to local analysts, a significant increase in gold production in Russia can be expected from 2026, when production will start at the Polyus owned Sukhoi Log field, one of the largest gold fields in Russia and the world with 40 million ounces proven and probable gold reserves and 67 million ounces measured, indicated and inferred mineral resources.
In recent years, Polyus has significantly strengthened its position in the domestic market as one of the largest gold producers in Russia, which accounts for approximately every fourth ounce of gold mined in Russia at present.
With Sukhoi Log reaching full capacity, the company will increase its production by about 80% and will be one of the top three gold mining companies in the world.
In general, with the commissioning of Sukhoi Log in 2026 total gold production in Russia could grow by about 20%.
According to Deputy Prime Minister and Plenipotentiary of the President of Russia in the Far Eastern Federal District Yuri Trutnev, hopes are also put on the intensification of geological exploration in the Magadan Region, the least populated region of Russia, which could become a new center of gold mining in Russia in years to come. In 2020, the region’s mining enterprises extracted 49.14 tons of gold from ore and placer deposits. That became a record result over the past 45 years, when 49 tons and 600 kg of gold were mined within a territory of the region in 1974.
In addition, a further increase of production is planned for Kamchatka, where a new underground mine and a new stage of processing complex will be established on the basis of the Ametistovoe region in the Kamchatka priority development area, which is the largest gold mining enterprise in Kamchatka.
In general, the authorities of Kamchatka plan to increase gold production to 10 tons by 2022 by commissioning new mining and processing plants. These include an enterprise at the Kumroch gold deposit with a capacity of up to 500,000 tons of ore per year and a processing complex with a capacity of 600,000 tons of ore per year at the Ozernovskoye gold deposit.
For 30 years after the collapse of the USSR, Russia has been developing its gold mining industry. During this time, the country produced more than 6,000 tonnes (194 million ounces) of gold, including associated, secondary and gold in concentrates, providing about 10% of the annual world production.
Source: Resource World
After reporting on Russian coal producer, Sakhalin Newspaper shut down
Sakhalin Island port town has some 10,000 residents. On July 14th events moved quickly at the offices of the municipal newspaper; around 10 a.m., two deputy directors of the Eastern Mining Company (VGK), Aleksandr Bosoi and Andrei Motovilov, showed up at the office of newspaper Editor in Chief Zinaida Makarova to discuss “the direction” of the paper’s coverage of the company.
According to audio of the tense confrontation posted on the newspaper’s Telegram channel the same day, Makarova challenged the men to find any errors in the paper’s journalism, pledged to continue telling “the truth” to local residents, and urged VGK to “mine coal and not interfere” in other areas of the life of the region.
Meanwhile, other staffers were preparing the latest issue of the weekly Uglegorskiye Novosti featuring a front-page feature on an ecological crisis caused when a coal dump at the firm’s open-pit mine collapsed into and blocked the Zhyoltaya River.
At 4 p.m. the same day, Makarova was summoned to the mayor’s office, where she was handed formal notice that she had been fired.
“Literally five or seven minutes after [Makarova] left for the mayor’s office, about 10 men entered the editorial office,” journalist Alina Goloskok, who wrote the feature on the accident, told RFE/RL. “Three of them went straight into the accounting office and began copying files from the computers. The others took up positions in the corridor. They acted like they owned the place.”
According to Goloskok, one of the men told staff that “Makarova is no longer your boss.”
“We were completely shocked since we were just doing what we always do, putting together the latest edition,” she recalled. “And suddenly this takeover.”
When Makarova returned to the office, the electricity had been turned off.
“The office is on the first floor of a five-story residential building,” she said. “The power was only off on our floor. Electricians said the cable was severed.”
Nonetheless, power was briefly restored just as Uglegorsk Mayor Sergei Doroshchuk appeared.
“He demanded that everyone leave,” Makarova recalled. “We said that we needed to put out the paper, but he insisted that we leave. Then the power went out again.”
A repair crew did not show up until July 16. As of July 19, the power was still out. As of July 21, the newspaper’s website was unavailable, and no issues have been published.
A press release from Doroshchuk’s office on July 15 said Makarova had been dismissed “after the discovery of financial violations.”
