Russia's Nornickel boosts Q3 output at its copper project

MOSCOW, Oct 31 – Production at Russia's Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) Bystrinsky copper project near the Chinese border surged in the third quarter, the company said on Wednesday, indicating that it was making progress fixing a problem with equipment.
Nornickel, controlled by Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin and aluminium giant Rusal, launched the mine a year ago with an aim to export its production to China, the world's top copper consumer. The world's second largest nickel producer after Brazil's Vale and the largest palladium producer maintained its total 2018 production forecast amid strong output in January-September.
It also kept Bystrinsky's 2018 production forecast unchanged at 20,000-25,000 tonnes of copper and 90,000-110,000 ounces of gold in concentrate. It had downgraded this forecast twice in 2018 due to technical issues with equipment at concentrating facilities of Bystrinsky, also known as the Chita project. The first batch of copper concentrate was shipped to China in April.
Along with being a natural partner in commodities trade, Russia has sought closer ties to China in recent years as Moscow's relations with the West were soured by its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and a number of other factors. Bystrinsky's third-quarter copper production jumped 91 percent from the second quarter to 8,268 tonnes. Its gold production rose by two-fold and iron ore concentrate jumped by fourfold.
Nornickel, whose key assets are located on the northern Russian peninsulas of Taymyr and Kola, said on Wednesday its consolidated nickel output was flat at 157,080 tonnes in January-September.
Nickel is mainly used to make stainless steel, but forecasts indicate that more will be needed for electric vehicle batteries in coming years. Nornickel's consolidated copper output rose 20 percent to 290,878 tonnes in the first nine months of 2018, while palladium and platinum output rose 3 and 4 percent to 2.03 million troy ounces and 493,000 ounces, respectively.
Nornickel's production guidance for 2018 from Russian feedstock, excluding its Bystrinsky copper project:
Metals 2017 output  2018 forecast
Nickel, 000 tonnes 210 210-215
Copper, 000 tonnes 398 400-420
Palladium, 000 tonnes 2728 2,630-2,725
Platinum, 000 tonnes 650 600-650


(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Andrey Kuzmin Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)