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Annushka has already scattered coal ...

The Far East is becoming a zone of escalation of intercontinental coal disputes. They will inevitably affect the role of Russia as an exporter, and those who produce coal in the country, and those who transport it.

The developer of the Elga coking coal deposit promises an explosive growth in exports from Yakutia from the current 30 to XNUMX million tons. With this coal, China can replace the Australian one - it was abandoned in the Celestial Empire for a number of reasons. But the capacity of the railway infrastructure is not rubber, and it is already not enough for everyone. Will the state support its coal miners so that the koalas become even sadder?

Annushka has already scattered coal ...


Elgaugol LLC (part of Albert Avdolyan's A-Property) signed an agreement on the establishment of a joint venture with the Chinese sea carrier GH-Shipping on December 15. The preliminary term of cooperation is five years, with a further extension for a similar period. The joint venture, headquartered in Shanghai, will import, process and sell low sulfur and phosphorus coking Elgin coal for the Chinese market. In fact, the joint venture will be the exclusive representative of Elgaugol in China.

"This project is a new model of cooperation in the field of energy between the two countries," said Zhang Hanhui, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to Russia. The activities of the joint venture should provide a noticeable increase in trade between the countries - more than $ 5 billion a year.

It is noteworthy that the agreement was concluded when the Celestial Empire leaves the usual schemes for importing raw materials. Alexander Isaev, general director of ElgaUgol Management Company, said that supplies of coking coal from Yakutia will allow China to replace a significant amount of Australian and American coal of similar quality.

Back in October 2020, state-owned power plants and steel mills in China received a verbal order to stop imports of coal from Australia, according to S&P Platts. The argument was the inferiority of product quality, but the real underlying reason is the aggravation of relations between countries on a number of political problems. Domestic coking coal prices in the PRC eventually reached a four-year high, and traders began to switch to Russian and Indonesian coal.

Today, China has the greatest influence on world prices as the largest importer of coking coal. “According to our forecasts, in 2021 coal prices will be in the range of $ 145-150 (per 1 ton - editor's note), but we expect high volatility in the markets due to the political relations between China and Australia. Price behavior in China and outside of China will depend on whether the relationship will improve or worsen, ”says Anna Tsivileva, chairman of the board of directors of Kolmar.

A positive factor, she said, is the fact that the global economy is recovering more actively than previously predicted. Thus, in 2021, steel demand is expected to grow by 4,1%, mainly due to China.



Yakutsk coal, including coking grades, has been exported for a long time. Back in Soviet times, it was transported to Japan from the Neryungri field along the BAM. “Taking into account the existing and new assets of the coal mining industry, in 5 years, the production of high-quality coal in the republic can double - up to 50 million tons per year,” predicts Spiridon Soloviev, chief specialist of the industry department of the Ministry of Industry and Geology of Yakutia. He specified that the coal mined in the region is now mainly exported to China, but there are prospects for expanding the geography of supplies - to Japan, South Korea, India.

Today the export-oriented project is being implemented by Kolmar Management Company, which is creating the Inaglinsky mining and processing plant. It is planned that by 2023 this GOK will reach a production capacity of 12 million tons for the extraction and processing of coal annually. In the future, this volume is expected to double. To export its products, Kolmar built a coal port near Vanino.

If we talk about Elga, then production at the field began almost 10 years ago. At first the licensed block was owned by Mechel, this year A-Property got control over the mine. The field supplies both the domestic market and export. In particular, by the end of 2020, 1-1,5 million tons will be supplied to China, which is the main buyer of Elgin coal.

With the arrival of the new owner, the development of the open pit has intensified. In November, the Elginskoye field for the first time entered the monthly production and shipment of 1 million tons of coal, or 12 million tons per year. At the same time, for the transportation of products in this volume, the carrying capacity of the Elga - Ulak railway with a length of 340 km was increased, which serves as an access road connecting the section with the infrastructure of Russian Railways at BAM. Elgaugol's further intentions are to increase the capacity of the coal mining complex.

Due to cooperation with GH-Shipping, coal shipments from the Elga to China are planned to be increased to 15-18 million tons in 2021, 20-24 million - in 2022, 30 million tons - from 2023. Subsequently, the annual export volume may increase to 50 million tons.

