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Norilsk Nickel’s biggest asset could be ‘gold mine’ for Transbaikal’s economy

March 14, 11:23 UTC+3 CHITA
The imminent commissioning of the Bystrinsky Mining and Processing Combine is set to take place in 2017
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© Ilya Barinov/TASS

CHITA, March 14. /TASS/. The economy of the Transbaikal region is looking up, with mining as the core and future of the area’s economy. The imminent commissioning of the Bystrinsky Mining and Processing Combine (Bystrinsky GOK) is set to take place in 2017, which will create more than 2,000 jobs for the region.

The Bystrinsky mining and processing combine, the biggest enterprise, which Norilsk Nickel is building outside its native Krasnoyarsk Region, is roughly 400km from the nearest major city, Chita, only accessible by roads in dire need of repair. Some efforts, however, have been made to ease the transportation dilemma, like reviving an old plane route to the mining works.

The construction site in the place of a polymetallic deposit with field reserves of 2.1 mln tonnes of copper, 7.6 mln ounces of gold, 34.1 mln ounces of silver and 67 mln tonnes of magnetite iron. In terms of copper reserves, the field is among the world’s ten biggest deposits. The combine will produce 60,000-70,000 tonnes of copper a year.

The works are impressive, almost 1,500 people are employed at the construction site. About 1,000 of them are building one of Russia’s biggest enterprises for processing and enriching gold, iron and copper. Along with this, Vostokgeologiya (a Norilsk Nickel company) is building service shops, auxiliary workshops, warehouses and hangars, and is laying a sewage pipeline to discharge waste from mineral processing into special storages.

In 2017, the company plans to open a railway line (which will service not only cargoes, but also passengers), a public-private partnership project, and a substation and a 220kV power line. So far, the facilities have been using 110kV power lines. Norilsk Nickel said the combine’s construction and its infrastructure fully comply with modern ecological standards.

The plant is among Norilsk Nickel’s strategic assets and its target market would be China, which is only a few hundred kilometers away. According to estimates, the company will shell out $1.7 billion in its construction. Vostokgeologiya’s head of the construction Dmitry Nikolayenko said the combine would be put into operation in late 2017. It will produce copper, gold and iron-ore concentrates, which will be uploaded into carriages right on site.

"The Bystrinsky combine would be a milestone event in history of the Russian mining," a member of the parliament’s upper house (Federation Council) Stepan Zhiryakov stated. "This mining and processing plant will use equipment from the world’s best producers, thus boosting technologies and simplifying work there."

The region’s government shares this position of the mining company. Minister of Economic Development Sergey Novichenko said the new enterprise would create about 1,200 new jobs as well as another 1,000 positions at auxiliary facilities.

"The combine will also favor the social and economic development of the Gazimuro-Zavodskiy district as well as the entire Transbaikal Region. The enterprise will pay taxes on incomes, property, and contribute payments to a road fund. In addition, it will also bankroll various social programs in education, healthcare and sports," press service of the local government said, adding they still did not know the combine’s tax base as it depends on the rates of copper.

While the regional authorities are positive, managers of other mining enterprises are alarmed. "Half of my factory have packed already - economists, accountants, warehouse managers are waiting for the Bystrinsky combine to begin working so that they could get jobs there. The work is similar, but presently we are unable to compete with them in terms of salaries," the top manager of a mining company said. "Our concern now is to have people stay."

Work at the combine will be in shifts. A distinctive village is being set up for workers and cottages will be put up for top managers. The company township will have social facilities, such as a gym, a recreational complex, a canteen, and a clinic. "This enterprise, which offers high and stable incomes, of course, will be of great support to the locals," the combine’s builders pointed out.

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