Norilsk, BHP Team Up on New Field

Norilsk Nickel invited BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining company, to explore the largest untapped nickel deposit in Russia, after winning the rights for it at an auction Thursday.

Norilsk, the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium, paid 726 million rubles ($30.7 million) for the Iisko-Tagulsk field in the Irkutsk region, the company said in an e-mailed statement.

The deposit may contain 7.5 million tons of nickel, equal to the three-quarters of Norilsk's existing measured and indicated reserves. It also holds 3.5 million tons of copper and 750 tons of platinum and related metals.

Norilsk and BHP may need to invest about 2.5 billion rubles just to complete exploration, which has the potential for seven or eight mines, Norilsk said.

Oleg Deripaska, who wants to acquire control of Norilsk through RusAl, did not bid in the auction after registering mining firm SMR, Interfax reported.