How Norilsk Nickel’s Outlet Bystrinsky GOK Changes Lives in Russia

Transbaikalia is still the “golden fever” steppe. Mining remains the regional economy’s base. Future is also related to mining: the Bystrinsky Mining and Processing Combine (Bystrinsky GOK), employing about 2,000, will go operational in 2017. The continuing construction on the site is changing life in the region already.

It is not easy to get to the Bystrinsky GOK, the biggest enterprise, which the Norilsk Nickel Company is making outside its native Krasnoyarsk Territory. The way to the combine is more than 400 km along the road from Chita, about at least third part of which is in poor condition. Noteworthy, in 2014, after a 20-year break, resumed flights between Chita and the settlement next to the combine. A Let L-410 Turbolet (Czech) takes 19 passengers twice a month – it is used to transport workers to the combine.

This neighboring settlement, Gazimursky Zavod, is not like the nearby villages, which are deserted and abandoned. In the settlement, there are new houses, fences and warehouses of enterprises, a few construction sites. Street lamps have been erected along the central street. “We even have a car wash,” the locals say proudly. A restaurant, cafes, hotels… However, you would not see here any cattle typical for villages. Home-made milk or cream are a rare thing there, as most locals are in the mining industry and do not have cows or goats.

The distance between the settlement and the combine is 25km. The construction site in in the place of a polymetallic deposit with field reserves of 2.1 million tonnes of copper, 7.6 million ounces of gold, 34.1 million ounces of silver and 67 million tonnes of magnetite iron. In terms of copper reserves the field is among the world’s ten biggest deposits. The combine will produce 60-70 thousand tonnes of copper a year.

The works is impressive: almost 1,500 people are working at the construction site. About 1,000 of them are building Russia’s one of biggest enterprises for processing and enriching gold-iron-copper ores. Parallel to this, Vostokgeologiya (Norilsk Nickel’s company) builds service shops, auxiliary workshops, warehouses and hangars, lays a pipeline to discharge waste from mineral processing into special storages. Works at quarries are under way.

The company plans to open in 2017 a railway line (which will serve not only cargoes, but also passengers) -a public-private partnership project, and a substation and a power line of 220kV. As yet, the facilities are using the power line of 110kV. The Norilsk Nickel Company said construction of the combine and its infrastructures complies fully with modern ecology standards to lower impact on the environment.

The combine is among Norilsk Nickel’s strategic assets. The combine’s target market would be China, which is only a few hundred kilometers away. Investments in the construction will make about $1.7 billion. Vostokgeologiya’s head of the construction Dmitry Nikolayenko said the combine would go operational in late 2017. It will produce copper, gold and iron-ore concentrates, which will be uploaded into carriages right on the site.

“The Bystrinsky combine would be a milestone event in history of the Russian mining,” a member of the parliament’s upper house (Federation Council) Stepan Zhiryakov said. “This GOK will use equipment from the world’s best producers, thus improving technologies and making work easier there.”

The region’s government shares this position of a well-known miner. Minister of Economic Development Sergei Novichenko said the new enterprise would offer about 1,200 new jobs as well as another 1,000 jobs at auxiliary facilities.

“The combine will also favor the social and economic development of the Gazimuro-Zavodskiy district as well as of entire Transbaikalia. The enterprise will pay taxes on incomes, property, will make payments to the road fund, and it will also finance various social programs in education, healthcare and sports,” press service of the local government said, adding they are unaware as yet of the combine’s tax base as it depends on rates of copper.

While the regional authorities are positive, managers of other mining enterprises are alarmed. “Half of my factory have packed already – economists, accountants, warehouse managers are waiting for the Bystrinsky GOK to begin working so that they could get jobs there. The work is similar, but as yet we are unable to compete with them in salaries,” top manager of a mining company said. “Our concern now is to have people stay.”

Work at the combine will be in shifts. A special village is built for workers and cottage houses will be ready for top managers. The village will have social facilities – a gym, a recreational complex, a canteen, a clinic. “This enterprise, offering high and stable incomes, of course, will be of great support to locals from neighboring and far-away towns and villages – Chita, Borzya, Yasnogorsk, Balei,” the combine’s builders say.