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Lip for Elga

Albert Avdolyan's “A-Property” is planning to build a private railway from the Elginskoye deposit to the Udskaya Bay.

According to preliminary calculations, the project for the construction of a 660-kilometer section of the railway from Yakutia to the Khabarovsk Territory with the creation of a large port for transshipment of coal near the village of Chumikan can be implemented until 2027. At the moment, the issue is being discussed at the level of the government of the Russian Federation with the participation of the authorities of Yakutia, JSC Russian Railways and LLC MC Elga Ugol. EastRussia found out the details of the project.

Lip for Elga

Alternative to BAM

Recall that the idea of ​​laying a railway to the Okhotsk coast of the Khabarovsk Territory was announced on July 7 at a government meeting chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the development of the coal industry and the export of export coal from Kuzbass and Yakutia. Oleg Belozerov, Director General of Russian Railways, announced the possibility of organizing a new route. According to him, at present, shipments from the Elga coal deposit are growing, and in order to reduce the load on the BAM, an alternative scheme for delivering coal for export is possible.

“Colleagues suggested an option - to build a separate branch in the direction of the Pacific Ocean, provided that they were given the opportunity to export coal. That is, it will not even be BAM or Transsib, but one more new line higher, a third, parallel (BAM - ed.), Towards the Pacific Ocean. We, too, are now considering this option together with them and will propose to the government in order to additionally expand these capacities, ”said the head of Russian Railways.

EastRussia infographics

The head of state said that he had heard about such an idea for the first time. “But if it makes sense, do that too. You just have to do something, you can't just sit there, ”he added. 

Information: The Elginsky open-pit mine in Yakutia produces premium quality hard coking coal (grades Zh, GZh, GZhO). The development of the deposit became possible thanks to the construction of the railway Elga - Ulak (Verkhnezeisk) with a length of 317 km. Its construction was first carried out in 2000-2002 by the Ministry of Railways of the Russian Federation. Then, work resumed in February 2008, after Mechel acquired the Elgaugol company (owns a license for the right to use the subsoil of the Elga deposit). The end-to-end railway communication from the open pit to the loading station of Verkhnezeysk (Far Eastern Railroad) started operating in 2012. The volume of investments in the project amounted to about 40 billion rubles. The owner of the non-public track from the Elga station to the Russian Railways infrastructure is now Elga-Doroga LLC, the maintenance of this section is carried out on the basis of the concluded agreement by Elga-Trans LLC. On April 30, 2020, Albert Avdolyan's A-Property holding became the main shareholder of Elgaugol LLC.

According to EastRussia, the issue of building a new railway from the Elga field to the coast of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk was raised several years ago. It was worked out by representatives of the Far Eastern Railway, and initially it was proposed to design a section of the route from Elga to the northeast - to the port of Ayan.

Apparently, the idea has been corrected over time. According to the Ministry of Industry and Geology of Yakutia, the project provides for the construction of a railway line from the Elginskoye field to the east - in the direction of the village of Chumikan on the Udskaya Guba (Khabarovsk Territory). The approximate length of the route with a carrying capacity of 30 million tons annually will be about 660 km. “It is also planned to build a seaport in the Chumikan area with a transshipment capacity of 30 million tons per year. More precise parameters for the project will be specified later, ”the ministry said.

It was not possible to get a comment from the Ministry of Transport and Roads of the Khabarovsk Territory. The FSBI "Administration of the Sea Ports of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk and the Tatar Strait" clarified that they did not receive official requests regarding the organization of coal transshipment in Chumikan: "It is not known to what extent this issue was worked out by the initiator, but no one contacted us." The regional authorities do not know about the plans of Russian Railways and coal miners. "This is the first time I've heard this," the head of the Tuguro-Chumikansky district, Isabella Osipova, admitted in an interview with EastRussia. 

Coal is hard on the way

"Elgaugol" does not comment on the situation with the possible construction of the road. It is known that over the past year the loading of coal from the Elginsky open-pit mine has significantly increased. If in May 2020, 1,8 thousand wagons with cargo were sent (this is one or two train routes per day), then in April 2021 - more than 15 thousand.Today, up to nine to ten trains are formed there every day.

