Russia’s biggest diversified mining group and the world’s number one producer of nickel and palladium, MMC Norilsk Nickel (Norilsk) has reported that the output of its African operations last year amounted to 15 161 t of nickel in concentrate, 11 730 t of copper in concentrate, 93 000 oz of palladium in concentrate and 21 000 oz of platinum in concentrate.
The group’s global production for last year was 295 096 t of nickel, 377 944 t of copper, 2 806 000 oz of palladium and 695 000 oz of platinum.
Norilsk Nickel Africa comprises two operations. These are Tati Nickel, in Botswana, which is 85%-owned by the Russian group (the remaining 15% being held by the Botswana government) and Nkomati Nickel, in South Africa, which is a 50:50 joint venture with South Africa’s African Rainbow Minerals (ARM). Management control of Nkomati is vested in ARM.
Norilsk’s share of Nkomati’s output last year was 5 815 t of nickel in concentrate, 2 927 t of copper in concentrate, 24 000 oz of palladium in concentrate and 9 000 oz of platinum in concentrate. Its production figures for 2010 were 5 525 t of nickel in concentrate, 3 082 t of copper in concentrate, 37 000 oz of palladium in concentrate and 8 000 oz of platinum in concentrate. Nickel and platinum production in 2011 were up over 2010, while copper and palladium production were down. All Norilsk’s share of Nkomati’s output is shipped to the Russian group’s refinery at Harjavalta, in Finland.
Tati Nickel’s production in 2011 was 9 346 t of nickel in concentrate, 8 803 t of copper in concentrate, 68 000 oz of palladium in concentrate and 12 000 oz of platinum in concentrate. All this material was sold to third parties. Tati Nickel’s nickel output last year was just over 4 800 t less than in 2010, at 14 177 t, while its copper production was down about 5 300 t, compared with the 2010 figure. This includes a reduction of about 2 200 t in the amount of copper in the nickel con-centrate.
Norilsk Nickel Africa is grouped with Norilsk Nickel Australia and Norilsk Nickel Finland to form Norilsk Nickel International. Currently, Norilsk Nickel Australia has one operational mine, Lake Johnson, which restarted production last July and spent the second half of the year ramping up to full production capacity – its output was 1 700 t of nickel concentrate last year, of which 1 300 t was produced during the final quarter of the year. (Lake Johnson did not produce any copper, palladium or platinum during 2011.) Norilsk Nickel Finland comprises the Harjavalta refinery. From the concentrates it received in 2011, it produced 48 524 t of nickel, 5 681 t of copper, 34 000 oz of palladium and 12 000 oz of platinum. For Norilsk Nickel International, as a whole, the group is predicting an output of 60 000 t to 65 000 t of nickel, 9 000 t to 10 000 t of copper, 95 000 oz to 100 000 oz of palladium and 20 000 oz to 25 000 oz of platinum during this year.
Including its Russian operations – organised into the Kola and Polar divisions – the group’s total nickel production last year was 0.8% lower than in 2010, as a result of the drop in output from Tati Nickel. (Nickel production in the Russian divisions in 2011 increased by 1 700 t over 2010.) Group global copper production was 3% lower last year, compared with the year before, owing to both the decline in production at Tati Nickel and reduced output from Harjavalta (as a result of changes to the feedstock mixture). Total palladium production was 2% down in 2011, year-on-year, because of slight falls in output in all divisions. The group’s worldwide platinum production was stable, but this hides a decline in output from Norilsk Nickel International, which was cancelled out by an increase in production in Russia.
For its Russian operations, Norilsk is expecting 2012 production figures of 235 000 t to 240 000 t of nickel, 355 000 t to 360 000 t of copper, 2 600 000 oz to 2 650 000 oz of palladium and 650 000 oz to 660 000 oz of platinum.