Norilsk Division (Russia)

The Norilsk Division is the Group’s flagship assets boasting a full metals production cycle from ore mining to the shipment of finished products to customers. They are located on the Taimyr Peninsula in Russia, in the north of the Krasnoyarsk Region beyond the Arctic Circle, and linked to other regions by the Yenisey River, the Northern Sea Route, and by air.

Operating the largest deposits in the Company’s portfolio, the Norilsk Division mines over 18 Mtpa of copper-nickel sulphide ore.

Mining

The Norilsk Division mine copper-nickel sulphide ores of three grades: rich ores, characterised by a higher content of base and precious metals; cuprous ores, with a higher copper content vs nickel; and disseminated ores, with a lower content of all metals.

The Talnakhskoye and Oktyabrskoye deposits are developed by Taimyrsky, Oktyabrsky, Komsomolsky, Skalisty and Mayak Mines. The mines deploy slicing and chamber methods with the cut-and-fill system. Stopes are refilled with backfill mixtures, with their composition adjusted in each case depending on technological requirements for mine backfill durability.

The Norilsk-1 deposit is developed by Zapolyarny Mine (Medvezhy Ruchey – South Cluster project), through open-pit and underground mining. Underground mining is carried out through sublevel (level) caving using front ore passes and self-propelled vehicles.

Оre production from the Norilsk Division was 18.8 mln t in 2020, up 0.4 mln t y-o-y (+2%). Rich and disseminated ore production increased by 2% and 10%, respectively, with Taimyrsky and Skalisty Mines also increasing their combined rich ore production by 12% y-o-y. Disseminated ore production grew at Komsomolsky Mine (+42%) and Zapolyarny Mine (+4%). Total production of cuprous ore decreased by 5% y-o-y. The change in the mined ore output was in line with the annual production plan.

Ore output (mln t)
Mining asset, ore type Mine type 2018 2019 2020
Total ore 17.32 18.42 18.82
rich 6.78 7.35 7.48
cuprous 5.24 5.75 5.49
disseminated 5.30 5.32 5.85
ZAPOLYARNY
Oktyabrskoye deposit: 8.95 9.45 9.58
Oktyabrsky Mine Underground 5.17 5.37 5.34
rich 0.98 0.88 0.80
cuprous 2.98 3.38 3.41
disseminated 1.21 1.11 1.13
Taymirsky Mine Underground 3.79 4.08 4.24
rich 3.79 4.08 4.24
Talnakhskoye and Oktyabrskoye deposits: 6.70 7.34 7.55
Komsomolsky Mine Underground 3.82 4.00 4.25
rich 0.11 0.10 0.14
cuprous 2.18 2.28 1.81
disseminated 1.53 1.62 2.3
Skalisty Mine Underground 1.95 2.34 2.54
rich 1.87 2.25 2.27
cuprous 0.09 0.09 0.27
Mayak Mine Underground 0.93 1.00 0.76
rich 0.04 0.04 0.03
disseminated 0.89 0.97 0.73
MEDVEZHY RUCHEY
Norilsk-1 deposit
Zapolyarny Mine Open-pit/underground
disseminated 1.67 1.63 1.69

Concentration

Talnakh Concentrator processes rich, cuprous and disseminated ores from the Oktyabrskoye and Talnakhskoye deposits to produce nickel-pyrrhotite and copper concentrates, and metal-bearing products. The key processing stages include crushing, milling, flotation and thickening.

Norilsk Concentrator processes all disseminated ores from the Norilsk-1 deposit, cuprous and disseminated ores from the Oktyabrskoye and Talnakhskoye deposits, and low-grade ores from Copper Plant to produce nickel and copper concentrates. The key processing stages include crushing, milling, flotation, gravity concentration and thickening.

Thickened concentrates are transported from Talnakh and Norilsk Concentrators via slurry pipelines for further processing. In 2020, the Company’s concentration facilities processed a total of 18.5 mln t across all types of ore feedstocks (including rich, cuprous and disseminated ores).

Talnakh Concentrator processed 10.9 mln t of ore in 2020 (up 0.2 mln t y-o-y). Its nickel recovery from ore into bulk flotation concentrate, including the output of metal-bearing pyrrhotite products, increased by 2.0% y-o-y to 87.9% due to the optimised technology for obtaining copper-nickel concentrate deployed at Talnakh Concentrator.

Talnakh Concentrator increased ore processing to 7.6 mln t (up 0.1 mln t y-o-y) in 2020. The facility’s nickel recovery into bulk concentrate was 0.7% lower y-o-y at 70.6%. During the year, the facility also processed significant amounts of low-grade ores from Copper Plant.

Ore processing and nickel recovery
Concentrator 2018 2019 2020
Sulphide ores processed (mln t)
Talnakh Concentrator 10.4 10.7 10.9
Norilsk Concentrator 6.8 7.5 7.6
Nickel recovery (%)
Talnakh Concentrator 83.2 85.9 87.9
Norilsk Concentrator 71.9 71.3 70.6

Smelting

Production chain

The produced concentrates, including steam cured sulphide concentrate, and secondary materials are fed into flash smelting furnaces at Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant. Steam cured sulphide concentrate is leached at Hydrometallurgical Shop of Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant from products with low metal content, such as Talnakh Concentrator’s metal-bearing products, products from Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant’s tailings facility, and concentrates from tailings ponds. The matte produced in flash smelting furnaces is then converted into high-grade converter matte.

Copper Plant processes all of the copper concentrate from the Company’s concentrators, as well as third-party feedstocks, to obtain copper cathodes, elemental sulphur and sulphuric acid for the operational needs of the Polar Division.

Copper Plant’s smelting shop recycles sludge from the copper tankhouses of Copper Plant and Kola MMC to produce precious metal concentrates, commercial selenium and tellurium.

The precious metals produced by the Norilsk Division are refined at Krastsvetmet, URALINTECH, and Prioksky Plant of Non-Ferrous Metals under tolling agreements.

Copper production remained basically flat y-o-y in 2020, with a slight decrease of 1% due to a lower-than-expected copper content in the stored copper concentrate provided by Rostec and concentrate stock drawdowns by Rostec. PGM output increased by 15% y-o-y, mainly due to temporary processing of chlorine dissolution residue by Copper Plant (during the deployment of a new precious metal production technology at Kola MMC) and higher precious metal content in the copper cake supplied by Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta.

Production volumes
Product 2018 2019 2020
Copper, t 353,131 355,706 351,413
Palladium, koz 987 1,042 1,180
Platinum, koz 260 251 302