A brief report on the MINEX Russia 2014 Forum

Minex2014-D2-71MINEX Russia Forum which celebrated its 10th Anniversary this year, was held in Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel in Moscow from 7-9 October 2014.

MINEX Russia, held in Moscow since 2005, is one of the largest and most prestigious international events dedicated to addressing issues related to  ongoing  developments and prospects for exploration, mining and  processing of solid minerals in Russia and countries of the Eurasian Economic Community. MINEX Russia Forum is attended by top executives  and managers from leading Russian and international companies involved in the mining sector in the region. Forum is regarded as one of the most successful business platforms organized in Russia which effectively stimulates and promotes trade relations and exchange of best practices and technologies in geological and mining industry.

The main topic of the 2014 Forum was Russia’s Mineral Resources Sector – New Frontiers and Challenges.

The Forum was attended by more than 550 delegates – representatives of companies, government agencies and public sector organisations. The on-site exhibition of mining investment projects and technologies for the mining industry had more than 800 visitors. The Forum agenda consisted of 98 presentations and reports by speakers from Russian and international companies.  Forum also hosted 3 round table discussions that addressed issues of regulation of subsoil use in Russia as well as discussed prospects for attracting funding and investment for mining industry in  the current geopolitical and economic situation. Expert assessment of the prospects for major investment in the projects in the Far East and attracting strategic investors from the Asia-Pacific region were also discussed.

Five master classes for mining professionals were held on the first day of the Forum on 7 October. Master classes were organised by the leading experts from Intergeo, SRK Consulting, DMT, Vostochnaya Technica (Caterpillar) and Uralmekhanobr. Master classes addressed issues ranging from licensing in the mineral resources to optimisation of transportation costs.

The opening of the main program of the Forum on 8 October was preceded by an associated event –  the round table  “CURRENT ISSUES OF SUBSOIL USE IN RUSSIA IN 2014”  where senior representatives of the Federal Agency for Subsoil Use (Rosnedra) met with the heads of more than 50  major subsoil users in  Russia to discuss priority issues facing the Russian mining industry . The round table was led by Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation – the head of the Federal Agency for Subsoil Use (Rosnedra) Valery Pak and Deputy Head of the Federal Agency for Subsoil Use Evgeny Kiselev. They reported on the measures taken by the Agency in order to improve its practice concerning subsoil users and solve problems which were discussed at the round table held at the previous MINEX forum in 2013 .

This was followed by the open discussion which resulted in a set of recommendations to be included in the MINEX Russia 2014 Memorandum.

The participants of the MINEX Russia Forum were welcomed by David Pearce, Chairman of MINEX Russia Technical Committee and the Keynote address was delivered by Valery Pak, Head of Federal Agency for Subsoil Use (Rosnedra) of the Russian Federation/ Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation.

In his welcome address at the beginning of the forum Paul Myler, the Australian Ambassador to the Russian Federation, noted that despite the difficult political situation, Australian companies continue to operate in the Russian mining industry.  Mr Myler stressed that more than 50% of the Australian mining equipment manufacturers and mining consulting companies are present in the Russian market  and expressed hope for further development of trade and economic relations between Russia and Australia.

Most speakers, including the Head of the Federal Agency for Subsoil Use (Rosnedra), Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation Valery Pak, emphasized that the rich mineral resources base of Russia has a significant impact on the economy of the country, and noted that the government is actively working to improve conditions and facilitate better performance for subsoil users in Russia.

At the six plenary sessions of the Forum 33 presentations addressing issues concerning current state and future prospects for the mining industry in Russia were delivered by prominent speakers.

One of the indicators of the industry’s development status in the current situation would be a level of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the mining industry in Russia. In his presentation Alexey Mohjarov, Economic Affairs Officer, UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) said that in 2013, FDI in the transition countries increased by 28% to 108 billion US Dollars. The main recipients were  Russia and Kazakhstan (they accounted for 82% of total FDI). Russia ranks third in the world in attracting FDI, and the UK last year became the largest investor in Russia – 23% of total FDI in the Russian Federation in 2013 came from UK.

Current classification of mineral reserves does not allow to realistically plan production levels to satisfy the needs of the national economy for mineral resources in the medium and long term.  There is also no productive dialogue between the state and subsoil users, said Igor Shpurov, General Director, Russia's State Commission on Mineral Reserves (GKZ), presenting to the Forum a project to develop new classification of reserves and resources for hard minerals.

Vasily Alexeenko, Vice President of SNL Metals and Mining, assessed prospects for the development of prospecting activities and the renewal of mineral reserves. According to the experts, if we look at the share of exploration for the past 10 years, Russia was a main place of exploration in the region until 2010 when Chinese companies took over this role. The situation changed in 2013, when Russia took the leading position again – mainly due to significant increases in the budgets of Alrosa. However, it is not clear whether this will be sustainable considering geopolitical instability between Russia, Ukraine and the West.