“In order to secure the office space and property for the newly appointed director, the premises were placed under guard,” the statement added.
“When he came to order us home, we asked Doroshchuk why Makarova had been fired,” Goloskok said. “We didn’t get a coherent answer. And then we asked why the electricity had been turned off if it was just a matter of changing the management. But there was no need to guess the reason — it was about my article about the coal-dump collapse that was being prepared for publication. As far as I know, there has never been an emergency situation as bad as this in Uglegorsk.”
VGK was formed in 2013 with initial capital of 10,000 rubles ($300). It is 99 percent owned by a Cyprus-registered holding called Altraso Venchurz Ltd. Although Altraso’s ownership is unclear, it is believed to be controlled by businessman Oleg Misevra, who runs the company and is listed as its “founder and coproprietor,” although formally he holds only a 0.55 percent stake. VGK’s two major assets are the Solntsevsky coal mine and the Sakhalin Island port of Shakhtyorsk — both in the Uglegorsk district.
It is the 26th-largest coal firm in Russia, as of 2016, and accounts for about 70 percent of the coal produced on Sakhalin. Virtually all of its production is exported through the Shaktyorsk port. In 2019, it reported 46 billion rubles ($618 million) in profits and paid 192 million ($2.6 million) in taxes. Its tax burden is substantially reduced because Uglegorsk is a free-trade zone.
Directly employing more than 1,000 people, VGK is the region’s major employer. Various local construction, transportation, food-production, and other firms, although formally independent, are connected with VGK.
Locals consider Misevra the unofficial head of the region. In 2019, he was named Russia’s “exporter of the year.”
“I believe the VGK management, having learned about the article we were going to publish, ordered Doroshchuk to prevent its appearance — both in print and on television. And so I was fired,” Makarova said.
VGK did not respond to repeated requests from RFE/RL for comment. It has not issued any public statements about the newspaper’s situation.
Throughout her eight years running the newspaper, Makarova has “constantly felt the unspoken presence” of Misevra, she said.
“Mayor Doroshchuk told me directly that he had no problem with me but that he has to do what Misevra told him,” Makarova said. “I heard that all the time. Either Doroshchuk was proposing closing the newspaper because ‘no one reads it’ or he was saying the printing press needed to be closed down to save money or that there was no need for a television channel. ‘Misevra says it is better to develop YouTube,’ he’d say.”
Locals in Uglegorsk — the name means ‘Coal Mountain’ in Russian — have been complaining about VGK polluting local waterways for many years now. In addition, the trucks from the mine pass directly through Uglegorsk on their way to the port and a dark cloud of coal dust regularly engulfs the entire area. Residents regularly recorded videos on the topic for President Vladimir Putin’s annual Direct Line call-in show, but their appeals were never broadcast, although Uglegorskiye Novosti reported on them locally.
On July 9, Uglegorskiye Novosti published a letter from local resident Sergei Bondaryov warning that coal-dump was in a critical state. The next day, it suffered two major collapses, dumping tons of rock and debris into the Yellow River channel.
“There are houses in that area, families live there,” Bondaryov told RFE/RL. “I immediately began calling the Emergency Situations Ministry, the forestry service, and Uglegorskiye Novosti, because they had to report what was going on. The situation could not remain as it was — people had to know about it and act. I reported about the danger to everyone I could think of. Everyone knew — right up to the governor’s office…. Everyone knew but no one did anything.”
A press statement from the office of the governor of Sakhalin Island on July 18 said the regional administration was in charge of “liquidating the consequences of the collapse in the Uglegorsk region.”
It quoted Solntsevsky mine Deputy Director Aleksei Sharabarin as saying the company was building an emergency canal for the river around the site of the collapse and that construction was “70 percent complete.” He promised to begin releasing the damned-up water as early as July 21.
Makarova and her team at Uglegorskiye Novosti have seen a wave of support since the story about her dismissal broke. The Union of Journalists has asked the Investigative Committee to look into the legality of Doroshchuk’s actions, while about 1,200 people have signed an online petition calling for the mayor’s resignation.
“What has happened to Uglegorskiye Novosti is part of our overall misfortune,” said former Sakhalin State University journalism lecturer Irina Kudina.
