EDITOR: | October 8th, 2015 | 4 Comments

Russia prepares for large-scale rare earth metals production

| October 08, 2015 | 4 Comments
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The government of Russia’s Murmansk region, a region, located in the northwestern part of Russia, has started a search of an investor for the development of the local Afrikandovsky field of rare-earth metals, according to Alexei Tyukavin, first deputy-governor of the region.

According to Murmansk regional government, successfull development of the field will allow to establish a full-scale production of titanium dioxide, as well as rare-earth metals.

Estimated volume of investments in the project is 8 billion rubles (US$200 million). Ore reserves of the field will ensure continous operation of a mine and processing complex, that will be built later during the next 100 years.

The tender is expected to be completed by the end October of the current year. The license for an investor will be granted for 25 years. In addition to rare earth metals, titanium, iron, tantalum, niobium and other metals.

The Russian government puts big hopes on the implementation of the project, considering the Murmansk region as a new center of Russia’s rare-earth metals production.

This was confirmed in the state program “Production of rare earth metals in Russia until 2020”, which was officially adopted by the government on the 5th  of February of 2013.

In addition to Afrikandovsky field, as part of the state plans is the development of the Lovozersky field, Russia’s largest loparite field, which is also located in the Murmansk region and where the REM content of primarily of cerium group is estimated at about 1.12%.

It is planned that titanium-tantalum-niobium concentrates, that will be produced at the Lovozero mining and processing complex, will be supplied for further processing to Solikamsk magnesium plant, which specialize in the production of REM carbonates.

At the same time, in addition to the Murmansk fields, the production of rare-earth metals will soon be accelerated in the Yakutia Republic, where it will take place on the basis of the local Tomtor field, one of the world’s largest rare-earth metals fields, which reserves are estimated at 154 million tonnes of ore.

According to state plans, the production at the field should be officially started  on 2021. The project will be implemented by Triarkmining company, which is a joint venture of the Russian Rostec state corporation and ICT Group, (one of Russia’s leading financial and investment companies), and will involve the development of the Buranny site (which is located on the area of 12,4 sq.km.) of the field at the initial stage.

Under the terms of the project, geogological and exploration works on the Tomtor field should be completed during the period of 2016-2018.  Building of all the needed infrastructure of the field is scheduled for 2019-2020. The reserves of the Byranny site are designed until 2055-2060 years, while the overal reserves of the Tomtor field, according to estimates of analysts of Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, will be enough to meet Russia’s needs in rare-earth metals for the period of 400 years.

According to plans of the Russian government, successful development of the Murmansk and Yakutia rare-earth metals fields will allow Russia to fully refuse from the imports of rare-earth metals (mostly from China) already in the near future.

In the long-term, Russia plans to become one of the leaders in the global market of rare-earth metals. During the Soviet times the USSR was the world’s third largest country in terms of rare-earth metals production. At present the share of Russia in the global market of rare-earth metals is estimated at 1.3%. Currently Russia accounts for 17-18% of world reserves of rare-earth metals.


Eugene Gerden

Editor:

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>


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Comments

  • Jack Lifton

    I have been hearing this story for decades. When the Soviet Union equipped the titanium/niobium/tantalum facility in Estonia at Silimae to separate light rare earths by solvent extraction it was planned to obtain the mineral concentrates of loparite from the Lovozero mine, after they had been extracted and separated as a mixed concentrate at the Solikamsk Magnesium Works. This was done for many years and Silmet, as it came to be called, was the Soviet Union’s source of light rare earths. I believe that didymium metal was also produced there or at Solikamsk for use in NdFeB magnets. Silmet had a capacity of 1000-2000 tons per year and as a Soviet style business had 550 employees to do so; this was about 3-4 times as many as there would be in a modern SX plant of the same capacity. Silmet was “privatized” when the Soviet Union collapsed, and ultimately was bought by Molycorp, which didn’t realize how obsolete it was.
    As for Tomtor it has been marketed as the world’s highest grade highest volume rare earth deposit for the last few decades. The last time I heard anything about it the Russian State Company, we know as Uranium One, was going to develop it. Note that I was told that Tomtor gets to 50 degrees below zero air temperature in the winter.
    Russian projects lack the ability to generate trust among global investors, so that only a Russian would invest in such a venture.
    No Russian venture will come to pass in any time frame or for any budget that I have seen in this report.

    Jack Lifton

    October 8, 2015 - 6:38 PM

  • Jeff Thompson

    An amusing article, but I think the key is to take seriously only those projects that know what is going to happen, and specifically what they are working on, today, tomorrow, next week, and the next three months. Projections out five, ten, and more years in the future count for little, so statements like a mine and processing complex “that will be built later during the next 100 years”, or even better, the reserves “will be enough to meet Russia’s needs in rare-earth metals for the period of 400 years”, while possibly true, are difficult to take seriously, because nothing is actually going to happen tomorrow.
    I wonder how many scholars in the year 1615 accurately projected their nation’s needs for, say, copper and iron for the year 2015, somehow taking into account population growth, constantly changing national boundaries, technological changes that caused either more or less use of the metal in question, and other developments in other nations that changed those plans.
    All rare earth juniors need to focus on what they are going to do today, tomorrow, next week, and the next three months to move their projects forward. Who knows, by the year 2415 we might actually even be mining those asteroids everyone keeps talking about.

    October 8, 2015 - 7:17 PM

  • Alex

    When I was at Las Vegas Conference – there are some people ifrom USA who suggested to organize mining at their ore – mining projects and I wonder that there is still people who belive that it is interesting some investors. As for Russian projects I belive that this is people who just belive that State will invest this projects. No private money will invest in this projects I belive. Really this safety supply chain need Japanese Companies for keeping their profits, other countries need not because they have not enougth demand for production and especially Russia. To produce ore or rare-earth to became part of Western safaty supply chain is not realistick for Russian producers.

    October 9, 2015 - 6:51 AM

  • Mortimer

    I would advise investors stay out of Russia and countries like Kyrgyzstan , Stans energy were shafted by the Kyrgs first and then in the RUSSIAN court of arbitration , I would also advise listening to people like Byron King who pumped Stans on an info commercial and lead many people into a despot country best to invest in Canada and USA at least you know the law is fair .

    October 9, 2015 - 7:55 AM

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