OAO EuroChem, a Russian fertilizer maker building $7.4 billion of potash projects, is gearing up to challenge the dominance of OAO Uralkali with production from its two mines reaching the market in five years.
“We expect we’ll be able to mine the first potash at both mines in late 2017,” Clark Bailey, EuroChem’s mining head, said in an interview. About two more years will be needed to start shipments to external customers, he said.
EuroChem is developing an annual capacity of 8.3 million metric tons of potash, a form of potassium that strengthens plant roots, in two phases at the Verkhnekamskoe deposit in the Perm region and in another two at the Gremyachinskoe deposit in the Volgograd region in western Russia. The company controlled by billionaire Andrey Melnichenko kept its pace even as Uralkali plunged the $20 billion market into turmoil in July last year by ending a marketing venture with Belarus that accounted for 40 percent of worldwide potash exports.
EuroChem, which already produces nitrogen and phosphate nutrients, plans to consume a portion of the potash itself to boost its output of complex fertilizers. Even as it bets on cost advantages such as proximity to a port to take on market leaders, the key to EuroChem’s success in potash could lie in the efficiency of suppliers such as K+S AG (SDF), Europe’s largest.
“While EuroChem’s projects are the only ones at an advanced stage in the industry globally, they’re more likely to take market share from high-cost producers like K+S than from low-cost producers like Uralkali,” ZAO Raiffeisenbank analyst Konstantin Yuminov said by phone.
Uralkali’s press service declined to comment.
Global potash capacities will exceed 90 million tons in 2020, while deliveries will top 60 million tons, Uralkali said in a July presentation.
EuroChem is certain the market will be “at least better, not worse than now” by 2019 as prices are recovering and demand is healthy, said Bailey, who joined EuroChem last year after 16 years at Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (POT)
Canpotex Ltd, which exports potash for Potash Corp., Agrium Inc. (AGU) and Mosaic Co., last week agreed on sales to Brazil at $380 per ton for October deliveries, up almost 20 percent from the end of last year, according to researcher Argus FMB.
Bailey, who hails from Texas, oversaw all four of Saskatoon, Canada-based Potash Corp.’s C$7 billion ($6.4 billion) expansion projects at Cory, Allan, New Brunswick and Rocanville as senior vice president. He took charge after previous contractor Shaft Sinkers Holding Plc (SHFT) failed to properly place the cage at the VolgaKaliy project in Gremyachinskoe, delaying the project for more than two years.
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