Russian ship carrying 700 tonnes of Polymetal gold ore spotted on seabed

Polymetal has tended to attract more publicity as one of a number of natural resources companies from the former Soviet republic that have controversially listed in London.

But it has become the subject of an entirely different sort of tale after Russian scuba divers found a sunken cargo ship loaded with 700 tonnes of gold ore owned by the FTSE 100 group.

The 40-year-old freighter, Amurskaya, had disappeared in the Okhotsk sea, one of the main routes for Russia to Asian markets. But the country’s transport ministry said on Tuesday state lifeguards had located the vessel, albeit without its nine-member crew.

“Scuba divers investigated the sunken object and it is the Amurskaya freighter. We plan to continue penetrating the vessel,” the lifeguards said.

The ship, operated by a company based in Nikolayevsk-on-Amur, left the Kiran sea terminal on 28 October carrying ore from Polymetal’s Avlayakan mine to be delivered at its Hakanja processing plant. It was discovered on the seabed at a depth of 25 metres after capsizing in high seas.

“A ladder, the lack of people on the bridge, the open door to the room below the bridge deck and the lack of lifeboats on board confirms with a high likelihood that the crew attempted an emergency evacuation,” the ministry added.

The director of the ship’s operator is being investigated on charges of negligence for having sent the vessel out in bad weather and overloading it with gold ore.

There was more good news. In a falling market, Polymetal’s shares were one of the few positive performers, gaining just under 1% as the FTSE 100 dropped 93 points to 5791.63. However, the strength was more likely attributable to the company being seen as generally benefitting from a rising gold price.

Even at current levels, the ore aboard the Amurskaya is worth about only $230,000 (£144,000), with each tonne out of the Avlayakan mine containing about six grammes of gold.

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