Last year's production at Elga approached 7 million tons, and by the end of this year the company plans to increase it by another 11 million tons. The increase in production is associated with export plans. Recall that at the end of 2020, Elgaugol signed an agreement to establish a joint venture with the Chinese sea carrier GH-Shipping. The joint venture is being set up to sell coking Elgin coal in China, including in light of China's intentions to replace imported coal from Australia with products from other supplying countries.

Today, Verkhnezeysk, which receives products from Elga, is ahead of such large coal loading stations of the Far Eastern Railway as Berkakit (the main consignor is Yakutugol) and Chegdomyn (Urgalugol) in terms of cargo handling. However, infrastructure constraints stand in the way of growing volumes. Even the ongoing program of modernization of the Baikal-Amur Mainline has not yet made up for the capacity deficit. By the order of the government of the Russian Federation dated April 28, 2021, the target parameters of the II stage of development of the Eastern landfill were fixed, according to which the total carrying capacity of the BAM and Transsib should increase to 2025 million tons annually by 180, while in 2020 the cargo traffic towards the Pacific ports amounted to almost 140 mln. Meanwhile, according to the forecasted data of the Far Eastern Railway, only to the Vanino-Sovgavan junction in a few years, loading may increase by almost 86 million tons (in 2020, their terminals handled 32,2 million tons of various cargoes with their participation). The forecast is primarily related to the plans of coal mining enterprises in the Far East. In particular, Kolmar Management Company plans to load an additional 12,5 million tons annually by last year's transportation volume, Ogodzhinskaya Coal Company LLC - 9,8 million tons, Urgalugol JSC - 4,6 million tons, Elgaugol LLC - 24,4 million tons. In addition, one should not forget about the prospects for increasing transit coal from Siberia.

As Oleg Belozerov reported at a meeting on the development of the coal industry, now Russian Railways is working on the formation of the III stage of the development of the Eastern landfill. The monopoly will present its developments to the members of the Russian government in July-August this year. As expected, due to additional measures (including the continuation of the construction of second tracks on the BAM sections, the construction of a second bridge across the Amur near Komsomolsk and the laying of a second new Kuznetsovsky tunnel near Vysokogornaya station), in 2027, railway workers will be able to provide passage to the Pacific Ocean for another 32 million tons of cargo annually. But there is a risk that in this case, too, the needs of Russian exporters in transportation - while maintaining the current trend of increasing supplies to the APR countries - will not be fully satisfied. 

Time and money

As specified in the Ministry of Industry and Geology of Yakutia, the implementation of a new infrastructure project for the export of Elga coal will be financed by the coal company without attracting budgetary sources. The preliminary work will take five years - from 2021 to 2026. For the period of construction, for the growth of coal shipments from Elga, an option is being considered to increase the number of main-line locomotives to ensure the export of all supplied volumes of goods through the infrastructure of the BAM and Transsib, the ministry explained.

We are talking, in particular, about 3-section diesel locomotives of the new generation 3TE25K2M, which are more powerful than their predecessors. The nominal diesel engine power of one section of this locomotive (its power plant uses a GEVO12 diesel engine manufactured by the American General Electric) is 4,2 thousand hp, while the TE10 diesel locomotive operated since Soviet times has 3 thousand hp. ... As of May, there were 58 vehicles of this series on the Far Eastern Railway. Part of the park is involved in the delivery of goods received from the Trans-Siberian Railway in the direction of Volochaevka-2 - Komsomolsk - Vanino, the other part is involved in the transportation of Elginsky coal from Verkhnezeysk to Komsomolsk. By the end of 2021, according to the investment program of Russian Railways, another 22 3TE25K2M locomotives are to be delivered to the Far Eastern Mainline. However, the issue of increasing the purchase of equipment to 40-50 units is being considered, if there is appropriate funding.

The amount of construction of the railway from Elga to the Sea of ​​Okhotsk is not named. In part, the laying of this route in difficult geographic conditions can be compared with the planned construction of a section of the railway from Tuva to the Krasnoyarsk Territory Elegest - Kyzyl - Kuragino (length - 410 km). In 2019, investments in the construction of the branch were estimated at 126,6 billion rubles, that is, 1 km of the road could cost more than 300 million rubles. According to the most rough estimates, the cost of laying a railway line to Chumikan is no less than 200 billion rubles. To this must be added the cost of the locomotive fleet, which will operate in this direction, other technological facilities for the organization of transportation (depot, rolling stock maintenance points, etc.)

