Nornickel, Russia’s leading metals and mining company, has begun extraction at the Glubokaya (Deep) shaft of the Skalisty (Rocky) mine, reaching depths of 2 kilometers. This move will enable Nornickel to substantially boost extraction of the most valuable and rich ore.
To initiate the extraction, the company connected two independent vertical shafts—the ventilation and skip-hoist. The connection was achieved at a depth of 1,943 meters. This integration facilitated the mine’s essential infrastructure and initiated its primary ventilation system. No one in the Eurasian mining industry has ventured this deep before, Nornickel said.
The construction of the safe, high-tech Deep shaft at the Rocky mine is one of Nornickel’s pivotal investment projects, significantly influencing the company’s mineral resource base development outlook.
Currently, the mine holds about 60 million tonnes of rich ore, roughly 20 million tonnes of copper ore, and more than 200 million tonnes of speckled ore. With the connection of these two shafts, access has been gained to new horizons of the Oktyabrsky deposit, where more than 37 million tons of rich ore have been explored and confirmed.
Mine builders worked on connecting the two shafts for three years. The first explosion took place on 19December 19 2019, conducted by experts from Kanex Shaft Construction LLC. Each month, miners progressed between 50 and 85 meters. More than two kilometers were covered on each horizon. According to Igor Kostenko, head of the Rocky mine development division, the most challenging part of the connection process was achieving precision.
In total, more than 20,000 carts of rock were blasted and transported to the surface. For securing the new exploratory passage, 27,000 anchors and steel frames were set in place. Utility networks were established with more than 6.5 km of piping being installed. The result was a nearly perfectly straight exploratory passage, 2,269 meters in length with a cross-sectional area of more than 16.5 square meters. In the next phase, mine builders will focus on further developing the horizons to facilitate ore extraction.
Deviation over such distances, especially at such depths, is immensely challenging. We sought assistance from specialized surveying services multiple times. By the time of connection, the deviation was only 250 mm with a shaft width of 4,300 mm. It’s perfect!—Igor Kostenko
By 2030, the mine aims to increase rich ore extraction volumes by 45%: from 2.5 million tonnes annually to 3.4 million tonnes. Nikolai Utkin, Senior Vice President and Head of the Norilsk Division, anticipates growth as early as next year due to ore accessed during exploratory passage works. The outcomes of these operations will allow for more accurate planning regarding the efficient mining of the deep-seated rich ore reserves.
The prospects are enormous. By 2027, using the established shaft, we plan to elevate 1.8 million tonnes of rich ore annually. This will not only replenish declining capacities but also guarantee an annual extraction growth of 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes. That ensures over 20 years of steady, consistent operation. We operate under a strategy of expanding our ore base. Despite challenges, we managed to conclude this phase and will confidently continue our construction. This underscores our firm intentions and the stability of the company.—Nikolai Utkin
The Norilsk Division is Nornickel’s flagship, with a full metals production cycle from ore mining to the shipment of finished products to customers. Operating the largest deposits in the company’s portfolio, the Norilsk Division mines more than 18 Mtpa of copper-nickel sulfide ore.
The Norilsk Division mines copper-nickel sulfide ores of three grades: rich ores, characterized by a higher content of base and precious metals; cuprous ores, with a higher copper content vs nickel; and disseminated ores, with a lower content of all metals.
The Talnakhskoye and Oktyabrskoye deposits are developed by Taimyrsky, Oktyabrsky, Komsomolsky, Skalisty and Mayak Mines. The mines deploy slicing and chamber methods with the cut-and-fill system. Stopes are refilled with backfill mixtures, with their composition adjusted in each case depending on technological requirements for mine backfill durability.