As the company clarified, the geographical location is a great advantage of the Elga field: the logistic route to the ports of the Far East, from where the coal will be exported, is about 1,1 thousand km long, while the length of the logistics chains of competitors is about 5 thousand km. ... Elgaugol reported that they are working in close contact with the management of Russian Railways for coal transportation.


Indeed, Elgaugol's plans, like other Far Eastern coal miners intending to increase production, depend on the public railway infrastructure. Today, more than half of the coal sent by the country's railways to the sea terminals of Russia goes to the stevedores of the Far East. The entire loading of export cargo in the direction of the Far Eastern ports on the Russian Railways network in January-November increased to 100,6 million tons, with an increase of 7,3% compared to last year's level. About 85 million tons of coal were shipped, which is 6,8% more than a year earlier.

According to Gennady Nesteruk, First Deputy Head of the Far Eastern Railway for Economics, Finance and Corporate Coordination, financial injections helped to ensure the growth of traffic to the ports. In 2019-2020, 174,6 billion rubles were invested in the development of the Far Eastern Railway. The money was spent on the design, reconstruction and construction of stations and sidings, double-track inserts and second tracks, as well as the renewal of rolling stock - this year alone, 220 units of locomotives of various series were purchased for the main line, which was the largest supply of locomotive equipment for many years.

However, the infrastructure of the road, despite serious financial injections, is working to the limit. Considering Elgaugol's plans, the increase in shipments from the Elginskoye deposit in 2021 may amount to at least 10 million tons, while the Far Eastern Railway expects an increase of “only” 2,2 million tons. An explosive increase in coal exports will not happen if there is nothing for it will be lucky. At the same time, A-Property plans to build its own transshipment terminal in Vanino. But the way there lies along the rails, and they are already cramped.


In addition to the needs of the Far Eastern miners, it is necessary to ensure the transit of coal from Kuzbass, for which the Asia-Pacific markets are extremely beneficial today. In December, Russian Railways and the government of the Kemerovo Region agreed to extend the main parameters for the export of products from coal enterprises in the region towards the Far East. Next year, as in 2020, Kuzbass shippers must submit for transportation, and the monopoly must ensure the transportation of at least 53 million tons of coal for export to the east. However, the Governor of the Kemerovo Region Sergey Tsivilev emphasizes that the work of the region with Russian Railways does not end there: Kuzbass is ready to increase the volume of export, for which the regional authorities will continue to defend the need for further modernization of the Eastern landfill (the project to modernize the BAM and Transsib).

On the other hand, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Yuri Trutnev pointed out the insufficient attention of the monopoly to the needs of Far Eastern industries. According to him, now the supply to the Pacific ports is provided, first of all, cargo transit for the Far East, and the needs of local shippers are only partially satisfied. Due to restrictions on the acceptance of products for loading, companies such as Kolmar, Elgaugol cannot operate normally and sell the entire volume of mined coal. Plans to increase coal exports to China will only spur the struggle of miners to ensure the export of their own raw materials. Who will the railway workers give preference to - Siberians or Far Easterners? And how far are coal miners ready to go, seeking the favor of the railroad workers? After all, its presence or absence can become an existential question for them. How can you resist not complicating your competitor's life?

On December 10, at a meeting of the Council of the Far Eastern Federal District, at which the issue of the development of the Eastern test site was considered, Trutnev instructed the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Eastern Development and the Russian Railways to compare the cost of modernizing BAM and Transsib with the profit from tariff transportation and income to budgets of all levels from the implementation of investment projects, for which new bandwidths are created. According to the Deputy Prime Minister, the railway infrastructure modernization program should be synchronized with the implementation of investment projects in the real sector of the Far Eastern Federal District, and not only take into account the interests of coal miners in Western Siberia.

A source in the railway industry notes that there really is a dilemma of how to simultaneously ensure the passage of transit goods from Siberia and increase local loading - in 2021 it is planned to increase export deliveries not only from Yakutia, but also from the Khabarovsk Territory, where Urgalugol is mining SUEK). In conditions of limited road capacity, it is necessary to resort to the perfection of transportation technologies.

