Current Status and Prospects of Coal Preparation Development in Russia

During the last 15 years the Russian coal industry has been affected by a painful process of restructuring and adaptation to market conditions.
As a consequence of the restructuring from the early nineties to date the Russian coal industry has positively changed. Unprofitable and low-profit mines were closed, separate enterprises consolidated into holding companies. Today the state is no more the owner and investor of the coal industry, but it has the functions of supervision and control of mineral resources use. Further development of coal companies is inseparably linked with the situation in allied industries, namely, in the gas, energy and metallurgy industries.

In spite of almost 50% decline of coal production in the nineties Russia holds one of the leading positions in this field in the world. In recent years a stable growth of coal production and processing has been observed (Fig. 1).

Fig.1 Coal production in Russia (by coal ranks), million tons

Russia ranks second in the world after the USA by coal reserves. According to international estimates (made by the Energies Information Administration) proved coal reserves in Russia amount to 171 billion tons. The Siberian coal reserves alone (more than 100 billion t ) will be enough to reliably supply the needs of the power generation industry and metallurgy for at least 800 years.
Geological resources of coal are estimated at 4.5 trillion tons, that is approximately 30 % of world coal reserves. Expected coal reserves amount to 3. 9 trillion tons, of which 199. 5 billion tons are explored reserves distributed as follows: brown coal — 51.2 %; coal—45. 4%, anthracite —3.4%.

About 70% of expected coal reserves in Russia are situated in Central Siberia (Fig. 2).

The most important Russian coal basins are the Kuzbass (it contains 43 % of explored coal reserves) and Kansko-Achinsky basin (22 % of explored coal reserves). These basins contain 80 % of coals most suitable for extraction. More than 10% of explored coal reserves are located in Ural and European part of Russia.

The most important coal basins contain different types of coals. Coal produced by Kansko-Achinsky coal mines is brown coal, Kuzbass mines produce bituminous coal. The Kuzbass contains 73 % of all Russian explored reserves of coking coals. Coal from these coal basins has low sulphur content (less than 1 %), that is an important technological advantage taking into account current environmental challenges.

High quality of a number of ranks of coal mined in Russia should be specifically mentioned. For instance, ash content of Irsha-Borodinsky brown coals in Krasnoyarsk Territory is only 6 %, and sulphur content does not exceed 0. 2 %. These coals meet the environmental requirements to coal burning at power plants in Western Europe.
Since 1999 coal production in Russia has seen annual growth. In the last 3 years it increased by 67. 6 million tons.
In 2005 about 300 million tons of coal were produced in Russia. Russia ranks fifth in the world by coal production, yielding to China, the USA, India and Australia.
The share of Russia in the world coal production is more than 5 %.

At present in Russia there are 236 active coal mines ( 97 underground mines and 139 surface mines). There are 87 coal preparation enterprises, including 42 coal preparation plants, 28 concentrators and 17 mechanized sizing units.

The trends in coal mining, preparation and consumption for the last 3 years (2003 ~ 2005), including the fig. for most important coal basins, are shown in Fig. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.
Apparently the growth in coal mining and processing volumes falls on West-Siberian, East-Siberian, Far Eastern and Northern coal regions.

A stable trend to Russian coal export growth is observed. In 2005 coal export from Russia was 80 million tons (Fig. 10). Russia is the fifth in the world by coal export. Higher export fig. are due to higher sales of thermal coal (Russia ranks third in the world by thermal coal export).

Practically all coal produced for coking is cleaned (92% in 2005), and only a part of thermal coal is cleaned (13 % in 2005).

Of the total number of coal preparation plants (42) about 85 % were built before 1990. It means that large investments are required for their reconstruction.

Table 1 shows the data on new and retrofitted coal preparation plants in 2000~2010. As can be seen from the Table, in most cases the designing work is done by the close joint-stock company Giprougol.

Fig. 2 Explored reserves (A+B+C>Categories) of the main Russian Coal basins and deposits, bill ion tons

Fig. 3 Coal mining regions in the Russian Federation