Russia’s Udokan Copper on Monday put its processing plant equipment into operation for the first time, enabling it to produce its first copper concentrate, the company tells Kallanish.

The milestone was celebrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin via videoconference from Vladivostok.

The company began building the project to mine and process copper ore at the Udokan deposit in the Trans-Baikal region in 2019. As part of the Trans-Baikal advanced development zone, the project received over RUB 230 billion ($2.38 billion) of investments.

Construction of the first phase of the plant took four years and was financed by VEB.RF, in partnership with Sberbank and Gazprombank.

Phase 1 is set to reach an annual capacity of 15 million tonnes of ore and 150,000 t of copper by the end of 2024. During the second stage of the project, an additional capacity of 25m t/y of ore and 250,000 t/y of copper, is forecast to be completed in 2028. Then, total production capacity is planned to reach 400,000 t of copper, putting Udokan into the world’s top-10 copper mines, the company claims.

Ore continues to be shipped for future copper production, with 6.5m t already mined at its western quarry to date. Phase 1 was previously estimated at $2.9 billion, but the cost of Phase 2 remains unclear.

With total resources of 26.7 million t, Udokan is considered the largest copper deposit in Russia. The new enterprise uses technology that enables the extraction of copper from ore containing both sulphide and oxidized minerals.

“The Udokan mining and metallurgical plant will be put into operation in two main stages. The first stage will see the launch of a grinding mill and concentrator at the processing plant, to be followed by the launch of all the process lines at the leach plant,” it says.

The company says it will target China’s growing demand for copper, taking advantage of its close location to the Chinese border. It can ship to northern China via direct railroad link and to southern China via Russian seaports on the Pacific Ocean.