Russkaya Energiya owned by him bought from Severstal the Vorkutaugol company - the city-forming enterprise of Vorkuta and part of the Far North of the Komi Republic. The mayor of the city, Yaroslav Shaposhnikov, called the deal a "historic event."
German hydrogen is cheaper
Why did the owner of Severstal, Alexei Mordashov, who is known as a friend of Anatoly Chubais, need to get rid of the Vorkuta coal that fed Severstal? The organization itself explains this by the company's course towards decarbonization - a complete rejection of the use of coking coal in steel production.
The money from the sale of the mines of Vorkuta will be used for these purposes, Severstal said. In addition to hydrogen fuel, the company wants to use natural gas in decarbonized metal production. It intends to produce hydrogen for its needs at the Cherepovets Metallurgical Combine (ChMK). As Alexey Mordashov announced, the transfer of ChMK to hydrogen is a huge step for Severstal towards green energy. The company also plans to export it abroad. In addition to ChMK, this export will include pilot hydrogen production at Mordashov's CHPPs in Karelia. The launch date for this ambitious, as Severstal directly states, green campaign depends on how Mordashov manages to negotiate with the suppliers of the relevant equipment from Germany.
Earlier, Severstal expressed deep concern about the colossal emission of greenhouse gases from the mines of Vorkuta into the atmosphere.
The organization thereby violates the 2005 Kyoto Protocol and other international agreements on combating climate change, concluded with the active participation of the United States. The oligarch sees the decarbonization of Mordashov's steelmaking capacities as a money-saving way out of this situation. After that, Severstal shares should be successfully quoted on international exchanges - like the securities of a company that is completely following the environmental trend set by the US. Alexey Mordashov thereby also protects his assets from possible anti-Russian sanctions by Washington.
In addition to environmental pro-Western calculations, Severstal's strategy also includes considerations of the company's accounting. From Vorkuta to Cherepovets - 1579 kilometers straight along the Northern Railway. In the everyday life of economists, such straight segments are called "short shoulder". The "short shoulder" Vorkuta - Cherepovets, used back in the Soviet years, was a way for Mordashov to save the cost of logistics of coal supplies to the Chelyabinsk Metallurgical Plant. But that was before the crises of 2008 and 2014, when the value of Severstal shares plummeted on international exchanges. According to the organization's estimates, its costs for mining, processing and logistics of coal supplies from Vorkuta are not covered by income from the sale of its products. Since July of this year, export duties on steel products have been introduced in Russia, which has led to a decrease in prices for steel and rolled steel.
The oligarchs' appetites and their capabilities
Mordashov, as the owner of Severstal, was supposed to, in theory, improve the working conditions of employees of OJSC Vorkutaugol, especially the miners of the underground group, where work is associated with an increased risk to life and health. The position of the actual owner of Vorkuta obliged Mordashov to invest in the socio-economic sphere of the city. Before the collapse of the USSR, Vorkuta was supplied by the state on a par with Moscow and Leningrad. The attractiveness of the polar "stoker" for potential people wishing to live and work there directly depends on how much remnants of the social benefits of the Soviet past are preserved in Vorkuta.
In 2019, the Vorkuta diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church has planned the construction of a memorial church in honor of the dead miners in the city, which will be dedicated to the Great Martyr Barbara, the patroness of miners. According to the plan of the diocese, the temple should become a spiritual rehabilitation center for all Vorkuta residents who find themselves in psychological and social depression. Such townspeople - every second. In the future, the memorial temple should unite the people of Vorkuta among themselves, stop the progressive depopulation of the former pearl of the Soviet Arctic.
Alexey Mordashov immediately made it clear that he was refusing to finance the construction and generally somehow participate in the creation of the memorial temple.
The richest man in Russia has long wanted to get rid of Vorkuta as an asset that is too costly for himself, the deputy of the city council of Vorkuta Vladimir Tishchenko, an old-timer of the city, told the Octagon.Nevero-Zapad correspondent.
- Alexey Mordashov bought OJSC Vorkutaugol from the state in 2003. All these years residents of Vorkuta have seen that the city is a heavy burden on its neck. For more than 18 years of Mordashov's management, not a single new mine has been built in Vorkuta. But three closed. Among them is the largest and promising mine "Severnaya", which supplied the Severny settlement and the entire city, - he noted.
