Russia to significantly increase domestic niobium production
Russia plans to significantly increase the volume of domestic niobium production in the coming years, that will be achieved through the expansion of the existing production and processing capacities.
As part of these plans, production will be accelerated on the basis of the country’s largest niobium fields, and in particular the Lovozero mine, which is located in the Murmansk region, as well as the Tatar field in the Krasnoyarsk region. In the case of Lovozero, production will take place in the form of loparite concentrate, while in Tatar in the form of a pyrochlore concentrate.
A particular attention will be paid for the increase of production at the Tomtor rare earth-niobium field in the Republic of Sakha and the Etykinsky tantalum-niobium field, which is located in the Chita region of Russia.
In the middle-term, production is expected to be expanded on the basis of other Russian largest niobium fields, such as the Beloziminskoe and Katuginskoe.
Payback period of these projects are estimated at 7 years. Much will depend on the volume of state support, that will be provided by the government for the implementation of these projects.
Currently the majority of Russian niobium demand is met by the imports from Brazil, however, according to state plans, the increase of the domestic production will help to significantly reduce imports.
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It is planned that cheap energy resources is expected to be one of the major advantages of the Russian niobium production.
Processing of finished products will take place at the capacities of the Solikamsk Magnesium plant, as well as the Klyuchevskoi ferroalloy plant.
Currently the annual volume of production of niobium oxide in Russia is estimated at only 2,000 tonnes, however, according to state plans, these figures should significantly increase in the coming years in order to fully meet the domestic demand.
Overal, according to state estimates, the annual demand for niobium in Russia will vary in the range of 5,000-6,000 tonnes by 2018-2019 years, that will be mainly due to the planned development of its major consuming industries within the country, and in particular automotive.
Russia currently accounts for up to 25% of global niobium reserves, the majority of which are concentrated in the undeveloped fields in Eastern Siberia and the Far East. Currently the share of the country in the global niobium production is estimated at only 1%.
It is planned that the majority of future niobium production will be supplied for the needs of Russian military and defence sector, as well as other industries, such as electronics.
To date, the majority of Russian niobium production has been exported to Germany and the United States, however, there is a possibility that such a situation will change already in the coming years.
Prior to 2016, Russia has always been one of Europe’s largest ferroniobium importers with the annual volume of deliveries of 2,000-4,000 tonnes. The majority of imports is supplied from Brazil and were used in the production of highly durable tube strips for oil and gas pipes in a number of Russian metallurgical enterprises.
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>