Polymetal relies on platinum

After 10-15 years, the platinum group metals will account for one-fifth of the company's production.
The deposit of platinum, palladium, gold and copper called Viksha, which was discovered by Polymetal in Karelia in 2015, turned out to be gigantic. Its resources are 9.5 million ounces of palladium equivalent, the company said. Viksha is one of the world's largest deposits of platinum group metals, which can be worked on in an open way, Polymetal emphasizes.

Most of the platinoid deposits are mined underground, ACRA analyst Maxim Khudalov and Gazprombank's Airat Khalikov confirm. For example, the largest platinoid deposit in the world (contains copper and nickel as well), Zapolyarnoye with resources of 265.5 million ounces, is being developed in that way.

The share of platinum and palladium in the Polymetal business will be significant, the representative of the company promises. In 10-15 years, platinunoids can make 15-20% of the company's total production, he added. The company does not give a forecast of production for such a prospect. By 2020, Polymetal, once Russia's largest silver producer, expects to produce 1.8 million ounces of gold equivalent, of which 87 percent will be gold. In 2016 this indicator was 69%.

Viksha is not the only Polymetal palladium-platinum asset. In 2012, the company bought the Svetloborsk platinum deposit in the Sverdlovsk region. A preliminary estimate of its resources is 1.9 million ounces of platinum. In October 2015 the project was frozen. This year, geological exploration will resume on the site, a company spokesman said.

The strategy for the development of the palladium-platinum business will differ from gold-silver. "In the case of gold and silver assets, we rely on the high content [of the metal in the ore] and are ready to work with small objects," said the representative of Polymetal. "In metals of the platinum group, our emphasis is on large deposits with a small content and only for open mining at shallow depths. We believe such assets can compete with underground deposits in South Africa."

The deposit of Viksha in Karelia has great potential, says Mikhail Leskov, Director of Mining Industry at American Appraisal Russia. He estimates the costs for the near-term phase of work at the field at several dozens of millions of dollars. Further costs will depend on the feasibility study. "Perhaps the amount of investment in the implementation of the first stage can exceed $100 million,"  the expert said.

Many companies have gone along the way of diversification, the idea of Russian BHP Billiton is alive, Khudalov notes. Each of the metals in the Polymetal portfolio has its own cycle, which will allow it to smooth out the fall in one of the markets, he explains. For example, the price of gold largely depends on investment demand and purchases of jewelers. And the main sphere of application of palladium is the auto industry. In the past five years, the consumption of this metal has been increasing by an average of 5% per year, thanks to the demand of catalyst manufacturers for cars, says Khalikov.