How to make money in spite of falling prices and complicated geopolitical situation? The answer to this question was given by the top executives from the leading Russian mining companies – Polymetal International, Nordgold, Kinross Gold Corporation and METALLOINVEST in their presentations during the 2nd plenary session – Mining Strategies – Embracing New Realities and Building for Future Growth.

Overview of future projects in the exploration, mining and processing of precious metals was presented at the Forum by executives of Rosgeologiya and gold mining companies Auriant Mining, Pavlik and North Eastern Resources. Innovative approaches to the development of copper-nickel, uranium, coal and iron ore projects were highlighted in the presentations of representatives of Amur Minerals Corporation, Uranium One, Tigers Real Coal, Evraz (project Timir) and Severstal.

Development of exploration and mining projects in the framework of a modern regulatory system in mining industry was discussed at the session, organized with the support of the international law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. The session presented the experiences of companies Nordgold, Intergeo, IMC Montand and the Subcommittee for Subsoil Users of the Committee of Precious Metals and Precious Stones at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation.

The impact of economic sanctions on the ability of the mining and metallurgical companies in Russia to attract debt financing and direct investments  was discussed at the Forum by experts and leaders from the Sberbank CIB, the International Finance Corporation, Citi, Rusnano Capital, EY, WAI, American Appraisal and Behre Dolbear Capital.  Sergey Donskoy, a Senior Equity Analyst in the Societe Generale IB (Rosbank), answering the question from the audience: "What to do?”  (How can mining companies survive in the current difficult conditions in Russia), said that it was necessary to be patient and optimistic. Sergey reminded that history was cyclical, and after the recession in many emerging markets which contributed to the decline of prices of minerals they are certainly set to rise.  For example, in Australia, cost of inflation in production over the past decade has been enormous; almost half of its increase was related to the strengthening of the currency. In Russia there was no strengthening of Rouble, on the contrary, there is a weakening which should possibly help to reduce the pressure on profitability and profit margins.

During the six technical sessions of the Forum 38 papers were presented. Representatives of Russian and international companies talked about the successful work in various fields and shared their experiences with the participants of the Forum. Sessions focused on the practical experiences of managing mining projects – from the optimization and implementation of more efficient technologies at the stage of prospecting and exploration of solid minerals to reduction of transportation costs in ore processing.

Investment company Bryanston Resources CIS together with representatives of private equity funds Aterra Capital and PT Global Resources organised round table where prospects for the development of projects in the Russian Far East were discussed, which seems to be a priority for many companies participated at the Forum.  According to experts, the state has created favourable conditions for the development of the Far East, its economic growth and attracting investment to the region, including investment from the Pacific Rim countries. The state is not only aware of the need for the development of these areas, but also provides actual financial and organizational resources in order to achieve this goal.  Ministry of Development of the Far East has been created to adopt and develop legislation aimed at improving  tax and other conditions for attracting  investments in the Far East which  resulted in bringing  some  large-scale projects to the region.

Visitors of MINEX Russia Trade Exhibition  organised alongside the Forum,  had  an  opportunity to  receive  a first-hand information  about mining investment projects in Russia and see examples of  modern innovative  technology presented by equipment manufacturers, design institutes and mining and service providing companies from Russia and 15 other countries.

The exhibition also featured open Business Podiums, which included presentations from 15 exhibitors –mining  companies, service providers and equipment manufacturers. Companies presented innovative  solutions aimed at  improving efficiency in the extraction and ore processing; optimization of transport and conveyor systems for mining operations; improving the quality of risk assessment for development projects; an integrated approach in the design of the mining and metallurgical enterprises; the use of modern geographic information systems in the management of the lifecycle of the deposit; recruitment for mining companies in the current conditions, and many  more.

A number of associated events were held alongside MINEX Russia 2014. On the third day of the Forum, 9 October, Australian company MICROMINE held its third conference for software users to showcase new developments and organise practical workshop.

The 10th anniversary of MINEX Forum was celebrated at the gala dinner organised at the end of the Forum.  The laureates of the 8th Russian Mining Excellence Awards and the winners of the 3rd International Amateur Photography Contest "Miners and Mines of Russia 2014" were announced at the presentation ceremony during the gala dinner and long term partners and supporters of the Forum were presented with souvenirs to commemorate its 10th Anniversary.

Another associated event, the Helicopter Show and demonstration of helicopter technology for mining and prospecting companies was organised by the Helicopter Company "North" on the 10 October.  The show was followed by an informal reception at the Heli Club.

Full report on the MINEX Russia 2014 Forum will be published  on the website www.minexrussia / 2014.

The 11th Mining and Exploration Forum MINEX Russia 2015 will be held in Moscow  on  6-8 October  2015.

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