Nikolay Utkin: “We are successfully implementing all our plans”

Nikolay Utkin: “We are successfully implementing all our plans”

April 23, 2024

The Nornickel Polar Branch’s director answered questions from employees during the direct line.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. The Norilsk division has held an annual direct line with the Nornickel Polar Branch’s management. In an open dialogue with the workforce, the division’s top officials discussed important and hot topics: industrial safety and working conditions, innovation and sustainable development, new market challenges, environmental strategy, corporate medicine and others.

Nikolay Utkin, Nornickel’s senior vice president, Norilsk division’s head, the company’s Polar Branch’s director, was the first to answer the direct line questions.

“Our strategy remains unchanged. Today we are successfully implementing our projects that relate to the mineral resource base. These are primarily the mines in the Norilsk industrial region, the Medvezhy Rouchey enterprise. Of course, our processing capacity strategy is tailored to this. We plan to increase processing volumes at the Talnah enrichment plant. To achieve this goal, by 2027 we will have launched the plant’s third launch complex”, noted Nikolay Utkin. “Of course, we have encountered a number of difficulties, but we continue to implement the key programs of our strategy. They are related to the environment – today this topic dominates in Nornickel’s agenda; to reducing the anthropogenic load on our big city; to demolition of dilapidated housing and industrial facilities, and to land reclamation. We are increasing the pace here”.

As for the short term, as the Norilsk Division head noted, the fight against unprecedented challenges and sanction pressure is coming to the fore:

“All the teams of the Norilsk Division felt this. First of all, we are talking about supplies, ranging from mining equipment to the construction industry. Therefore, it was very important for us to rebuild logistics”.

Changes in supply chains, according to Nikolay Utkin, led to a decrease in production in 2023, which, however, the miners managed to level out in the fourth quarter of last year.

“I would like to thank the teams who showed their bearings, did not give up and did many things themselves, came up with them, and proposed innovative solutions. For example, miners were able to assemble five new underground mining machines, and all the equipment is automated”.

The sanctions also left their mark on the company in terms of profitability.

“Of course, we faced difficulties. Deliveries have lengthened, we carry them over long distances. Our products have become unclaimed in European and American markets. Of course, all this made us look at many things differently. We seriously thought about what to do next, what to offer next”, explained Nikolay Utkin. “And we focused on the program to improve production efficiency, which we implemented very successfully in 2018–2020, when, thanks to the contribution of each employee and investment programs, we significantly increased income. Today the time has come to revive this program. It started in January 2024 and is already producing results. A striking example is the repair of FSF-2 (flash smelting furnace) at the Nadezhda metallurgical plant. Reducing the work period brought a significant economic effect to the company – 31 billion rubles”.

At the same time, the company does not forget about the environmental agenda and social obligations to the city and the country.

“We have already launched the Sulfur Project’s first line, the deadlines are approaching when we should launch the second and third ones. The work is in full swing”, said the Norilsk Divisions head. “Of course, under the pressure of sanctions, we had to change design and technical solutions and purchase equipment analogues. But, most importantly, the technology has already proven itself. Measurements by independent organizations showed the results we were expecting – capturing 99 percent of SO2”.

Also, Nikolay Utkin dwelled on the issue of implementing social programs in Norilsk. He especially emphasized that a strategic partnership between the company and the city is impossible without caring for people, without opportunities for young professionals, without the sports life that is in full swing in Norilsk:

“People have a request, we have a desire. We will implement everything we have planned so that there will be more facilities like the Aika sports palace. We are not changing the plans and deadlines in this direction”.

Answering a question from workers whether there are prerequisites for reducing the production program by 2025, Nikolay Utkin emphasized that there are no such prerequisites:

We have maintained the 2023 production volumes; moreover, the miners have committed themselves to increase this figure by another million tons as part of increasing efficiency, relying on Medvezhy Rouchey. Now we are limited by only one thing – the reconstruction of the flash smelting furnace at Nadezhda metallurgical plant. But we chose the repair time from mid-May so that we would have the opportunity to catch up with new capacities. We promise to process all raw materials and melt all concentrates”.

Also, one of the popular topics that attracted a significant number of questions was personal protection equipment.

“Nornickel pays great attention to this issue; we have a collective agreement, norms, and standards. We are constantly improving in this area. Regardless of where a person works, near a stove or outdoors, there is a large selection of certified PPE; all enterprises use them. Moreover, about ten percent of the entire line is stored as leftovers in warehouses”, explained Nikolay Utkin. “Moreover, today an employee has the opportunity to buy certified workwear himself. Two manufacturing contractors work in Norilsk. The company, under a collective agreement, reimburses the employee for the costs incurred for the purchase of personal protective equipment. In addition, the purchase in 2025 will be made according to the new standards and requests that the staff themselves outlined”, the head emphasized.

Nikolay Utkin also talked about the Made with Care program. He recalled that since 2020 it has undergone changes:

“We spent about 500 million a year on maintaining showers and dressing rooms, but the condition of the premises was deteriorating. We increased funding to a billion, but were faced with the problem of project documentation’s lack. It took us a year to resolve all these issues. As a result, the dynamics are colossal. In 2023, five billion rubles were allocated to the program. 40 objects were put in order. In 2024, we will reach 80 objects and an amount of eight billion. At the Skalisty, Komsomolsky, Taimyrsky, Octyabrsky mines 3600 square meters are already in operation today. The plans are to commission about two thousand square meters more by the end of this year. Moreover, funding in 2024 is already eight billion rubles”.

As the senior vice president said, at the initiative of the Norilsk Division, the program was expanded. Now the facades of administrative buildings of enterprises and recreation centers have been added.

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April 23, 2024

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