We should add that in order to increase the shipment of fuel, A-Property is now forced to allocate funds not only to the development of coking coal production, but also to the existing railway section Elga - Ulak, which needs to be brought up to industry standards. In 2020, the amount of contracts signed for the construction of tracks and capital structures on this branch amounted to almost 6,7 billion rubles. 

Ice terminal

Of course, a considerable expense item will be associated with the creation of a coal port. Among the latest projects in the field of port infrastructure in the Khabarovsk Territory is the VaninoTransUgol terminal, which was commissioned in 2020 (the first stage is designed for annual transshipment of 12 million tons, after the launch of the second cargo turnover it will be up to 24 million). Investments in the project were estimated at 37 billion rubles.

Moreover, the conditions of navigation in Chumikan are much more complicated than in Vanino. The head of the Tuguro-Chumikansky region was skeptical about the idea of ​​creating a year-round port. “Even in more northern regions, like Ayano-Maisky and Okhotsky, navigation begins much earlier - in April-May, while in our country, at best, only at the end of June. Due to its peculiarities, the Udskaya Bay is clogged with ice for a long time. Already on July 15, and we have not yet received a single ship with food, ”says Isabella Osipova.

Nikolay Tatarinov, the head of the FSBI “Administration of the Sea Ports of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk and the Tatar Strait”, noted that in order to carry out transportation in this shipping area, it is necessary to have serious icebreaker support, and merchant vessels must be of ice class. At the same time, the shipper of coal may face a shortage of a specialized fleet for the export of products.

“There is experience in the work of oil workers who work in difficult northern conditions. But they have a powerful fleet that ensures work in ice conditions, - says Nikolay Tatarinov. - The port of Magadan operates all year round: transportation to it is about 1,5 million tons annually. But icebreaker escort is organized there and ships of the ice class Arc4 with general cargo and containers are sailing. However, there are only a few available bulk carriers for the export of coal of this class ”.

Alternatively, "Elgaugol" can accumulate consignments of coal products at the terminal in winter, and then actively, with the improvement of ice conditions, ship them to sea transport. However, will it ultimately be beneficial for the company? 

More roads, useful and different

Nevertheless, if the plans are implemented, Tuguro-Chumikansky will become the first district of the Khabarovsk Territory, remote from the year-round ground communication, where the railway will come. Although it is unlikely to serve for passenger transportation, as, indeed, for the needs of other shippers. “As of today, it is envisaged to build a railway only for the export of goods from Elgaugol. At the same time, changes are possible in the future, ”the Ministry of Industry and Geology of Yakutia did not rule out.

The fact that the "piece of iron" should eventually come to the Tuguro-Chumikansky district was implied even during the formation of the Strategy for the development of railway transport until 2030 in the decade before last. The authorities of the Khabarovsk Territory then proposed building a single-track Postyshevo - Tugur railway. It could help in the creation of the Tugurskaya tidal power plant and in the development of the Kutyn gold deposit. There is still no clarity with the first object, and as for the second, the start of stripping work at the mine, which is now owned by Polymetal, is scheduled for the third quarter of 2021, with the first ore being mined in early 2022. Access to Kutyn can be carried out by the winter road in the cold season, as well as by water through the Ulbansky Bay - from July to October.

In turn, the Russian Klondike gold mining company (Magadan) prepared a business plan for laying a railway from Postyshevo station to the village of Tugur, and then along the coast of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk to the capital of Kolyma through Chumikan, Ayan and Okhotsk. This route, the company said, is shorter than the Yakutsk (Nizhny Bestyakh) - Magadan route by 400 km. And if you send goods along it to the non-freezing ports of the Far East, the route will be shortened by more than 2 thousand km. The line also gravitates towards large deposits.

The specialists of the Dalgiprotrans Institute were involved in the development of the route. It was believed that the appearance of a railway on the Okhotsk coast would in many ways give an impetus to the development of the Khabarovsk Territory. “Pre-design developments have shown that the construction of the Postyshevo-Magadan line is technically achievable. The relief is generally uncomplicated, there are no serious river barriers. The only thing is that the route from Tugur to Chumikan passes through the passes, so the construction of a tunnel is not excluded, ”said the designers.

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