By the end of this year, Russian Quartz LLC expects to have
ramped up its quartz mining project in Kyshtym, in Chelyabinsk
Oblast, to a production capacity of 10,000 tpa high-purity
quartz (HPQ) concentrates.
Located on the eastern slopes of the southern Ural
Mountains, the project is being run by Russian
Quartz’s subsidiary enterprise, Kyshtym Mining.
Once it reaches its maximum output, with actual production
slated for early next year, Kyshtym will account for around 15%
of the global HPQ market, according to Russian
Although it has suffered a number of
the last decade, the overriding trend for solar
production in Asia is upwards, creating demand for
(Source: Pete Jelliffe)
Kyshtym has been in development since 2011 and to date has
recieved a total investment
of Russian rouble (R) 2.3bn ($37.6m* – although this
figure is closer to $80m averaged over 2011-2015, taking into
account the recent collapse in the value of the
In 2013, Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. became one of
the main shareholders in the project. This was a significant
deal for Russian Quartz, since Sumitomo’s buy-in
gives the company stable access to HPQ markets in Asia, where
the mineral is used in various high-tech applications, such as
fused quartz crucibles for making silicon metal ingots,
photovoltaics for solar panels, semiconductors and waveguides
for 4G/5G communications technology.
Sumitomo’s participation has also brought
modern processing expertise to the Russian project, which is
particularly important for Kyshtym’s development
because Russian Quartz’s existing technology was
out of date and had suffered from a lack of
Quartz ore from the Kyshtym deposit is
be among the purest in the world.
(Source: Russian Quartz)
According to published geological analysis, impurities in
the quartz deposit at Kyshtym, which typically include
aluminum, sodium, potassium or calcium, are low in number and
concentration. After processing, its impurity levels are just
12 parts per million (ppm), Russian Quartz claims.
Such high quality deposits are not common. Apart from
Russia, equivalently pure ore bodies are found in the US and
Norway, but are otherwise scarce.
Russian Quartz estimates that the size of the global market
for HPQ is 65,000 tpa, with an average growth rate of 3-5% per
year. The company is gearing up to compete with North
America-based Unimin, which is owned by Belgium’s
Sibelco, and The Quartz Corp., which has operations in the US
and Norway and is owned by French industrial minerals giant
Imerys SA and Norway’s Norsk Mineral AS.
"Right now, the main supplier of HPQ concentrate [on the
global market] is Unimin. Customers are [interested in finding]
additional sources of quartz to 'hedge’ their
supply risk, and we can substitute a part of the volume they
consume," says Pavel Polishchuk, chairman of Kyshtym
Mining’s board of directors.
A former producer of HPQ during the Soviet era, operations
at Kyshtym were suspended in the mid-1990s in response to the
weak economic climate in Russia. Quartz mining was revived at
the site in 2005, but only in small quantities.
Since 2012, Kyshtym Mining has been producing around 6,000
tpa HPQ concentrates. Although the present ramp up is designed
to take this figure to 10,000 tpa, the company’s
management has not ruled out the possibility of further
capacity increases from 2016. Global demand is expected to
continue to grow, thanks to the expansion of the solar energy
market in regions like China and Southeast Asia, the company
notes. "For a number of years, the facility had only old
equipment and production was unstable. But, through the
production of small batches, we enabled consumers to try our
quartz and assess its quality," Polishchuk explains.
"There are millions of tonnes of quartz produced in the
world each year, mostly for the manufacture of window glass or
various fillers for the construction industry," says Leonid
Kuzmin, CEO of Russian Quartz. "The quartz in our deposit has
nothing to do with these products. It can be purified to such
an extent that it can be used in the production of high-tech
products, including solar panels."
Russian Quartz is keeping the
technology for producing
its HPQ, which it has developed in cooperation
Japan’s Sumitomo Corp., a closely guarded
secret. (Source: Russian Quartz
The company’s own analysis of ore from the
Kyshtym deposit describes the material as granular in texture.
