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    Concentrate flows in the CIS

    2003

    Countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), principally Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, have a substantial influence on the world’s base-metals market. Many of the traditional relationships between these countries regarding supplies of base-metals raw materials have remained in place since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Flows of copper, lead and zinc concentrates are the most important. Kazakhstan is an exporter, Uzbekistan is an importer, and Russian is both (Figure 1).



    Russian imports

    Russia has traditionally been a net importer of copper concentrate, a legacy of long-depleted copper mines in the Urals and the supply of copper concentrate to smelters in that region from Erdenet in Mongolia. Exports of copper concentrate from Mongolia to Russia exceeded 150,000 t/y in the early 1990s. In recent years, exports have been substantially lower (the major part of Erdenet concentrate is now shipped to China), and they are now estimated at less than 50,000 t/y (Figure 2).

    Ural Mining and Metallurgical Co. (UMMC), which incorporates most of the Urals copper smelters, has processed hardly any concentrate from Mongoliasince 2001. The Mednogorsk copper combine (part of UMMC) is now fed with copper concentrate from the Gay concentrator. In 2001, Mongolian concentrate was smelted in Russia at only the Karabashmed smelter. In 2002, UMMC resumed minor purchases of Mongolian concentrate, which were sent to the Sredneuralsk smelter (SUMZ).

    Meanwhile, imports of copper concentrate to Russia from Kazakhstan grew significantly in 2000-02. The main supplier was Kazzinc Corp. and the main consumer was SUMZ. In 2003, the parties could not reach an agreement on the terms of the supply, and the arrangement was terminated. Thus UMMC is importing only Mongolian concentrate this year.

    Russian copper concentrate exports are relatively low at 20,000-25,000 t/y. They include shipments by mining companies in the Russian Far East, Primorsky GOK and Far East Mining Co. (formerly known as Solnechny GOK), as these mines are located too far from the smelters in the Urals. The main destination is Southeast Asia, in particular Japan. Last year, limited exports of copper concentrate were recorded to the Almalyk Combine in Uzbekistan from Alexandrinskaya Co. in the Cheliabinsk region of the Urals. Russia will remain a net importer of copper concentrate for the foreseeable future. This would change with the development of Udokan (a large copper deposit in eastern Siberia), but this is not likely to happen in the near term.

    Despite increased Russian production of zinc concentrate in the past few years (mainly by Uchaly GOK), supplies are still insufficient to satisfy the demands of the Cheliabinsk zinc smelter and Electrozinc plant. Imports of zinc concentrate have exceeded 200,000 t/y (Figure 3). Around 80-85% of the total imports are shipped to the Electrozinc plant, and the main sources are Kazakhstan, Australia, Ireland, Canada, Poland and Romania. Imports to the Cheliabinsk smelter are decreasing.

    Total zinc concentrate imports into Russia from Kazakhstan have increased in the past two years to 120,000-130,000 t/y. The sources are Kazakhmys Corp. (Vostokkazmed Co.) and the Nova Zinc joint venture (formerly Akchatau GOK). Kazakhstan’s share of the total flow of zinc concentrate into Russia was steady in 2003, comprising about 70%. Zinc concentrate exports from Russia have also been steady in the past few years, totalling 50,000- 60,000 t/y. As in the copper concentrate market, the major exporters are Russian Far East-based companies, such as Dalpolimetall and Yaroslavksy GOK. As they are located far from the Russian zinc smelters, they export concentrates to China and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. China’s share of Russian zinc concentrate exports has risen from 33% in 2001 to 77% in 2002.

    Lead exports

    Russia remains a net exporter of lead concentrate owing to its limited lead smelting capacity. There are only two lead smelters in Russia, the Electrozinc plant and the Dalpolimetall Combine. The former currently processes only secondary lead, and not lead concentrate. (There are three other secondary lead plants in Russia.) Traditionally, the lead production facilities of the former Soviet Union were located in Kazakhstan: the Ust-Kamenogorsk and Chimkent smelters. The bulk of Russian concentrates are supplied to these facilities. In recent years, all lead concentrates from the Salairsky and Gorevsky concentrators have been shipped to the Ust-Kamenogorsk smelter which is a part of Kazzinc Corp. Gorevsky GOK has recently started to export lead concentrate also to China.

