EDITOR: | May 14th, 2015 | 9 Comments

Russia to end imports of rare earths by 2020

| May 14, 2015 | 9 Comments
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Russian government allows foreign investors to develop strategic gold and precious metals minefieldsRussia plans to end imports of rare earths by 2020, and fully provide its own needs by domestic production, according to an official spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade.

This is expected to be achieved thanks to the beginning of development of the Tomtorsky rare earth element (REE), field in Yakutsk, a territory of Russia, located in the far eastern region of the country, as well as other REE fields. In the case of Tomtorsky field, so far, exploratory and drilling works have already started on the Burannoey section of the field with the aim of evaluating its geological, morphological, qualitative and quantitative characteristics.

After these developments the government plans to receive data, regarding the estimated volume reserves of niobium, yttrium, scandium and other rare earths. The state plans the building of the infrastructure for the project (and in particular a new large-scale mining and processing works), during the period of 2018-2020. By this time, the first ore from the field will be produced, which will allow them to stop further imports of rare earths into Russia.

The field will be developed by a local Triarkmayning company, which is a joint venture of Rostec (a Russian state corporation established to promote development, production and export of hi-tech industrial products for civil and defense sectors), and ICT Group, one of Russia’s leading investment holdings.

In May 2014 the venture won a tender for the development of the Tomtorsky REE field. At the initial stage the company’s plan to focus on the development of the Burannoey section of the field, where reserves are estimated at 20 million tonnes of ore, valued at US$8 billion, with later development of the others. Operational lifetime of Burannoey is estimated at 40-50 years. The volume of investments in the project is estimated at 145 billion rubles (US$4,5 billion). Successful implementation will make Russia one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of rare earth metals. During Soviet times, the production of rare earth metals in the country was at the level of 8500 tonnes per year. Production took place in more than 30 regions of the USSR.

However, since the collapse of the USSR in 1990 and the number of political and economic crisis in the country, the production of REE’s in Russia has almost stopped, while Russia became a net importer. Since the beginning of the 2000s the situation in the industry has started to improve, which resulted in the resumption of production of REE’s in Russia.

According to Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade, the planned investments will allow the country to fully provide its local needs in REE’s and to end imports. He has also added that Russia has perfect conditions for the development of REE production, taking into account that Russia currently remains the world’s second largest country in terms of REE reserves, which are estimated at 19 million tonnes (17% of the global market). Overall, the country has at least 14 REE fields, the majority of which (including Yakutsk) are located in the northern regions of the country, and in particular the Kola Peninsula, the Krasnoyarsk region and Murmansk.


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

  • bearcat

    Critical as the West is about Russia, Putinism and mafia capitalism, at least here is country that is getting serious about its national ree security, presumably for both pure economic and military security reasons. Smart to do that before imminent or actual threats. First Germany and now Russia, is the prospective close-to-home market for Tasman being whittled away?

    May 14, 2015 - 2:02 PM

  • Jack Lifton

    Germany’s rare earths from Tantalus will be mined in Madagascar. Russia’s if they are to be procured by mining the “Tomtor” deposit will need to overcome the winter site temperatures at the site of 50 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit-Note that mercury freezes at 40 degrees below zero in either system of measurement!). Tasman is a lot closer to reality than Tomtor. Also I would to know just where the Russian total supply chain is located. To the best of my knowledge there are no rare earth separation facilities, rare earth metal/alloy making facilities, or rare earth permanent magnet making facilities in Russia today. The Russians produce top tier military equipment, tactical missiles in particular, with Chinese magnets and Chinese terfenol. I doubt that those supplies and the technologies to make them in Russia are going to be easily replaced or acquired.
    Please, someone with actual knowledge of Russian industry, surprise me with some facts.

    May 15, 2015 - 4:55 PM

  • Alex

    Yes, you are correct Jack. Russia Tomtor project may be realised only with state dotatation. Really demand is not too big but Russia produce magnets by it self – three-five not big Works. In Russia also one Works – SMZ and three -four small new Works which start production after buble at the REE market. For Russia is better to develop pilot plants and keep tecknology possibility to produce rare-earth for military applications by itself. For civil applications you need to compete with chinese prices and other world prices so civil applications are using Chinese supply chain.

    May 16, 2015 - 2:52 AM

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  • JACK LIFTON

    Alex,

    Thank you. It seems so logical that a nation’s military should back the production of its critical materials yet this does n’ t seem to be important to the politicians who throw hundreds of billions at those who are supposed to defend us from.those who spend tens of millions on securing supplies of critical materials as well as tens of billions on weapons that use them. One might think that our security as a nation wasn’t really important to those servants of the people.

    Jack

    May 16, 2015 - 7:46 AM

  • Alex

    Yes, really military applications are too small part of the market.
    And it is usefull just to make stock for 2-3 year supply, and have possibility to produce this goods if necessary for those period. To my mind it is better to donate science and pilot Works to keep this tecknology in country, then produce at big quantaties.
    May be for USA with big car production their is market of magnets but when I was at Chinese GM , they belive that Chinese market will growth , not USA and European. So, Chinese car market of Nd-Fe-B growth and Chinese will growth Nd-Fe-B magnet market. It ‘ll be difficult to try be part of this supply chain.

    May 16, 2015 - 11:08 AM

  • Ulric Schwela

    Out of interest, is the reference to “niobium” in the 3rd para actually meant to be “neodymium”? Could be some confusion between Nb and Nd as the former is not actually a rare earth element.

    June 4, 2015 - 10:55 AM

  • NiDee

    Niobium is found in or around many rare earth deposits.

    August 18, 2015 - 4:25 AM

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