With nickel in high demand, Nornickel expands Kola mine

Unlike many other large Russian companies, Nornickel is not subject to international sanctions.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - May 19, 2022
The logo of Russia’s miner Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) is seen on a board at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017 (SPIEF 2017) in St. Petersburg, Russia on June 1, 2017. (Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters File Photo)

The world’s leading nickel producer, Nornickel, intends to dig 300 meters deeper into its Severny-Globoky mine on the Kola Peninsula in Russia’s Arctic, according to the company.

Over the coming 12-year-period, the underground mine will be expanded from 440 meters to 730 meter depths.

It is a needed measure to keep production at the current level of 6.2 million tons of ore, says Sergei Baranov, chief mining manager at local subsidiary company Kola MMC. Later, production will be increased to 6.5 million tons, he explains.

The expansion comes less than four years after a similar expansion. Then, the mine was made 120 meter deeper, from 320 meters to 440 meters.

The upcoming expansion is believed to open access to more than 100 million tons of ore, which will allow the company to continue operations at the current level until year 2047. And there is far more ore in the ground, Nornickel says. There are already plans for a future expansion to 920 meter depths.

According to Baranov, the deepening will be made with a mechanised approach, and not the traditional drilling and blasting method. It is the first time that Nornickel applies this method, which requires special drill rigs.

The Severny-Gluboky mine is part of the Zhdanovskoye deposit. It is located in the municipality of Pechenga only few kilometers from Norway and Finland. After decades of extraction from an open pit at the Zhdanovskoye, Nornickel in 2004 shifted to underground at the Severny-Gluboky mine.

The extracted ore is processed in the local metallurgy plants in nearby Zapolyarny. From there, the ore products are sent by railway to Monchegorsk, the other nickel town in the region, where pure nickel is processed.

Kola MMC has a total of eight field areas in the Pechenga area, four of which are developed; the Kotselvaara and the Semiletka located near the town of Nikel and the Zhdanovskoye and Zapolyarnoye located further east near the town of Zapolyarny.

The company previously said that it intends to open two new projects, the Sputnik and the Yuzhny, which ultimately could help boost annual production to more than 8 million tons.

Unlike many of Russia’s other big companies, Nornickel is not subjected to sanctions by the international community.