Russia Looking to Boost Rare Earth Minerals Production

Tomtorskoye deposit is one of the biggest in the world.
By Vladislav Vorotnikov
By 2030, Russia plans to ramp up rare earth minerals production nearly tenfold, not only to meet the domestic demand but also to become the world’s second- biggest rare earth minerals exporter, the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry recently announced.

The Russian government has detailed a roadmap of rare earth minerals production, Alexey Besprozvannikh, deputy industry and trade minister, told Reuters. In total, 11 new projects should be launched in the industry during the coming decade, with the overall investment value up to Rub110 billion ($1.6 billion), he said.

Russian known reserves amount to 26.9 million metric tons (mt), which makes nearly 10% of the world’s rare earth minerals reserves. The actual flgure could be way bigger since vast territories in Siberia remain underexplored and may contain deposits yet to be found. In 2019, the Russian state geological agency discovered 40 new mineral deposits in the country, of which a few were classifled as rare earth mineral deposits. The Russian Parliament has given strong incentives to the rare earth minerals industry development by cutting tax on mineral resources extraction from 8% to 4.8% starting from January 2020. The taxation of all new projects will qualify for a decreasing coefflcient of 0.1% per year for 10 years since their launch, which should attract investors.

Under the state support program, investors are also eligible for soft loans with the subsidized interest rate under new projects in the rare earth mining industry. All in all, state support measures should push the Russian rare earth minerals production from 2,000 metric tons (mt) in 2019 to 17,000 mt or 20,000 mt, estimated Eugene Kiselev, director of the Russian state geological agency. The upcoming projects will mostly focus on the global market, he added. The domestic demand for rare earth minerals remains relatively weak, which has been constraining the growth in production for several years, he said. The Industry and Trade Ministry anticipated an increase in demand on the domestic market thanks to the development of the domestic high-tech industry, according to Besprozvannikh.

On July 15, the national association of rare earth producers and consumers was established in Russia. So far, it involves six companies, each of which have projects in the area of rare earth mineral production at various stages of implementation. In 2020, rare earth minerals have been recognized as reserves of strategical importance. On June 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree prohibiting sharing information on the rare earth minerals reserves and production. All data relating to rare earth mineral production have been classifled, except for the deposits developed by non-Russian investors. For many years, Russian offlcials have been calling the government to embark on some steps to ensure the domestic market would not deplete its supply of rare earth minerals, which is crucial for the defense industry.

As featured in Womp 2020 Vol 10 -