Russia to end imports of rare earths by 2020
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.
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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 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>