Putin orders the resumption of tungsten production
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has issued an order for the resumption of tungsten production in Russia, with the aim to ensure its regular supplies for the needs of the domestic industrial production.
It is planned that production will take place on the basis of Tyrnyauz tungsten-molybdenum field, one of Russia’s largest tungsten-molybdenum fields in terms of reserves, which is located in Kabardino-Balkaria (Southern Russia).
According to Putin’s order, financial and economic model of the project should be completed by the Russian government by February 1, of the current year.
Planned volume of investments in the project is estimated at 14.2 billion rubles (US$250 million).
The project involves the establishment of a large-scale mining and processing complex, that will have the capacity to process up to 1 million tonnes of ore per year.
According to earlier statements of Zalim-Geri Gubashiev, head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Kabardino-Balkaria, the local authorities together with the Russian federal government are considering establishing a cluster on the basis of the Tyrnyauz field, that will focus both on production and processing activities.
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The authorities of the Kabardino-Balkaria has been in a search of investors for the development of the field since the mid-2000s. In 2012 they had talks with the Canadian Almonty Industries about its participation in the project, however no final agreement was taken.
It is planned that the Tyrnyauz field may be transferred to Rostec (Russian state holding company, which brings together 663 entities mainly from defense-industry complex) without tender or a state auction.
According to Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade, the increase of tungsten and possible molybdenum production is an acute need, due to the predicted exhaustion of its reserves at other, smaller fields, the majority of which are located in the Russian Far East and Trans-Baikal region.
Currently the majority of tungsten in Russia is used in the production of carbide cutting tools used for the production of civilian products, as well as the domestic defense industry.
At present the Tyrnyauz field contains about 40% of Russian reserves of tungsten and 10% of proven reserves of molybdenum (ore reserves – 360 million tons). It has been developed since the beginning 1930s, however in 2002 the development of the field was suspended after the exhaustion of the richest ores of the field. This has also resulted in the suspension of operations of a mining and processing complex, which was designed for the capacity of 6.6 million tonnes at that period of time.
Currently among the major producers of tungsten in Russia are the Lermontov and Primorsky mining and processing complexes (both of which are located in the Primorsky Territory).
In the case of Lermontov, production and processing activities at the complex has been recently suspended, while its reserves should be exhausted already by 2018.
At the same time the development of Tyrnyauz field is expected to be not a single project for the production of tungsten in Russia. Several weeks ago plans to start the development of Zabytoe tungsten field were announced by Primorvolfram, LLC (part of Wolfram Company)
Finally, Tverdosplav, another Russian mining major, has announced its plans to invest 3.8 billion rubles in the processing of tungsten in Buryatia, with the planned capacities up to 2,800 tonnes of concentrate per year.
Eugene Gerden is an international free-lance writer, based in St. Petersburg, who specializes on writing in the field of mining, metals and rare earth metals. ... <Read more about Eugene Gerden>