Nornickel warns on output as two mines remain partly suspended

Image by of Norilsk Nickel.

Norilsk Nickel expects production losses as two of its main mines remain partly suspended due to an ingress of water, CEO Vladimir Potanin said on Wednesday.

Nornickel, the world’s largest palladium producer and a leading nickel producer, partly suspended operations at the Oktyabrsky and Taimyrsky mines in Siberia on Feb. 24 after it detected subterranean water flowing into one of them.

They account for 36% of Nornickel’s ore mined in Russia.

Nornickel previously expected 2021 nickel and palladium production to be flat year on year

“There will be some losses for production, but fortunately (the accident) does not affect people, environment or other issues that are sensitive to us,” Potanin, who is also Nornickel’s top shareholder, said in a statement.

The $51 billion company has faced criticism over a major fuel leak at its power plant near the Arctic city of Norilsk and smaller accidents in 2020-2021.

Nornickel can clear the mines of water by dropping concrete or synthetic material into gaps where water had collected, making it easier to pump it out, two industry experts told Reuters this week.

Nornickel “certainly has the competence to cope with this problem,” Potanin said.

The company is now using concrete to localise water-hit parts of the Oktyabrsky mine, which is 850 metres (2,790 ft) deep. The water inflow was detected at a depth of 350 metres during tunnelling on Feb. 12.

Nornickel’s management board will meet on Tuesday to approve a plan proposed by staff to stabilise the situation and “achieve normal production volumes”, Potanin said.

Volumes at risk would also be determined then, he added.

Nornickel previously expected 2021 nickel and palladium production to be flat year on year.

(By Polina Devitt; Editing by Jason Neely and John Stonestreet)

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