Norilsk Unit May Halve Work Force

Norilsk Nickel may halve the work force at one of its main units to cut costs, the unit's head said.

The Kola division in the Murmansk region, which has eliminated more than 3,000 jobs since 2004, "has further to go" in its reductions, unit head Yevgeny Potapov said. Kola's staff may shrink to 6,000 or less in five to six years from 11,400 currently, he said Tuesday in Zapolyarny.

Kola raised monthly wages by an average of 30 percent to $1,374 for each worker in 2007, he said. Inflation was 12 percent last year.

The northeastern unit is developing the world's largest nickel deposit, Severny, which could produce 6.7 million tons per year of copper-nickel ore, Potapov said. Norilsk will spend $300 million to develop Severny, he said.

Norilsk may also convert a nickel smelter in northwestern Russia into an iron or chrome plant as part of plans to reduce the company's pollution emissions.