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Norilsk Nickel's output up 8.6% in 2008

MOSCOW, January 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russian metals giant Norilsk Nickel said on Friday it had increased nickel production 8.6% in 2008 year-on-year, to 299,700 tons.

It said copper output was up 1%, to 419,000 tons, while palladium was down 9.7%, to 2.8 million ounces. Platinum was down 10.6%, to 659,000 ounces.

Norilsk Nickel is Russia's largest diversified mining and metals company, the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium, and one of the world's largest producers of platinum, rhodium, copper and cobalt.

It said the figures were "preliminary consolidated production results at its Polar and Kola divisions in Russia and international operations in Finland, Australia, Botswana and South Africa."

The Polar and Kola divisions in Russia produced 63,400 tons of nickel and 99,400 tons of copper in the fourth quarter of 2008. Full-year nickel production totaled 232,300 tons and copper 400,400 tons.

The company said the decrease of PGM production in 2008 was due to the scheduled maintenance and repair works at the Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant and deliveries of nickel concentrate to Harjavalta refinery in Finland for test runs, as well as a "decrease of base and precious metals grades in ores mined."

Nickel production by Tati Nickel and Nkomati in 2008 totaled 23,410 tons. The drop in the fourth quarter was due to an eight-day suspension of operations in December 2008 "following the unforeseen furnace breakdown at BCL Smelter in Botswana, where 90% of the concentrate produced by Tati Nickel is processed."

In Western Australia, the Lake Johnston and Waterloo operations produced 4,940 tons of nickel in the fourth quarter and 14,664 tons of nickel for the full year 2008.

The Harjavalta refinery in Finland produced 13,827 tons of nickel in the fourth quarter. Full-year production at the Harjavalta refinery totaled 51,112 tons of nickel.

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