As stated alongside its 3Q17 results, the group is expecting to start ramping up production at Usolskiy as part of a staggered commissioning schedule during next year. Seven continuous mining machines are operating underground and crews started working in the deposit’s two potash layers in late October.
Once it is fully operational, Phase 1 will have a total yearly production capacity of 2.3 million metric t of muriate of potash (MOP), which is the most common potassium source used as a fertilizer in agriculture.
The CEO of EuroChem, Dmitry Strezhnev, said: “We are moving closer to our goal of Phase 1 potash production at Usolskiy, a significant landmark in our potash investment programme.”
Construction work continues on the beneficiation complex at Usolskiy and its three main sections: grinding and flotation; drying and compaction; and thickening. A number of facilities, including the water supply, heating and ventilation systems, are waiting for certification. Boilers and other heating systems are being commissioned in preparation of the upcoming winter.
Clark Bailey, Head of the Group’s Mining division, commented: “We are currently on track to meet our combined production objectives for 2017/2018. To this end, our team is being trained on mining machines along with other equipment and processes and we are still recruiting additional employees. We will have about 2000 people working at Usolskiy once Phase 1 is complete.”
EuroChem-Usolskiy Potash is mining sections of the Verkhnekamskoe potash deposit, which is one of the world’s largest.
In addition to the Usolskiy Potash project, EuroChem holds a licence to develop the Gremyachinskoe deposit in the Volgograd region of Russia (known as the VolgaKaliy potash project), where first production of marketable product is anticipated in mid-2018. Underground development is continuing, and the site entered the potash layer in early October, slightly ahead of schedule.
Additional exploratory drilling confirmed previous estimates and established the thickness of the sylvinite seam at approximately 6 m. As of early November, the site had already lifted and stored more than 1200 t of potash ore to the surface.
Combined, the Usolskiy and VolgaKaliy potash projects represent a combined total investment of approximately $7 billion so far.