“Minerals and metals form the building blocks for so many things we take for granted – from aircraft and ships to soda cans and knives and forks. Sure, we’re inventing some amazing new composite alternatives all the time, but they’re not going to replace metals fully just yet – if ever,” says Andrey Elizarov, Sales Representative, Industry & Water, EMEA at Kemira.
Russia is a big player on the global mining scene, turning out almost every single metal you can name. The country produces close to 10% of six of the world’s most common base metals – aluminum, nickel, copper, zinc, lead, and tin – and is the fifth largest producer of iron. It’s no surprise, then, to discover that the mining industry employs about six percent of Russia’s entire working-age population. “The industry is engrained in the fabric of this region,” Andrey explains. “In Ukraine the iron industry is highly developed, in Kazakhstan copper is an important industry along with iron and gold, and then there’s Uzbekistan with its uranium and gold production.”
Ironing out issues with the industry’s big players
Right now, Andrey’s time is largely spent working with many of the big iron producers across the region to support them in reducing their use of water and improve end-product quality. “It’s well known that the quality of the raw materials, the ore, that many of our customers are working with is on the decline at a time when the demand for metals is still on the rise,” Andrey highlights. “To put things simply, our job is to help them do more with less – to reuse water, increase water quality and to improve the efficiency of metal recovery.”
“Water use and water quality are so important in mining processes, and these are topics we know inside out from the chemistry
point of view.”
Kemira’s solutions help customers to cut water consumption significantly by improving solids dewatering processes, increasing the amount of water that can be recovered and reused, and reducing the moisture content of mineral concentrates.
“I think our biggest strength is that we can offer not only the right combination of chemicals tailored for the customer’s process – whether that’s flocculants, coagulants, or other specialist products – but that we also provide the application expertise and smart systems to help them optimize how they use them,” Andrey points out. “Water use and water quality are so important in mining processes, and these are topics we know inside out from the chemistry point of view.”
Cooperation and community bring big wins
Andrey’s work is backed by tight-knit cooperation between the various teams across Kemira, from R&D and logistics to application development. Open dialog and collaboration are the cornerstones of an organization where no one works in isolation. “It’s a fact that close-knit working means more fruitful customer relationships because everyone’s working towards a common goal. This way of working is what’s helped Kemira grow in this region from selling tens of tons of product to thousands of tons within a decade or so,” says Andrey.
“We’re still a relatively new player in the market, a challenger if you like,” Andrey explains. “Price is always near the top of any customer’s priority list of course, but where we try to stand out from the crowd is with long-term offerings that package together chemistries and smart services that add real value. The thinking in the industry is definitely changing, and we’re confident of building some solid partnerships with this service-led approach.”
A melting pot in more ways than one
The process of taking a cumbersome, unattractive chunk of low-grade ore from the ground and extracting a viable amount of a valuable metal like gold from it is one that fascinates Andrey, and one of the reasons he still enjoys going to work every day. “With the right technologies and chemistries you can even viably extract gold from ore that has as little as 0.5 grams of gold per ton – I think that’s amazing.”
“When I think about the places I get to visit and the people I get to meet along the way, I remember why I enjoy what I do. Traveling across Russia by airplane to visit a customer in the far east can take eight or nine hours; the sheer scale of the country is mind-blowing. Or I might be taken to a gold mine that’s in the mountains 4,000 meters above sea level. It’s certainly not your average everyday business trip,” Andrey laughs.