JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Russian palladium and nickel mining company Norilsk Nickel, which also owns operations in Finland and South Africa, increased production of all key metals in the first quarter of the year.
“The main phase of our downstream reconfiguration programme was completed last year and work-in-progress inventory levels got normalised. In addition, the company also actively processed copper concentrate purchased from Rostec. As a result, metal production from our own Russian feed increased in the first quarter by 8 to 22% year-on-year,” COO Sergey Dyachenko said in a statement on Thursday.
Consolidated nickel production in the first quarter amounted to 54 063 t, a 1% year-on-year increase. Nickel output from the company’s Russian feed increased 8% year-on-year to 53 322 t.
“The growth was mainly attributed to the increase in processing volumes of nickel matte shipped from Polar division to Kola and Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta as result of downstream reconfiguration.”
Consolidated copper production increased 18% year-on-year to 111 598 t during the three-month period.
Palladium and platinum were produced solely from the company's own Russian feed, with their volumes increasing 6% to 583 000 oz and 138 000 oz, respectively. In the first quarter of 2018, production of platinum-group metals from third party feed was stopped due to the practical suspension of third-party feed processing at Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta, in Finland.
The company confirmed its 2018 production targets for metal produced from its own Russian feed, but lowered the 2018 production target for the Bystrinsky (Chita) copper project, near the Chinese border.
Dyachenko said ihat the reduced production target was as a result of ramp-up issues of equipment, which the company would sort out in the current quarter.
In April, the first batch of copper concentrate from the new project was produced during the hot commissioning phase.
The Bystrinksy project is now expected to produce between 25 000 t and 31 000 t of copper and between 90 000 oz and 110 000 oz of gold.
The production guidance for the group, excluding the Chita project, is 210 000 t to 215 000 t of nickel, 400 000 t to 420 000 t of copper, 2.63-million to 2.73-million ounces of palladium and 600 000 oz to 650 000 oz of platinum.