En+ set to start coal project with Shenhua in Russia
En+ Group, the energy resources conglomerate controlled by Oleg Deripaska, is about to start a feasibility study for a project it is jointly developing with Shenhua Group.
The project is expected to produce millions of tonnes of coal for China, the world's largest coal-consuming country.
Artem Volynets, the chief executive of En+, told the South China Morning Post on the sidelines of the Boao Forum that he would visit Siberia and the far east region of Russia to select sites for the project this year.
En+ signed an agreement with Shenhua, the world's largest coal producer, and China Development Bank during President Xi Jinping's visit to Russia last month. They will invest US$2 billion on coal mining, build basic transport infrastructure, develop or improve port facilities in the far east region and handle the transport and sale of coal.
"We were in talks with several Chinese coal producers and finally chose Shenhua, because it's the most experienced company, capable of developing large projects," Volynets said.
Rusal, the world's largest aluminium producer and a subsidiary of En+, also signed a memorandum with Aluminium Corp of China last month to jointly work on technology innovation, mining resources development and investment.
These were the latest efforts by the two major players to tackle the challenges in the weak global aluminium market, which has been plagued by excessive supply and rising production costs.
The global aluminium price has plunged to US$1,851 per tonne this month from a record US$3,271 in July 2008.
Despite the oversupply, Volynets said there was healthy growth of 6 to 7 per cent in annual global aluminium demand, which would support the market in the long run.
"We are reducing our production for a better supply-and-demand balance," he said. "This will help the [aluminium] price to improve, although this is not going to happen quickly."
He estimates the process will take one to three years.
In 2010 and 2011, En+ sought a stock listing in Hong Kong for the group or its power generation subsidiary EuroSibEnergo.
However, it was forced to postpone the plan twice because of a lack of interest in the firm and unfavourable regulatory changes in Russia's power market.
Asked whether the company has given up its listing ambition, Volynets said: "We always look for different ways to raise capital. At this stage, we have not made any decision on whether to approach the Hong Kong market again."
The energy giant is placing high hopes on selling hydropower to meet China's growing appetite for clean energy. It set up a joint venture with China Yangtze Power in 2011 to build a hydropower station with a capacity of 10 gigawatts in eastern Siberia.
Volynets said the venture had commissioned WWF to select sites with the least environment impact in the area, and the report would be ready in summer.
"The state grid companies of China and Russia are now doing preliminary studies for the construction of a power line from east Siberia to somewhere near Beijing," Volynets said.
"We believe Siberia can produce sufficient hydropower to satisfy China's big demand for clean energy."