Coal Miners to Expand Export Horizons
Russian coal companies are preparing to expand their export options to the Asia-Pacific region (APR), to countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. Such was reported to Izvestia by SUEK CEO Vladimir Rashevsky during the foundation-laying ceremony of a new coal-processing plant unit at the Tugnuisky open pit mine in Buryatia.
‘’Today, the APR market is the destination of choice for Russian coal. Globally, if annual export shipments represent about 1 billion tonnes, some 800 million tonnes go to the APR’’, reminded the SUEK CEO.
According to Vladimir Rashevsky, the prospect of increasing supplies to the region comes as its developing economies annually increase their consumption of thermal coal. New high-efficiency stations are already being built.
‘’We are not the only ones to carefully follow the latest developments in these markets. We are confident that Russian coal suppliers will remain competitive in the traditional markets of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China. We have subsidiaries in each of these countries and one of their most important activities is to promote Russian coal and remind foreign customers of its unique characteristics“, Vladimir Rashevsky explained.
At the same time, the SUEK CEO emphasised that some of the most important competitive advantages of domestic exporters should come from increases in efficiency across all production processes and personnel development. Specifically for SUEK, this includes plans to test both technical and operational innovations in Buryatia, where, as highlighted by the Acting Head of the Republic, Alexei Tsydenov, it is one of the region’s largest employers and taxpayers.
‘’We planned for the construction of the second unit of the coal beneficiation plant, which will increase the volume of processed coal by one and a half times. In 2019, the new unit will allow the plant to enrich 2,000 tonnes of coal per hour, compared to 1,500 per hour today. The depth and volume of enrichment will be increased, while older facilities will be modernised’’, explained the SUEK CEO.
For his part, Alexei Tsydenov noted that in parallel to the investments at the Tugnuisky open pit mine, operations will start at the Nikolsky hard coal deposit 18 kilometres away. These sites will operate as a single complex, increasing annual production by 12-15 million tonnes over the next five years. As for the near-term outlook, Vladimir Rashevsky stated that SUEK’s production volumes for this year should remain in line with last year’s levels and amount to a little over 100 million tonnes (105 million tonnes in 2016).
‘’As for competition in the domestic market, we do not single out any individual companies. We are more concerned about the situation on the international arena, where Russia follows Australia and Indonesia. This big three compete for the market. We also have South Africa and Colombia, which also want their share of the market.’’
Alexey Tsydenov's visit to the Republic’s largest coal enterprise coincided with another important industry event - the final stage of the professional coal miners Olympiad.
‘’The Olympiad is important for several reasons. First, to promote an exchange of experience and to provide an opportunity to be proud of one's profession, for people to prove themselves. Second, the competition helps develop technological solutions and practical applications,’’ noted Vladimir Rashevsky. At the same time, one of SUEK’s key focus areas centres on the improvement of all stages of personnel development.
‘’The success of the company and safety really depend on people, not on technology. No matter how excellent the equipment, if an operator is unable to work efficiently, then right from the get-go we will be unable to realise our potential. SUEK is now the third largest supplier of thermal coal in the world – something we achieved amid tough competition. For this reason, tens of thousands of employees receive training every year at SUEK training facilities, where they can even acquire new competencies. We also pay special attention to improving safety", Vladimir Rashevsky explained.
Alexei Tsydenov added that today, fortunately, the prestige of the coal mining profession is growing, and this is obvious when looking at the situation in Buryatia.
‘’Needless to say, several professions linked to the production plant are prestigious, as evidenced by local living conditions. The average salary is almost twice higher than in the rest of the region. Additionally, the level of organisation and company culture is also high," he said.
According to SUEK’s CEO, the modernisation of the company also encompasses environmental aspects. Out of RUB 3.5bn in investments, RUB 1bn is going to the construction of water treatment facilities. Vladimir Rashevsky also mentioned that the quality of the treated water will be higher than current federal standards.