“I can’t avoid using the word ‘politics,’” she said. “It is the desire to create a false bubble of positive news. And it is the attitude of the region’s ‘master’ to the ‘little people.’… There was nothing in the article that was not a fact. Did the coal-dump collapse into the river? Yes. There are photographs. Are people worried? Yes. The journalists did their job — they described what was happening.”
The staff of Uglegorskiye Novosti continue reporting on events through the paper’s Telegram channel.
“I’ve never had a complaint about my editorial policies in eight years,” Makarova said. “The people want to hear the truth. Not the mayor’s truth, but the truth about the mayor and about what is happening in this region.”
Russian Polyus plans to ramp up gold production
During the Covid-19 pandemic the overall global output of gold has fallen – despite that Russian gold mining company Polyus is planning to boost the production over the next two years. The company expects a small drop this year, partly due to an ore-grade decline at some of its Siberian mines, with output recovery in 2022 and 2023.
“The essence of our short-term strategy is providing an increase in production while maintaining costs, paying stable dividends amid just slight capex growth,” Polyus CEO Pavel Grachev said in an interview with Bloomberg.
The company is also planning to open a mine at Sukhoi Log, one of the world’s biggest gold deposits, in east-central Russia in 2027, which has estimated reserves of 540 million tons of ore, containing 40 million troy ounces of gold. The only other large project globally, in Canada, is on a much smaller scale, according to Grachev.
Polyus is the world’s fourth largest gold miner and the biggest gold producer in Russia, with assets in the Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, and Magadan regions, and the Republic of Sakha in Yakutia. This year, the company switched to hydropower through a contract with RusHydro for 90% of its electricity supply. It is now the only major miner working on 100% renewable power, Grachev said. Polyus also fully dropped the use of diesel fuel at its sites after building 600km of power lines, he added.
Russian Polyus implements LTE network at Kurankh and plans pilot at Krasnoyarsk
The latest to roll out private LTE wireless network is gold mining major Polyus. The company exclusively told IM that it is in the process of implementing private LTE at its Kuranakh open pit operation in north-eastern Siberia.
The company has signed a contract with Rostelecom, one of the largest telecoms operators in Russia for the project. In addition, a pilot private LTE zone will be installed at the Polyus Krasnoyarsk business unit which includes the Olimpiada and Blagodatnoye mines though the company did not specify the exact location for this. Finally, for locations away from mine sites, Polyus is now testing convergent technology on the basis of a GSM and satellite (Iridium) network.
The private LTE systems use 4G LTE technology but with a 5G ready network core. Polyus told IM: “We believe that these communication technologies will provide a basis for various systems relating to our operations, such as driver safety systems (anti fatigue, in-cabin CCTV, collision prevention), fleet-management systems, and semi- or fully automated mining equipment. At our open pit operations, we believe that pLTE network technology will provide a backbone network for all our digital solutions. The final decision will be taken after the full implementation of pLTE at Polyus Kuranakh and post-project analysis.”
Russian miner Petropavlovsk launching second refractory gold processing facility
Petropavlovsk is a major integrated Russian gold producer with JORC Resources of 19.50Moz Au which include Reserves of 7.16Moz Au. The company’s key operating mines Pioneer, Malomir and Albyn, and its pressure oxidation – POX hub at Pokrovskiy are located in the Amur Region in the Russian Far East. Petropavlovsk has produced a total of c.8.3Moz of gold since operations began in 1994.
Petropavlovsk announced the technical launch of the Pioneer flotation plant, the company’s second facility for processing refractory gold ore and producing flotation concentrate. The company said that the new Pioneer flotation plant has the capacity to process 3.6Mtpa of refractory gold ore. Once fully operational, the plant is expected to deliver more than 100ktpa of refractory gold concentrate for treatment at the company’s POX hub.
Pioneer flotation doubles the group’s capacity to process refractory gold ore which, including the existing Malomir flotation plant, now stands at 7.2Mtpa. The plant is expected to become fully operational by July and to produce c.60kt of concentrate in 2021.
