Russia's Nornickel cuts 2018 output forecast for copper project

MOSCOW, April 26 (Reuters) – Russia's Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) has cut the 2018 production forecast for its new Bystrinsky copper project near the Chinese border due to a problem with equipment which it hopes to fix in the second quarter, it said on Thursday.

Nornickel, part-owned by Russian tycoon Vladimir Potanin and aluminium giant Rusal, said its 2018 output forecast from its main assets was unaffected, amid increased production of all its key metals in the first three months of the year.

"In April 2018, the first batch of copper concentrate …. at Bystrinsky GOK (Chita Copper Project) was shipped to Chinese customers," Sergey Dyachenko, Nornickel Chief Operating Officer, said in a statement.

"We have however reduced the 2018 production targets for the Chita project due to the ramp-up issues at the FLS and Outotec supplied equipment, which we plan to sort out in this quarter … Overall, we confirm our 2018 targets for metal production from our own Russian feed," he added.

Nornickel competes with Brazil's Vale SA to be the world's top nickel producer. The Russian company is also the world's largest palladium producer.

Its first-quarter consolidated nickel production rose 1 percent year-on-year to 54,063 tonnes, while palladium output was 583,000 troy ounces, up 6 percent. Platinum output rose 6 percent to 138,000 troy ounces and copper production increased 18 percent to 111,598 tonnes, Nornickel said.

The Bystrinsky project is now expected to produce 25,000-31,000 tonnes of copper and 90,000-110,000 ounces of gold in concentrate in 2018, Nornickel said. The previous forecast was for 35,000-40,000 tonnes of copper and 180,000-200,000 ounces of gold concentrate.

Nornickel's production guidance for 2018 from Russian feedstock, excluding its Bystrinsky copper project:

(Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Vladimir Soldatkin and Mark Potter)