The fleet of new locomotives of the 3TE25K2M series is being expanded to transport Far Eastern coal to BAM. Compared to diesel locomotives 3TE10MK, produced in Soviet times and later modernized, these machines are more powerful and efficient: they can handle freight trains of increased mass up to 7100 tons against the previous weight norm of 5600 tons. Due to this, more cargo can be delivered to ports, thus the same size of train traffic.

In connection with the active development of the Elga field, where today up to 480 wagons are loaded per day, the possibility of a larger transfer of trains to the previously less popular rockad section Urgal - Izvestkovaya, connecting the BAM and Transsib, is being considered. “The capacities of BAM are sufficiently loaded, hence the increasing release of train traffic to the Trans-Siberian through the Izvestkovaya station is required. If earlier we drove 1-2 loaded routes per day along the Urgal-Izvestkovaya section, now it is 5-6, and there is a need to increase the size of the movement further, ”says the source of EastRussia.

Next year, the II stage of the Eastern polygon modernization will start. By 2025, the carrying capacity of the BAM section Fevralsk - Urgal - Komsomolsk, along which Elga coal is transported, will be about 50 million tons. This is twice as high as the current capacity, but this will clearly not be enough if the plans of all coal miners are implemented. Oleg Tokarev, Minister of the Coal Industry of the Kemerovo Region, said that in order to accelerate the development of the Eastern landfill, it is necessary to increase investments.

The state has already made it known that there will be no savings on investments in the Eastern landfill - the government as a whole has agreed on the investment program of Russian Railways for 2021-2023, and a total of 90 billion rubles have been withdrawn from the development of approaches to the port zones of the Azov-Black Sea basin and the North-West. but funding for BAM and the Eastern test site was left at the same level. In 2021, investments in the landfill will amount to about 134 billion rubles, on the BAM - 140 billion. By 2024, the throughput capacity of the BAM and Transsib may grow 1,5 times - up to 180 million tons. The sovereign interest in the markets of the APR countries is more global than “simple” displacement Australia from the Chinese coal market, but for Elga, the question is to meet the deadline - the rapid increase in exports and the opening up of bottlenecks on the highways are unlikely to be synchronized. The possibility of desynchronization is aggravated by the fact that other coal mining companies do not sit idly by - next year Kolmar will bring the first stage of the Inaglinskaya-2 enrichment plant to full capacity for processing 6 million tons, in 2023 the second stage is expected to be commissioned, and this another 6 million tons. And on the horizon looms India, which is ready to buy from Russia up to 40 million tons per year, while now imports less than 1 million tons.                



The Sakhalin authorities decided to use the situation with the limited carrying capacity of the BAM in order to again draw attention to the idea of ​​creating a transport passage between the mainland and Sakhalin. According to Governor Valery Limarenko, the use of the island as an alternative to the mainland ports of the Far Eastern basin will significantly increase the cargo turnover for the region. This makes it expedient to build a transition to the mainland.

“Today, cargo, primarily coal, cannot be exported in full. In addition, it would be expedient to connect Sakhalin and De-Kastri by rail, where LNG capacities will be developed. Vice Prime Minister (Yuri Trutnev - ed.) Instructed to calculate the economic benefits of developing the railway and submit a business plan, - said the Sakhalin governor. “I am sure that the Sakhalin-mainland bridge will make it possible to maximize the potential of the island region for the transit of goods.”

At present, the main design solutions for the construction of the Selikhin (Khabarovsk Territory) - Nysh (Sakhalin Region) railway line with a crossing over the Nevelskoye Strait have been developed by a design institute and are undergoing departmental examination at Russian Railways. But the high cost of the work - roughly the construction is estimated at 800 billion rubles. - makes the term of the project implementation uncertain. Although the idea of ​​Russia's third exit to the Pacific Ocean, as a railway connection between the mainland and Sakhalin, has many supporters. It will undoubtedly relieve the Vanino route, however, in order to get to the Selikhin station, coal must be transported through the BAM, and its throughput ... see above. (for more details about the prospects for the delivery of coal to the island, read the material EastRussia "The bridge project was drawn with coal")

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