    Dalpolimetall accounted for about 40% of Russian lead concentrate exports in 2002. The company is unable to smelt all of the concentrate produced by its mines owing to its obsolete technology and the poor general condition of its smelting facilities. The main importers of the surplus concentrate are Korea and other countries in the East Asian region.

    Kazakhstan was short of copper raw materials until recent years, so copper concentrates were imported from Mongolia, Chile, Poland and elsewhere. The destination was mainly the Balkhash Combine (now part of Kazakhmys Corp.). However, owing to investments made by Samsung Corp. of South Korea (now a major shareholder in Kazakhmys), copper concentrate output in Kazakhstan has increased sharply in the past few years to reach 473,000 t in 2002. The previous peak was 332,000 t in 1990. This has resulted in Kazakhstan ceasing to import copper concentrate (Table 1).

    Kazakh shift

    Kazzinc Corp. has substantial amounts of copper in its mined ores, but no copper smelting facilities. Therefore, the main destination of copper concentrate from the Zyryanovsk and Ridder (formerly Leninogorsk) combines was Russia. The latter’s share of total Kazakh copper concentrate exports last year was about 67%. The balance was shipped to Uzbekistan and China. However, this year copper concentrate supplies from Kazakhstan to Russia have ceased (as noted above), and China’s share is expected to grow to more than 80% (Figure 4).

    Table 1 also shows rising zinc concentrate exports from Kazakhstan. Production of zinc in concentrate in 2002 was 393,000 t (compared with 279,000 t in 1990), and Kazakhstan does not have sufficient smelting capacity to convert this tonnage into zinc metal. Most of the zinc concentrate exports are made by Kazakhmys Corp., as the latter does not have its own zinc smelter (although the company expects to commission a zinc smelter at Balkhash in the near future).

    The main destination of zinc concentrate exports from Kazakhstan was Uzbekistan, where the Almalyk Combine has experienced a shortage of zinc concentrate for some time, although the country’s share has reduced, from 55% in 2001 to 45% in 2002. Meanwhile, exports to Russia have increased, to reach 115,000 t of concentrate in 2002. Supplies to China have also risen, to 75,000 t in 2002 from 22,000 t a year earlier. However, we expect a sharp reduction of Kazakh zinc concentrate exports after the commissioning of the Balkhash zinc smelter.

    During recent years, Kazakhstan has become a significant importer of lead concentrates. Despite increased lead concentrate production in the country (45,000 t in 2002), output has not yet regained the levels of the 1990s (unlike the situation in copper and zinc concentrates). This is due to the idling of the Achisay Combine which had been the main supplier of lead ore and concentrate in Kazakhstan. A shortage of lead concentrate is obvious at the Yuzhpolimetall lead smelter (formerly Chimkent), as the company is importing raw materials from Peru, Poland and elsewhere.

    Uzbek imports

    Uzbekistan is an importer of copper and zinc concentrates for the Almalyk Combine (AGMK). Until recently, AGMK exported lead concentrate to Kazakhstan, but this ceased with the end of lead-zinc mining at Almalyk. The share of imported raw materials in the total production of copper is just 4-5%, but imports are the only source of zinc concentrate. Copper concentrate imports come from Kazakhstan and Russia, although the amount isunder 20,000-30,000 t/y. Zinc concentrates are shipped from a range of countries, including Kazakhstan, Iran, Spain and Tunisia, of which Kazakhstan accounts for about 85%. 

    In conclusion, we expect base metal concentrate flows between the CIS countries to continue in importance, but their structure will change depending on the relationships between the large companies, new production capacity and increases in shipments to China.

    Dr. M. Burstein and Dr. I. Petrov
    "Mining Journal", 17 October 2003, p.302-303
     

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