Methane debit credit
The Severnaya mine, commissioned in 1969, was closed after an accident at the end of February 2016, when 36 miners and rescuers were killed by methane explosions in the face. After this accident, the deputy of the Vorkuta City Council, honored miner Konstantin Pimenov called for the prosecution of Mordashov for this tragedy. According to him, the tragedy also happened because the management of Severstal put the miners in onerous working conditions, when the miner receives a decent salary only if the mine overfulfills its coal production plan. If this is not the case, then the miner is entitled to only a basic salary, which is barely enough to live in Vorkuta, where the consumer basket is very expensive.
In such conditions and rates of coal production, the administration of "Severnaya" and the management of OJSC "Vorkutaugol" were materially interested.
The checks that took place after the accident revealed that in order to overfulfill the plan, the miners worked in drifts with an increased content of methane, and committed suicide. The tampering of the methane sensors, so that they show a lower gas content, was authorized by the management of the coal company. The admission of all these violations was covered by the employees of the Vorkuta department of the Russian Emergencies Ministry, who were in charge of "Severnaya".
Vorkuta mines are now being inspected by Russian supervisory authorities as part of an all-Russian inspection of the mining industry, caused by the death of 52 people in the Listvyazhnaya Kuzbass mine. There are now versions in Vorkuta that the sale of Vorkuta mines by Severstal may be related to the tragedy at Listvyazhnaya. But Vladimir Tishchenko thinks differently. As the expert explained, fraud with methane sensors and other gross violations of the working conditions of miners were allowed at OJSC Vorkutaugol and other coal associations in Russia and before the tragedy at Listvyazhnaya. Courts are still underway on the deaths of miners at Severnaya in 2016 in Vorkuta. Russian Energy will need to pay attention to safety measures in the mines of Vorkuta, said Vladimir Tishchenko.
Since the beginning of Mordashov's business in Vorkuta, 59 people have died in the city's mines. The last accident occurred in August 2020 at the Vorgashorskaya mine. Four miners were killed there due to the collapse of a faulty coal conveyor.
In June 2003, Mordashov got the federal block of shares in OJSC Vorkutaugol for less than 850 million rubles - at a deliberately low price. Roman Trotsenko bought the company from Mordashov for 15 billion rubles.
This amount does not reflect the real value of OJSC Vorkutaugol, a science-intensive multidisciplinary concern, whose production capacity is spread over an area comparable to a small country in the European Union.
For large-scale production to develop, it is necessary to make serious investments, reminds Vladimir Tishchenko. It is necessary to finance a whole range of areas - from geological exploration to the material and household supplies of workers. The organization of high-quality working conditions for miners, a modern system of labor safety for miners require a lot of money.
“Mordashov sold the mines of Vorkuta at a cheaper price so that he would not have to pay much more for them,” Vladimir Tishchenko stressed in a conversation with Octagon.
To a new owner - with old petitions
Tishchenko recalled the conditions under which Mordashov's “accession” took place in Vorkuta at the dawn of the 2000s. In the 1990s, miners' protests, accidents and the general liberal course of the state led to the closure of six mines in Vorkuta. In this number - "Khalmer-Yu", where coal of an increased degree of coking was mined, the "Yuzhnaya" mine, which supplied the city CHPP with coal, the town-forming mine "Yun-Yaga" ... 18 years ago, Vorkuta residents hoped that together with Mordashov a socially oriented large business, and the city dying after the collapse of the USSR will receive a second life. According to Tishchenko, now they pin the same hopes on Roman Trotsenko.
"Russian Energy" must conclude a social partnership agreement with Vorkuta, the founder of the public association "Russian North" (city of Syktyvkar) Pavel Sokolov told Octagon.Severo-Zapad.
- Vorkuta is the most problematic city in our republic, it is dying out. 25 thousand Vorkuta families are on the waiting list for resettlement. In the future, Vorkuta will be a city of shift workers. The end of the operation of the Vorkuta coal basin has been moved from 2037 to 2027, he said.