Norilsk Nickel reported that it is planning a metallurgical modernization project at its OJSC Kola MMC site in Zapolyarny, Murmansk Oblast, Russia. The project will involve replacement of an existing pelletizing-roasting circuit that generates a large amount of SO2, with a concentrate briquetting process in which no roasting is required.

The project is a part of a modernization program to reduce sulphur emissions and generation of heavy-metal dust and residues. The existing process involves filtration and roasting of copper-nickel concentrate into pellets for smelting. In the course of roasting, some contained sulphur is discharged into the atmosphere, as the original smelter flow sheet did not include sulphur capture at the pelletizing and roasting stages.

Norilsk said the modernization program will increase base metal extraction and product output across its operations, diminish crude oil consumption by a factor of 1.8 and reduce energy, operational and maintenance costs. Total project cost will exceed RUB2.2 billion.

According to the company, the Kola MMC project will involve installation of briquetting equipment at the renovated Kola MMC concentrator, along with Larox press filters for slurry filtering and wet concentrate production. Primary and auxiliary briquetting equipment will be supplied by Maschinenfabrik Köppern. Two briquetting lines will be installed at the concentrator site, with combined annual concentrate capacity of 450,000 mt/y. Also included is construction of a new automated, 4,000-mt storage facility for the final products. This facility will be equipped with an automatic briquette counting system and a car positioning system.

Commissioning and trial operation of the first briquetting line is scheduled for August 2010, followed by shutdown of a roasting line in November. The second briquetting line will be commissioned in February 2011, with final briquetting-section ramp-up and decommissioning of all the pelletizing and roasting sections to be completed by February 2012.