'Cluster' means 'to pocket'? What industrial merger with neighbouring regions promises for Bashkiria
Enterprises for the production and processing of high-purity quartz concentrates are planned to be created in Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast and Bashkortostan
Ufa, Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg have signed the agreement to create the Ural industrial cluster. The news about it quickly spread with a note marked “urgently” on social networks and Telegram channels. As Realnoe Vremya found out, the regions are going to combine resources and technologies for the production of high-purity quartz concentrates and the production of composite materials. The association allegedly already has a portfolio of orders from Rusal of Oleg Deripaska. But the word “cluster” has its own specifics in Bashkortostan, where many industry associations declared by the predecessor of Radiy Khabirov have remained on the lips or on paper.
Our raw materials, their technologies
The authorities of Bashkiria, Sverdlovsk Oblast and Chelyabinsk Oblast signed the agreement to create the Ural Industrial Cluster (UPC) at 2019 Innoprom exhibition. As explained by Sverdlovsk Governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev, this “will allow a comprehensive approach to issues in the production of composite materials and products using high-purity quartz concentrates”. Moreover, the parties hope that the creation of such cluster will allow to introduce import-substituting products and bring them to foreign markets.
In addition to the head of Sverdlovsk Oblast, the document was signed by Acting Governor of Chelyabinsk Oblast Aleksey Teksler, Acting Prime Minister of Bashkiria Raif Abdrakhimov and Head of the management company of the Ural Industrial Cluster Andrey Usanin. The delegation from Ufa, in addition to Abdrakhimov, included Minister of Industry and Innovation Policy of the Republic of Belarus Aleksey Karpukhin, heads of the administrations of Tuymazinsky and Blagoveshchensk districts, the leadership of the Industrial Development Fund of the republic, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Bashkiria, business representatives.
President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bashkortostan Timur Khakimov commented on the details of “the agreement to create the Ural Industrial Cluster in the field of extraction and processing of quartz raw materials, its further deep processing, production of high-tech products using high-purity quartz concentrates and the production of composite materials.” According to him, about 10-12 enterprises, including several from Bashkiria, will take part in the implementation of the agreement.
“The main idea of this cluster is to produce products of European quality for giant enterprises of world importance. In this case, it is the Russian aluminum company Rusal,” Khakimov explained. “We already have a portfolio of orders from this enterprise. Therefore, the idea arose to cooperate with the two largest neighbouring regions. We have the necessary raw materials (quartz sand) in Beloretsk district, they have the technology. The plans for the cluster: the construction of a plant on the territory of our republic.
Raw material resource base for Rusal
As one of the signatories of the agreement, Director of the Management company of the Ural Industrial Cluster Andrey Usanin, told Realnoe Vremya, three companies are anchor participants of the project: two from Chelyabinsk Oblast (Kyshtym GOK and Russian Quartz PLC from Kyshtym) and one — from Bashkiria (Ural Minerals PLC from Ufa). The latter produces products for the enterprises of alumina production of United Company RUSAL, located in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Achinsk (Krasnoyarsk Krai) and in... Jamaica. Also, its products go for the mining and processing productions of the holdings such as Evraz, Norilsk Nickel, etc.
The resident of the cluster is Rusal Kremniy Ural PLC, which specializes in the production of metallurgical silicon. By the way, this company was registered in 1999 in Kamensk-Uralsky. Its owner is United Company Rusal Silicone Limited from Cyprus.
“The thing is that Rusal faced the acute problem of expanding the raw material base for the production of metallurgical and refined silicon, which are produced by the company's enterprises in Sverdlovsk Oblast and Irkutsk Oblast,” explains Usanin. “According to the technical design specification of the holding, at present, we, together with Kyshtym partners, have begun the prospecting and exploration operations to determine the location of quartzites in Chelyabinsk Oblast and in Bashkortostan. This is our first joint cluster project. When the geological prospecting works are over, it is planned to build a mine, the mining and processing production and the sorting and transport hub in the Beloretsk district of the Republic of Bashkortostan.”
Besides, on the basis of existing technologies in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Chelyabinsk Oblast and Bashkortostan, it is planned to create enterprises for the production of high-purity quartz concentrates and their further processing. These products are used, for example, in the production of power microelectronics, high-transparent glasses for aircraft, solar panels and so on.
Now a package of documents is being prepared for the ministry of industry and trade of the Russian Federation to conduct compliance checks and receive subsidies to compensate for part of the costs of joint projects.
What is more, the first agreement on the creation of the Ural Industrial Cluster, according to Usanin, was signed on March 12. According to SPARK-Intefax, on 18 March 2019, in the city of Novouralsk, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Ural Industrial Cluster Association (UPC) was registered as an association of legal entities. The main activity is “Research and Development in the field of natural and technical sciences”. Yelistratov Oleg Vladimirovich was appointed as the president. The co-owners are Uralsky Electrochemical Plant JSC and Centrotekh Research and Production Association. Both companies are registered under the same address in Novouralsk. And the Uralsky Electrochemical Plant for some time owned half of the ownership of the second company.
As for Ural Minerals PLC in Ufa, the company was established in 2016. It is engaged in the production of rubber products. The director general is Andrey Gladyshev, the beneficiary is Azat Mufazalov, who owns 60% of the company. The remaining 40% is owned by Anna Yermolaeva.
Not by number but quality
As economist Konstantin Kuzminykh noted in an interview with the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya, Bashkiria, Sverdlovsk Oblast and Chelyabinsk Oblasts are three industrialized regions, which in some ways have similarities.
According to the expert, it is important that these agreements do not remain only on paper, but work and bring real socio-economic results, so that there is a positive effect for the republic and partner regions.
“I hope that the policy of interregional and interstate cooperation will be directed not to the number of contracts, but to the quality of contractual relations and strong long-term mutually beneficial cooperation,” Kuzminykh concluded.
Ural Industrial Cluster — a new challenge
The concept of “cluster” has become a byword for Bashkiria. When the republic was led by Rustem Khamitov, this word was heard from his lips quite often. Investment agreements were signed, optimistic statements were made. Thus, he repeatedly announced the creation in Bashkortostan (or together with other regions) of helicopter, livestock (meat and milk), IT (or radio-electronic), sports, petrochemical, several tourist and many other clusters.
Far not all of them were implemented and not fully. After the loss of money for the project of the ultra-light co-axial helicopter (Rotorfly), which was presented to Putin, in social networks they began to joke that “cluster” comes from the phrase “to pocket” (a play on words in Russian — editor’s note).
Therefore, for Acting Head of Bashkiria Radiy Khabirov, the UPC is a kind of challenge. However, it should be noted that the head of the republic himself, unlike his Ural colleagues, did not sign the agreement, but sent his deputy prime minister to Innoprom. If it pans out, Khabirov's environment will use it for the creation of a positive image of the chief. In the case of failure, “the bashlyk” (the head of Bashkiria — editors’ note) leaves himself room to manoeuver.