he Russian government has no plans to reduce investments in the development of the national industry of rare-earth metals (REM), despite the ongoing financial crisis in the country, caused by Western sanctions.
The overall volume of investments in the development of Russian industry of rare-earth metals until 2020 is estimated at RUB 143,5 billion (US$2,5 billion), the majority of which are expected to be provided by private investors. The volume of state investments will not exceed RUB 30 billion (US$600 million).
In recent years the development of rare-earth metals’ production has become one of the state priorities in Russia, which is personally controlled by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
This is mainly due to a significant increase of the demand for rare-earth metals in Russia, mostly from such high-tech industries as aviation, aerospace, nuclear industry, electronics, which, to date, have been by almost 100% dependent on imported supplies.
In addition to the development of REM fields, as part of the state plans is the establishment of a single chain of REM production from ore extraction to the production of concentrates and metal oxides as well as finished products.
The biggest hopes of the state are put on the Tomtor field in the Yakutia Republic, which, in addition to rare earth metals, is characterized by vast reserves of phosphorus, which is necessary for the production of fertilizers, iron, titanium, vanadium and manganese.
Contrary to some local ecologists, the development of the field will not be associated with any ecology risks and possible thorium and uranium emissions.
The ore content of the field has no analogues in the world, in terms of REM concentration so investors of the project, among which are Russian state corporation Rostec and Russian financial conglomerate ICT Group, have no plans to build a processing plant close to the field,which may have a disastrous impact on the ecology of the area.
It is planned that future ore, that will be produced at the field, will be enriched outside the region on one of the processing complexes of Russian nuclear monopoly Rosatom, which is located in the Chita region.
According to Igor Zyryanov, deputy director of the Yakutnipromalmaz, one of Russia’s leading research institutions in the field of mining, the current reserves of the Tomtor field are estimated at more than 40 million tonnes of ore, which means that its development may last for the next 400 years.
The production at the field is expected to be launched on 2019.
At the initial stage of the project, the partners will focus on the development of Buranny section of the field, the richest section of the field, in terms of rare-earth metals reserves, while later on the Severny and Youznhy sections, while the majority of exploration works are expected to be conducted by the local Yakutskgeologiya.
According to Andrew Dedyukhin, CEO of Vostok-Engineering, the contractor of the project, the development of the field involves drilling of 200 wells, that will be equivalent to 414,000 meters of drilling. In order to avoid a leakage of drill cutting waste into the environment, drilling will be carried out with the use of special washing equipment, and the resulting slurry will be put back into the wells during their abandonment.
In addition to Tomtor, as part of the state plans is the acceleration of implementation of other projects in the field of rare-earth metals, such as the development of monazite concentrate reserves in the Ekaterinburg region. Initial plans for their development were announced by the Soviet government as far back as during the 1930s, and were mainly related with the need for the production of nuclear weapons, however since that time implementation of the project was suspended.