MMC Norilsk Nickel and ALS Laboratory Group have entered into a joint venture (25%+1 share, and 75%-1 share) to establish a mineral assay and geochemical analysis business to serve the mining and exploration industry in Russia. The initial focus of the JV will be on the Trans Baikal Region of Siberia where LLC ALS Chita is opening a large modern full service commercial assay laboratory. The new laboratory in Chita is located in a new custom built facility modelled after other high production ALS Chemex laboratories throughout the world. The facility has state-of-the-art design and equipment which supports modern production management, and will operate using ALS’ global quality control system.ALS, as the majority partner in this venture, will be operating this facility as an independent laboratory providing services for both Russian and international companies operating in the Trans Baikal Region. Nevertheless, Norilsk Nickel will be the major client of the laboratory which will provide services to the group’s exploration companies throughout the region. Norilsk explains that historically Russia has great expertise in mineral analytical chemistry, but until now no high capacity commercial facility has been available to assist in the development of Russia’s rich natural resources. The Trans Baikal Region and especially Chita are experiencing rapid growth of the mining and exploration industries with new projects that are aimed at developing mineral deposits, of copper, molybdenum, iron and gold. The joint venture business will also provide new technologies, employment and training opportunities in Chita.Norilsk Nickel is the largest mining and metals company in Russia and is the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium and one of the world’s largest producers of platinum and copper. In addition, Norilsk Nickel produces a large number of by-products, including cobalt, rhodium, silver, tellurium, selenium, iridium and ruthenium. The Norilsk Nickel group is involved in prospecting, exploration, extraction, beneficiation and metallurgical processing of minerals; and in production, marketing and sales of base and precious metals. Norilsk Nickel’s Russian operations include the operations of the Polar Division on the Taimyr Peninsula in the Krasnoyarsk region and the Kola Mining and Metallurgical Company located on the Kola Peninsula in the Murmansk region. Its international operations are located in Australia, Botswana, Finland, South Africa and the USA. Currently Norilsk Nickel is exploring and plans to develop green field projects in the Chita region, and has a JV with Rio Tinto and alliance agreement with BHP Billiton to explore southeast Siberia, far east, northwest and west Siberia parts of Russia.ALS is one of the largest and most successful commercial laboratory services groups in the world with substantial operations in all six continents. Nearly one hundred laboratories in more than 30 countries provide testing services in the fields of mineral identification and quantification, orebody evaluation, geochemical prospecting, coal analysis and environmental analysis. ALS Chemex, the group’s mineral division, says it is the world leader in the provision of geochemical and assay services. The recent acquisition of ACIRL, the leading coal analysis company in Australia, as well as the JV arrangement with JKTech to provide state-of-the-art automated mineral identification services, as well as the JV arrangement with Norilsk Nickel to provide the best possible service to mining and exploration companies in Russia is a demonstration of the company’s resolve to diversify its testing services both from a product and from a geographic point of view.