First, our hearts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine. Little of what we do seems of consequence when we see unarmed civilians running for their lives. From a geopolitical viewpoint, the Russian attack on Ukraine is complicated and the threat of nuclear war prevents other nations from taking actions to intervene… for now. Meanwhile, social media brings us images of this messy war daily. For sure, this was a serious miscalculation that will set the Russians back for a generation, maybe more.
Russia and Ukraine were mining leaders. E&MJ has readers in both regions and many Russian readers have reached out, saying they want the world to know the actions they see do not represent the people of Russia. I reassured them that everyone clearly knows that.
The war in Ukraine will take two major providers offline. In the near term, the sanctions imposed on Russia will prevent it from exporting commodities. Longer-term, Russian miners will not be able to import equipment, replacement parts and technology, and the mines will fall into disrepair. As this plays out, the consumers who rely on Russian resources will find another way, which will make its eventual re-entry into the market even more difficult. The conflict almost certainly guarantees an environmental mess that will only further tarnish the nuclear power-generation business.
With the largest land mass in Europe, Ukraine produced agricultural and mineral commodities that fed Europe and Russia. Each season, its crops yield great amounts of corn, wheat, barley, etc. It also produced significant amounts of coal, iron ore and manganese. Ukraine was the 10th largest steel producer.
In this edition of E&MJ, we offer two examples on how Russia’s perceived inability to export coal (see This Month in Coal, p. 12) and nickel (see Markets, p. 88) are already disrupting markets. Soon, Norilsk Nickel’s customers will abandon it. Rusal’s ability to produce green aluminum won’t really matter. Readers might also recall that Russia’s Uralkali and the Belarus Potash Co. together account for more than one-third of global potash sales.
More coal and potash will be exported from other countries. Steel, aluminum and other finished products will be made elsewhere. The market shortage will increase the prices for metals, which will fund exploration, mines and smelters in other regions. Those countries will gain from Russia’s loss and the Russians will see jobs and investments flee their country. Tragically, however, it won’t replace the lives that have been and will be lost.