* Russia holds economic forum in Vladivostok on Sept 6-7
* Polyus to start Natalka’s smelter during forum
* Japan’s Abe, South Korea, Mongolian presidents to visit
By Katya Golubkova and Polina Nikolskaya
MOSCOW, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Russia’s top gold producer Polyus plans to start the smelter at its main greenfield Natalka deposit in Russia’s Far East in early September, Alexander Galushka, Russia’s development minister for the region, told Reuters.
The launch will be announced at an annual economic forum taking place in the Pacific port of Vladivostok on Sept. 6-7, where President Vladimir Putin will deliver a keynote speech.
“At the forum... the start will be given to the development of a large gold deposit in Magadan - Natalka,” Galushka said.
Galushka, in charge of Far East development since 2013, also said deals worth more than 2.2 trillion roubles ($37 billion) are expected to be signed at the forum. Putin has made development in the region, which is close to the borders with China and North Korea, a priority.
Polyus confirmed it plans to start the first stage of Natalka’s smelter hot commissioning - when the ore is loaded into the plant - in September. The smelter is expected to deliver the first gold by year-end, Polyus said.
Polyus, controlled by the family of Russian tycoon Suleiman Kerimov, expects that Natalka will be producing between 450,000 and 500,000 troy ounces of gold per year once it reaches capacity.
The deposit, discovered in the 1940s, will drive Polyus’ production growth in the coming years and has helped the company to sell a stake to investors in Moscow and London and China’s Fosun this year.
Galushka said the government had given Polyus a 10 billion rouble subsidy to create power grids for Natalka which he said had helped to speed up development of the deposit.
Galushka also said Japanese Prime Minister Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga were expected to attend the Vladivostok forum.
Russia and Japan are in dispute over the Pacific islands known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia. The islands were seized by Soviet forces at the end of World War Two.
In December, Putin and Abe agreed to launch talks on joint economic activities on the disputed islands as a step toward concluding a peace treaty between the two countries to end a row that has overshadowed ties since World War Two.
“We are ready to do everything needed for our economic relations (with Japan) to develop further, for Japanese investors coming and doing a successful business in the far east,” Galushka said when asked if any breakthrough on the dispute was expected.
“Talks on joint economic activities cannot freeze or stop the process of Kuriles development.” ($1 = 59.0950 roubles) (Additional reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Susan Thomas)