The company added that the construction of a third line at the Malomir flotation plant remains on track and will add an additional 1.8Mtpa of flotation capacity from Q3 2022, bringing the total combined group capacity to 9.0Mtpa. The launch of Pioneer flotation and expansion at Malomir will reduce the reliance of the POX hub on treating lower-margin 3rd-party concentrates. The company noted that the new plant will enable Petropavlovsk to take full advantage of Pioneer’s substantial refractory ore reserves while providing an additional source of own-mined concentrate for our state-of-the-art POX hub.
Russia’s Polyus gold reserves become world’s largest
Polyus was previously the world’s third-largest gold miner by reserves behind Newmont and Barrick.
Russia’s largest gold producer Polyus said that its total proved and probable ore reserves had risen by 71% to 104-million troy ounces of gold at the end of 2020 due to inclusion of reserves at its giant Sukhoi Log deposit.
“Polyus is now confirmed to have the largest reserve base globally, with approximately 97% of these reserves attributable to our operating mines and our flagship greenfield project, Sukhoi Log,” Polyus CEO Pavel Grachev said in a statement.
The Russian gold producer plans to take a final investment decision on the Sukhoi Log project in Siberia in 2022.
The company’s measured, indicated and inferred mineral resources were estimated at 204 million ounces of gold at the end of December, compared with 188-million ounces at Dec. 31, 2019, it added.
Nornickel resumes production at a mine in Russia after a flood
After successfully dealing with the flood, Russian miner Nornickel, has resumed production at the Oktyabrsky mine. The mine’s workings have been drained; mining operations are restarting ahead of schedule.
The company said that the plan to restore normal operations has been updated. The Oktyabrsky mine (5.0 mtpa of ore) is expected to resume production in full by the end of April. The mine’s capacity has already reached 60% of the target level. The expected date of production restart at the Taimyrsky mine (4.3 mtpa of ore) remains unchanged and is scheduled for early June.
Nornickel added that its strategy to backfill the entire perimeter of the workings extensively has paid off — water inflow has been stopped. The company is now focused on water discharge and accelerated production restart in compliance with all industrial safety and environmental standards. Nornickel will announce an updated metal output guidance for FY 2021 once the plan to step up safety and reliability of the Norilsk Concentrator has been finalised.
Russian Polyus publishes first Water Report
Polyus is the first major company in Russia to publish a report of this kind.
Polyus, the world’s fourth-largest gold mining company by production, has announced the publication of its inaugural Water Report, prepared in compliance with the ICMM’s Practical Guide to Consistent Water Reporting.
Pavel Grachev, Chief Executive Officer of PJSC Polyus, commented: “By publishing its first Water Report, Polyus is setting a new standard for water reporting in Russia. Like other miners, we require water for our production processes. As a sustainable company we must ensure that we use our resources responsibly and efficiently to minimize our impact on the environment. Maximum transparency is a central aspect of our work in this area.”
The report details the company’s approach to responsible management of water resources and related risks. Polyus’ water strategy includes water protection measures based on scientific research, collaboration and proactive engagement with industry peers and local stakeholders, as well as an emphasis on transparency and disclosure.
Highlights from the Water Report include that Polyus’ closed water circulation scheme at ore production assets has progressively reduced freshwater consumption, with 93% of water used in Polyus’ operations now originaings from its closed water recycling system. About half of the company’s total water demand is covered by pit water inflow as well as meltwater and rainwater. Withdrawal of water from natural sources per tonne of ore processed declined by 28% between 2016 and 2020.
In 2019 Polyus launched its Water Campaign, a set of managerial and technical initiatives to reduce the withdrawal of freshwater through the prevention of leaks in the water supply systems and the efficient reuse of water. The Water Campaign helped to decrease the amount of water used per tonne of gold produced by 18% in 2020 compared to 2019.
The compnay adds that any water that is released into the environment is treated using advanced technologies. Polyus monitors water quality before and after its usage in the production cycle. The company also supports local biodiversity levels and runs programs to support populations of local aquatic species. Polyus says it intends to further reduce the volume of water intake, increase the efficiency of wastewater treatment, and increase the share of quarry water in its consumption.
Polyus concluded: “Publication of the Water Report reflects Polyus’ commitment to demonstrating industry-leading standards in sustainability disclosure. In 2019 the company published its report on the safe management of tailings, and has subsequently worked with the ICMM on the development of the Global Standard on Tailings Management. In March 2021 the company has also published its Climate Position Statement.”