Russia to resume production of beryllium
Russia will resume the production of beryllium that will take place on the basis of Malyshevsky emerald field, one of Russia’s largest emerald fields in terms of reserves, which is operated by state and defence corporation Rostec and which is located in the Ekaterinburg region of the country.
The project is expected to be implemented by Rostec in cooperation with the Russian Leading Research Institute of Chemical Technology (VNIIKhT), which is part of the Russian nuclear monopoly Rosatom.
To date, VNIIKhT has already started testing technology for obtaining beryllium concentrate from ore and dumps of the Malyshevsky mine.
The production of beryllium, which is an integral component for the production of nuclear weapons, has been practically suspended in Russia since the late 1980s, however its large-scale production is expected to resume at the beginning of 2018.
Total reserves of the mine are estimated at 250,000 tonnes of ore. Planned production volumes are not disclosed.
In addition to Malyshevsky, the production of beryllium in Russia could be carried on the basis of Ermakovsky and Zavitinsky fields, both of which are located in Siberia. The development of both fields is currently suspended.
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During the Soviet times beryllium production in the USSR was carried out mainly in Kazakhstan at the capacities of the local Ulba Metallurgical Plant
The volume of investments in the project is estimated at RUB 5 billion (US$100 million).
Beryllium reserves in Russia are not disclosed. The majority of global production according to open data, comes from the US, with China being the world’s second largest producer.
According to data of the US Geological Survey, last year total global production of beryllium amounted to about 220 tonnes.
The Malyshevskoye emerald field was acquired by Rostec several years ago together with the Kaliningrad Amber Combine. In September, the state corporation announced its intention to expand the production of emeralds by 10 times, as well as to increase beryllium production by 2025.
Planned production volumes of both metals by this time should amount to 1.85 million carats of emeralds and 30.7 million carats of beryllium per year.
At the same time Rosatom, from its side, earlier this year informed about its plans to activate R&D activities for the development of new beryllium mining technologies.
That should have taken place with the participation of scientists at VNIIKhT and Bochvar High-tech Scientific Research Institute of Inorganic Materials, which is part TVEL state corporation, a Russian nuclear fuel cycle company.
Also in January, it was reported about the possible resuming of beryllium ore production at the Ermakovskoye in Buryatia.
According to predictions of analysts of the Russian Ministry of Energy, successful implementation of these projects will allow Russia to fully cover its needs in beryllium by the domestic production in years to come and to stop further imports.
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>