Ferronikeli – Kosovo’s Largest Privatization Mining Operation

Major industrial player, NewCo Ferronikeli and their Director, Ioannis Moutafis have plans to extend their stay in Kosovo. Of course, as a natural resources extractive industry contributing nearly half the country’s exports via raw materials, this growth agenda must coincide with the interests of the people of Kosovo. It appears, for now, Ferronikeli understands that responsibility and is ready for the challenge.

 

Good day. Please offer an introduction to Ferronikeli as one of the largest companies in Kosovo.

As a part of Cunico Resources, NewCo Ferronikeli has become a large component to the overall production rank of the group, which is now the number one producer of ferronickel in all of Europe. We’ve achieved remarkable growth in Kosovo in the past several years and, as a result we enjoy a reputation as a serious, stable and thriving company. Most importantly, we are consistently the biggest exporter in Kosovo equating to about 45-50% of total exports which contributes greatly to national budget of the country.

What are your plans for the future in order to sustain a natural resource company?

We aim to prolong the life of the local mines and therefore the company by sourcing raw materials from all over the world, namely Guatemala. Through these actions we can extend the life of the mine from 10-15 years to 30 years. This year alone we also managed to increase our production by 14%, mainly due to 100% utilization of our smelter facilities which was finally required following the global recession.

 

Extracting natural resources from the earth is always a sensitive endeavor due to its impact on the natural environment and the local communities. What CSR initiatives are you undertaking to remedy the pitfalls inherent to such an operation?

Like previous years, we have considered CSR as an integral part of our operation with many projects in different fields and sectors. In several cases we helped families in an educational capacity by awarding scholarships or donating bags with school supplies to children of the municipality. Also, we have helped families with food packages on religious and national holidays as well as environmental assistance in the Municipality of Drenas through planting trees and so forth.

As a proud member of the Board in the Kosovo CSR Network, NewCo Ferronikeli has also participated in other joint projects amongst its members. Additionally, we’ve assisted in raising funds for various charity events organized by the American Chamber of Commerce and other official entities such as Down Syndrome Kosova. In general, we are convinced that when the size and success of the company grows, so will our responsibilities towards the environment; it is a part of our culture.

 

What are some of the challenges that are faced while doing business in Kosovo?

As far as opportunity to do business is concerned, Kosovo offers plenty, but taxes are a bit high for us. Another problem is the increase of prices for electricity. This has significantly raised production costs and represents the largest issue for us as a company.

 

If you would, please detail some key projects that the company has done over the past several years to reach EU standards and operational efficiencies.

This falls into three main parts: Installation of new filters, granulation process and IPPC.

-       Installation of New Filters

The company has invested more than 3 million Euros in 2013 for improvements on the protection of the air environment through the installation of new filters in our rotary kilns.

We are certified with ISO standard 9001:2008 regarding ‘quality control’ and with ISO standard 14001:2004 regarding the ‘environment’; both of which conformed convincingly following an audit in the summer of 2013.

-       Granulation Process

Last year we began producing nickel in a form called granulation. This investment of more than 1.5 million euros allowed us to produce ferronickel granules (in place of the ingots we used previously) for the first time in the history of the company. Through this process the output is more economically beneficial compared to the previous one.

-       IPPC 30 October 2013 – 31 December 2017

On October 30, 2014, we obtained the IPPC (Integrated Environmental Permit) under the law of the Kosovo Environmental Protection Agency Kosovo (KEPA), which is responsible for the monitoring of data for environmental aspects which we report on monthly.

By obtaining the IPPC the conditions in which we operate have changed how we use raw materials, auxiliary and final products, and how to manage them effectively. This also sets the limit values (borders) for discharges into the air, water, soil, noise, and waste management.

 

As such an integral part of Kosovo’s economy, owing to your size and scope of work, I would imagine your need for sound collaboration with the Government of Kosovo is quite high.

We are dedicated to implementing precisely the requirements of law in all our future work, as we have in the past. As a whole, we are satisfied with Kosovo’s institutions and up to now have had great cooperation at both the municipality and federal levels.

Ferronikeli is also keen to work with the government on mutually beneficial programs. As such, we are interested in the development fund that was promised by former Prime Minister Thaçi. Should this Fund come to fruition it might bring good things for our company and the country as we can collaborate in the development of professional technical schools in the country.

Privatization in certain sectors can be quite a process. Please elaborate a little bit on the process of Ferronikeli’s privatization.

Cunico Group’s privatization a decade ago ensured the Group a tremendous business opportunity, as well as sound management in which to keep its 900 employees on the job. In fact, we are exploring the possibility of opening another mine, Çikatova, which could create many more jobs and business for the Cunico Group.

Please express a personal sentiment to our readers regarding doing business and also as a Greek expat living and working in Kosovo.

Kosovo’s business environment is challenging but as you can imagine, in an emerging country foreigners have many opportunities and infrastructure projects are underway in order to facilitate that business. This is more or less what I expressed to a ‘Greek Forum’ not long ago, which was organized by the Greek Liaison Office in Prishtina. Moreover, it’s an easy and safe place to live. I’ve been here for over 8 years with my family and it’s been good. Also, because it is a small place it gives an individual the opportunity to participate in various decision making bodies, like chambers, various committees and so forth. You can help move the needle. I encourage investors to come here if they are willing to work hard.