Юрий Рябов: Эвенки сказали - работайте!
05 三月份 2019

Yury Ryabov gave an interview to Chita.Ru

Yury Ryabov: “The Evenkies told – Work!”

- We are in the process of building an access road from Novaya Chara station to the site, we have started construction of power line from Novaya Chara substation to the future plant and a substation at our site. In the near future we shall begin preparation earthwork, the contractor has already been selected, and mobilization shall be under way shortly. A temporary pioneer camp for 60 people has already been delivered, and we are commencing its installation. Construction contractors are in the process of delivering their camps and deploying them on site.

- Will there be a formal ceremony of commencing the main works? With fanfare?

- We shall proceed to casting concrete on July 1 – with neither embedding special cases or cutting the ribbon – we shall just cast concrete.

- Generally speaking, North Zabaikalye priority development area is not the first attempt to start up a project in the north of Zabaikalye that would enable to develop deposits and territories. In your opinion, how does it differ from, for instance, Integrated Development of the North of Zabaikalye project that was to be launched 10 years ago based on public-private partnership and was to consolidate Apsat, Cheena and Udokan?

- If some priority development area is formed with certain tax, tariff and regulatory preferences, this may enable to develop the project quicker than it is currently embedded in our model. Our model is calculated for real conditions we live in and it provides for such things as how much we shall invest, when Stage I shall pay off, when Stages II and III should be built. If any instrument appears allowing to build Stage I quicker, therefore, Stages II and III may be built quicker, too.

- Considering the reshuffle in the Region, did your work with the government team of the Region change in any way?

- We have always cooperated with the regional authorities in the normal course, and now we are enjoying normal working relations. Legislation regulates the requirements to the business entity and to the state. So, we are trying to not draw the authorities away from the state affairs and we are not asking for any special treatment.

Can you imagine the load Alexander Mikhailovich (Alexander Osipov, Acting Governor of the Region – author`s remark) is under now? I think we are not in the top priority list of the problems he met. He is human, and he has certain physical capacities.

Construction in the field, in the permafrost

- Considering the state-of-the-art technology, how difficult is it to execute Udokan project?

- When Elizavetal Burova discovered the deposit in the north of Zabaikalye, she said that everybody was very ironic: “You`d better have discovered a deposit on the Moon.”

The difficulties are clear but well expected: construction in the field, in the permafrost where even snow thaws differently: it is warmed up only on the surface, and there is not thawing from the ground… Currently there is neither electricity, nor road, nor water at the construction site. Is it a difficulty or not? An hour and a half ago when the construction meeting ended at site, there was minus 35 degrees. Evidently, it is better to build at the north coast of some southern sea than at the south coast of some northern sea. It is not the best district from the point of view of climate, logistics, population density, but it is an inherent feature of the project, it is a well-expected difficulty.

Besides, the deposit is far away. It is easier for us to work than for those working at Chukotka, we can use railway all year round. But railway has its limitations: tunnels, bridges, stations. In our case there are limitations for the operation of Novaya Chara station. We started to transport the first cargos and we understand that there are no difficulties at the moment, but when the plant will work at design capacity at Stage I the station will not be able to cope. In the future we will transport a lot of construction materials, cathode copper and concentrate, necessary reagents, and the load on the station will multiply.

There is no motor road there, and the plane flies two times a week based on an interesting schedule – Wednesday and Friday. It is not convenient for our project and for the population because it means that people may fly in to Chita either for one day or for a whole week. Such schedule is already questionable for us, and starting from April it will not enable us to meet the construction timelines.

- How often do you need flights?

- We are going to expand from June and it will be required to fly in people every day, maybe even without days off.

From all over Russia

- How many jobs are you going to have?

- Now, in February, 200 workers are involved in construction, In June there will be 500-600 workers, and by the end of the year more than a thousand.

- Where are they coming from?

- From all over Russia.

- It means that these are not jobs for Kalar District, but rotation shifts from other regions?

- Naturally, primarily we are inclined to engage specialists living in the Region if they are eligible and have qualifications. But today there are only 8,000 people in Kalar District, able-bodied population making up a little bit over 3,000 out of the above 8,000 people. And there is no unemployment as such in the territory. People are engaged in Russian Railways, work at Apsat deposit and other economic entities.

We engage a lot of local contractors: for instance, Aginsky forestry performs tree felling for the future construction site. One of Zabaikalye companies is under consideration as a potential camp builder, another as a potential residential house builder. A Khabarovsk company is dealing with the road (there were just no companies in Zabaikalye able to do this). We will gladly make use of those types of works and services that Zabaikalye companies are able to offer on competitive terms.

We have a lot of staff from Bystrinsky GOK, they completed the construction stage and we gave them work they can do.

- How significant is Rostec`s withdrawal from the project for you?

- At initial stages Rostec supported the project with its expertise. Participation of this corporation played an important part in the selection of economically feasible flowsheet and configuration of the future enterprise. Currently, it is a mature project: engineering is completed, we have obtained all the required permits for the authorities. And we will execute the project ourselves.

