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Partomchorr: Finding an Optimal Solution

On September 23, Acron's Vice President for Mining and Chemical Production Development and Chairman of the Board of Directors of North-Western Phosphorous Company (NWPC) Sergei Fedorov met with representatives of two community organisations, the Kola Biodiversity Conservation Centre and the Kola Ecology Centre, and Kola Expeditions, a commercial travel agency, at the construction site of the Oleniy Ruchey mine facility in Murmansk region. Also invited to attend the meeting were Vladimir Masloboyev, Director of the Institute of the Industrial Ecology Problems of the North (part of the Kola Science Centre under the Russian Academy of Science), Andrei Okunovich, project structural engineer fr om Giproruda, Yevgeny Volkovich, Director General of MurmanskTISIz, and experts from North-Western Phosphorous Company. Before the meeting the community organisations’ members were given a tour of the site and saw those units of the mine facility that are currently under construction. The members reported being impressed by what they saw. Discussion at the meeting focused on development of the Partomchorr apatite-nepheline ore deposit. NWPC holds exploration license MUR 13823 for both the Partomchorr and Oleniy Ruchey deposits.

At the meeting NWPC announced that, due to the proximity of the Simbozersk nature reserve to Partomchorr, the company will follow the recommendations of the State Subsoil Agency (Central Deposits Development Commission) and build only an underground mine on the territory of Partomchorr, as an integral part of the Oleniy Ruchey mine facility. The Giproruda Mining Design Institute is currently working on the mine’s design under contract with NWPC. Pursuant to the instructions of the general designer, MurmanskTISIz is preparing the construction-engineering survey required for implementation of the project in the license area, the Mining Institute of the Kola Science Centre is developing procedures and regulations for mining operations, and INEP KSC RAS is responsible for the environmental part of the project.

Principal Giproruda project engineer Andrei Okunovich defined this approach to the development of the deposit as controlled and environmentally sound. There are no plans to construct such objects as a processing facility, tailing dump, open pit or mine dump at Partomchorr. The deposit’s ore will be transferred to and processed at the Oleniy Ruchey mine facility. Designers are currently considering several schemes for ore transportation and will settle on the method that is most economically and environmentally feasible. Okunovich also said that designers have analysed the practices of neighbouring states, wh ere tourism and mining successfully coexist and contribute to the economy, in order to introduce such practices into the Partomchorr project.

The parties also discussed concerns about developing a deposit in the northern Khibiny Mountains, which has always been a tourist area free from mining activity. The concerns are understandable, but one must take into account the fact that Partomchorr is essentially the last minable phosphate deposit in existence. While its ore is considered to be of poorer quality, the deposit’s capacity of Р2О5 significantly exceeds Oleniy Ruchey reserves. Extracting and processing this ore will make up for the volume of apatite concentrate that Apatite is currently unable to produce for objective reasons. In recent years, Apatite’s output of apatite concentrate has decreased from 9 million tonnes to 7 million tonnes per annum, resulting in a shortage of raw materials for mineral fertiliser producers that is adversely affecting domestic agriculture and yields

While processers of apatite concentrate have been accused of focusing on export markets, they are merely trying to cope with the sharply seasonal nature of domestic fertiliser sales as a result of Russia’s short sowing period in spring and even shorter period of fertiliser application for winter crops in autumn. Like processing facilities, mining facilities can operate year-round. It would be irresponsible to suspend production and leave thousands of people without jobs and salaries.

Masloboyev of the Institute of the Industrial Ecology Problems of the North asked the representatives of community organisations present to lend a hand during the project’s development in order to find a solution that is acceptable for both tourists and producers.

The parties agreed to form a working group for the joint analysis of proposed project designs and determination of the ultimate solutions for the construction of the mine and infrastructure.