Russia plans to accelerate lithium production
Amid the existing Western sanctions and the ban on the imports of high technologies to Russia, the Russian government plans to accelerate geological exploration of rare earth metals during the next several years
According to Alexander Karpuzov, head of department of department of strategic planning of Rosgeologiya, Russia’s leading geological holding, which unites local state geological enterprises, in recent years a particular attention of the government has been paid for the development of traditional mineral resources, such as oil, natural gas, while an interest to rare earth metals has been low.
However there is a possibility that such a situation will change in the coming years, while the biggest attention is expected to be paid for the increase of lithium production in Russia during the next several years.
It is planned that this will take place as part of the federal target program “Mining, production and consumption of lithium and beryllium in the Russian Federation», that was approved as far back as in 1996.
According to Karpuzov, Russia currently experiences a shortage of beryllium, rare earth metals, niobium, tantalum, lithium, high purity quartz and some other metals.
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It is planned that at the initial stage the majority of Russian lithium will be produced at the capacities of the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant, one of Russia’s largest lithium producers, while later at the capacities of other local producers.
According to state plans, the majority of future lithium production will be supplied for the needs of the domestic nuclear industry and will be used in the production lithium power sources, as well as lithium-ionbatteries.
In recent years lithium industry has attracted an interest from the Russian government, which has recently announced its plans for the resume of lithium production on the territory of the country.
According to Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade, after the collapse of Transbaical mining and processing complex, which was a sole producer of lithium in Russia, the country faced with a shortage of lithium.
According to Alexander Vladimirov, chief researcher at the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, after the closure of the Transbaical plant, the Russian needs in lithium was mostly met by the supplies from Australia, South America and China, however after the end of imports from China the situation became close to catastrophic.
In this regard, the Russian government, together with Rosatom, are planning to start the development of at least one lithium field in the territory of the country during the next several yeas. As part of these plans, there is a possibility of the resume operations on the Zavitinsky field in Transbaikal, which was removed from operation after the collapse of the Transbaical mining and processing complex. Another option is to start the development of the Tachelgynsky litium field, which is located in Mountain Shoria, a territory in southern Siberia and the southern part of Kemerovo Oblast.
According to state plans, the production of lithium may be also started in the Eastern Sayany, which is a mountain range, located in the southern part of Russian Siberia.
Finally, the Russian government is considering resuming the production of lithium on the Siberian platform, the craton located in the heart of the region of Siberia in the Irkutsk region, which, so far, has been economically unreasonable, due to the depth of the underground brines, which is estimated at 1-1.5 km, and their remoteness.
In addition, the Russian government plans to accelerate the development of lithium-containing underground brines in Yakutia diamond pipes
There is a possibility that the development of new production technologies will allow to start implementation of these plans, as, so far, it has been prevented by high costs, associated with the use of of standard methods of development. According to Denis Manturov, there are plans to use new technologies for the enrichment and processing of spodumene concentrates.
Despite the fact that the majority of Russian lithium reserves are concentrated in low-profit pegmatite deposits, last year the Russian government, together with scientists of the Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences (SB RAS), as well as the Institute of High Temperature Electrochemistry and Rosatom started an implementation of the project, which is aimed at the developing of new methods of lithium ore enrichment and produciton of lithium compounds.
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>