September 5, 2017 / 3:12 PM / in a year

CORRECTED (OFFICIAL)-Polyus starts commissioning gold mine project in Russia's Far East

(Corrects date in paragraph 5 for reaching full production to end-2018 from end-2017, based on a new statement from the company)

MOSCOW, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Russia’s top gold producer Polyus said on Tuesday it had started commissioning its Natalka mine in the country’s Far East, a project that is expected to help the firm lift its gold output by a third by 2019.

Commissioning of the Natalka plant, the largest in Russia with capacity to process 10 million tonnes of ore a year, was formally launched by President Vladimir Putin during this year’s annual economic forum in the Pacific port of Vladivostok.

The output from the deposit is expected to reach 420,000-470,000 troy ounces a year, helping Polyus lift its total annual production to 2.8 million ounces by 2019, Chief Executive Pavel Grachev said.

The firm expects to produce 2.075 million to 2.125 million ounces in 2017.

Natalka is a long-awaited greenfield project for Polyus, a firm controlled by the family of Russian tycoon Suleiman Kerimov. Polyus expects to reach full production levels at Natalka, whose mine life is 31 years, by the end of 2018.

Polyus said in a statement that “the first stage of hot commissioning of Natalka has been officially launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin via video-link during a ceremony at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.”

Russian officials often announce the start up of big projects or signing of major contracts at business events in a bid to woo more investors, particularly since Western states imposed sanctions on Moscow over its annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

During this year’s forum, Putin officially launched several other projects, including a polished diamond factory in Vladivostok and a soy factory in the Far East’s Amur region.

The Natalka project would create 2,000 jobs at the mine and processing plant, Polyus said. (Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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