Deferred trauma

- In what way does what you are going to do in Kalar District look like a Soviet project – the town of Udokan, and such?

- We plan neither a town nor a permanent settlement at Udokan. Any deposit has its lifetime. If we take there people for full-time residence, there might be a settlement with 30,000 – 40,000 inhabitants. They will settle in, but in 50 years the reserves will be depleted, and what then?
Many single-industry towns faced the same problems in the post-Soviet period. A town, a garden town was built, people arrived, they got married, gave birth to children, kindergartens and schools were built. The people got used to that place, and now they are told: “Leave it all, there is nothing to do here any more.” It is a trauma for them, just a deferred one!

- Have you been thinking so for a long time?

- Yes. I am from a family of miners and I understand what small settlements based on deposits are. I was born in Gornyak town (Altai Territory), and it was closed 25 years ago. And there are still people who could not leave it due to various reasons. Geologists said that reserves were economic. It is wrong to operate at a loss, one should make profit. But people stayed. I know it firsthand, my father had been staying at Gornyak for a long time, and relocation became a real trial for him.

I earnestly believe that we should build a comfortable camp at Udokan, create affordable passenger transport infrastructure, provide comfortable health care and meals just for rotation workers, healthy and robust people that came to work. But overall, people should live in big cities that will not cease to exist tomorrow.

- So, you are not going to build schools, kindergartens?

- We are going to build residential housing for people who will come to live in Novaya Chara. This year we are starting to build a house for 40 flats. I think we`ll construct several more houses, but not for all 1,200 people. We will do our utmost to support development of social institutions: schools, hospitals and kindergartens. As of today this support has made up almost RUR 400 mn.

- What is the modern practice for single-industry towns? How is this problem resolved?

- Mainly with the help of camps. Western practice is the same. Nobody builds a town at a deposit, especially, if such a deposit is in a hard-to-reach place.
There are many wonderful camps with relaxation rooms, sports centres.

It is possible to bring in people from any place, even from Australia, but it is not right

- How much is the company interested in the workforce capacity of the Region? Do graduate miners have the required competences? Should there be any reforms at higher schools and colleges?

- I talked to the heads of Chita educational institutions. We agreed to hold round tables in February to tell about our expectations and to hear expectations of others.
We are in business. It is possible to bring in people from any place, even from Australia, but it is not right.
Some part of workforce is already available in Zabaikalye, specialists with the required competence, experience and qualifications. When we need, say, exploration geologists available in Zabaikalye, we will invite them, perhaps, retrain. As far as I know, currently there are just no unoccupied specialists in Kalar District ready to work for us.

- Did the geologists leave the District?

- Yes, we could not find them there.

- Whom do you need right now?

- At this stage we need those who will control and correctly perform construction works. The same is with the contractors – concrete work, structural steel erection and other works are beginning.

- Can you name average wages?

- The wages are higher than average in the region.

- Why do you need the Boiling Point (BMC is the main investor in teamwork environment in the region - author`s remark)?

- We need workforce. That`s the platform on which we may present our plans concerning engagement of staff, our requirements to it. In H2 2021 we are commencing commissioning works. We`ll need about 1,200 – 1,300 of our specialists, dedicated specialists, whom we will hopefully engage via this project.

- How justified is this financial investment for you?

- At the request of the government of the Region we provided sponsor support knowing that it was meant for equipment repair and purchase. I think it is a good investment in providing the project with workforce.

 If they had helped to build Udokan, it would have been built earlier

- Are there many skeptics as far as Udokan is concerned?

- I have never counted them. There are very many people in our country saying how bad this or that politician from the past or current politician is, accusing them of mistakes and blunders, but there are very few of those who can think of and propose what to do to live better. I don`t have time to speak to skeptics. I`ve got calculations, and he says: “I don`t believe it.” It may go into infinity.

If there are fewer skeptics than used to be as far as Udokan is concerned, it means that we have managed to prove that this bulk information does not influence the project today. It means that we did it all right. We held scientific and technical councils, and the shareholders and the Board of Directors have been and are scrutinizing the project very thoroughly, well established advisors were engaged, and the project was evaluated by banks. We substantiated our position as well as adopted technical solutions to all participants of such discussions. We agreed with something, altered, put the finishing touches, calculated, etc. Glavgosexpertiza and Central Development Commission checked the project and confirmed that it met all the requirements and rules.

If all skeptics had got together and helped to build Udokan, it would have been built earlier.

- Have you managed to come to an agreement with the Evenkies in Kalar District? Is it possible that construction could scare away spirits?

- We signed a cooperation agreement with the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the North about preserving the primordial living environment and traditions and we are abiding by it.

Besides, we discussed our plans very much in detail, saying that we needed to enter the territory where the Evenkies have been herding reindeers for centuries. And the Evenkies told: “Work.”