24 Jan 2023 17:22

Nornickel says China sales increasing, this little to do with politics

MOSCOW. Jan 24 (Interfax) - China is taking a bigger share of MMC Norilsk Nickel's sales, but this has much more to do with where demand is sourced than with politics, Sergei Stepanov, the Arctic mining and smelting giant's Senior Vice-President and Operational Director, told reporters.

Nickel, copper, platinum and gold sales are stable, the company has not built up stocks of nickel and copper, he said.

Nornickel sees no reason to reduce the production plan for 2023 in terms of demand, recalling that the company produces precious metals as a by-product.

"The nickel market is normal, the price is stable, so we think that if we produce volumes close to 2022, then they will be sold," he said.

Geographically, China's share of Nornickel's sales is growing and this is not related to politics so much as to a global redistribution of demand towards battery manufacturers taking place within the nickel market.

"We're getting a few more Chinese contracts, Asian contracts, specifically with battery manufacturers. And at least 70% of the changes are caused not by the political situation, but where demand is sourced. Some segments are stable, some segments are growing, and we are actively trying to change the product range," Stepanov said.

He said that half of Nornickel's exports went to Europe and 20% to America as of the beginning of 2022.

Stepanov also said Nornickel had now resolved difficulties with feedstock supplies to its Finnish plant Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta, which were caused by the refusal of the Finnish railway operator VR Group to transport Russian cargo. Harjavalta has signed a contract with another Finnish operator, he said.

As logistics disruptions likely to recur this year, Nornickel has been more conservative with its Harjavalta production plan. "In 2023, we have so far come up with a slightly more conservative plan for Finland, realizing that such things can happen again and we must not let customers down. We have about 40,000 tonnes of products from Finland contracted with a production plan of 50,000 tonnes and capacity of 65,000 tonnes. That is, we are still covering our obligations for 2023 with room to spare, even in the framework of a conservative plan, but we could produce more by 20% of this high-value product," Stepanov said.