The length of the deposit in the submeridional direction is
15km and its width spans between 1km and 3km. The total area of
the site is 20km2 and comprises 67 identified quartz
veins running to depths of 30-90 metres. According to Russian
Quartz’s estimates, at targeted production rates,
the size of the deposit gives the project a mine life of around
Russian Quartz acknowledges that the Russian market for HPQ
is small, limited to a handful of manufacturers of lighting
products, and it expects to sell just 5-6% of its output to
The rest will be exported, chiefly to companies in China and
Southeast Asia. "This region is most attractive because [much
of the world’s] microelectronics and solar energy
capacities are located there," explains Kuzmin. "In Europe,
there are very few manufacturers left. We plan to deliver 60%
of our production to China, 20% to Japan and 20% to Europe,
primarily to Germany."
Kuzmin said he could not disclose details of the technology
his company is planning to use to extract and process the
quartz, as the information is commercially sensitive, adding
that the "closed" nature of the high-tech industry would partly
determine Kyshtym’s marketing strategy.
"We are not a public company and our customers are rather
closed as well," he said. "So we do not need to make any
serious efforts to enter the market, in the usual sense of
these words. For us, it is more important, to implement a
quality system that complies with ISO [International
Organization for Standardization] requirements and with the
standards of the consumer."
According to the opinion of some industry experts in Russia,
the viability of the Kyshtym project would be questionable
without the participation of the Sumitomo, owing to the lack of
funding and technology available within the company.
Sumitomo is also providing much needed training to the
Russian personnel tasked with developing the project, which
according to Russian Quartz, is not available in Russian
institutions. "We train specialists here in the [Chelyabinsk]
and then send them for further training abroad," says Kuzmin.
"[Foreign institutions] are better at preparing personnel from
technical and engineering standpoints and in terms of the
standards expected by our consumers."
"We have a rather good situation, in that our company still
has specialists trained during the Soviet era in clearly
defined technological disciplines, and the younger members of
staff are taking over their experience," Kuzmin said.
Anatoly Chubais, chairman of the board at Rusnano, a
government-backed private equity firm which aims to fund the
commercialisation of nanotechnologies in Russia and is a major
shareholder in Russian Quartz, said that the mining company has
made significant progress in developing production process
technology, thanks to Sumitomo’s
HPQ is used in the semiconductor
industry to produce
crucibles, quartz glass products and silicon metal,
is the base for semiconductor wafers. The main
of semiconductor manufacturing are Japan, South
Germany and the US state of California.
"We have been negotiating with Sumitomo for about a year and
a half. The Japanese have an understanding of the global market
and are very important for us [because of their] quartz
processing technology, including for [use in] microelectronic
and nanotechnologies," he said. "They not only brought money,
but brought 'smart’ money," he added.
Improving the quality of the final products is one of the
most important requirements for accessing the high-tech markets
"In terms of constant product improvement, the world does
not stand still and the quality of the material should be
getting better and better," notes Kuzmin. "A team of
specialists have been engaged in precisely this task, as well
as reducing costs." Even though he stresses that the research
team employed on the Kyshtym project have "the most modern
laboratory" at their disposal, he admits that the
company’s US-based competitors are a long way
ahead of Russian Quartz.
"They have been on this path for a long time, and we are
just getting started and are still a growing company. The
quality of products is a matter of investment in the further
steps of processing. At the moment, we believe that we need to
move steadily. We are number two in terms of quality, [which]
meets the demand of 90% of customers." He says that, within the
next year or so, Russian Quartz will be in a position to
compete with market leader Unimin on quality.
Future for Russian Quartz
The Kyshtym mine in Russia has been
small volumes of quartz on an irregular basis for
last decade but is set to ramp up to 10,000 tpa
for the start of 2016. (Source: Russian
Russian Quartz expects its Kyshtym venture to turn an annual
profit of around R400m ($700,000), but due to the ongoing
devaluation of the Russian currency against the US dollar, this
figure could almost double.
The company expects that all the technical equipment
required at the facility should be installed by the end of 2015
and the project will be in a position to produce 10,000 tpa HPQ
by the start of 2016.
At present, however, the company is not prepared to disclose
the details of its beneficiation plans, offering only general
targets for volume and revenue which it says will be increased
in the coming years.According to Kuzmin, the
project’s production capacity could grow from as
early as next year, particularly if the company succeeds in
making commercially significant products out of material
formerly considered as waste.
Other quartz developments in Russia
JSC Polar Quartz
Moscow-based JSC Polar Quartz is reported to be developing
the Neroika deposit on the eastern slope of the sub-polar
Like Kyshtym, the Polar Quartz project languished for a
number of years since development activities ceased in the
Russian Quartz’s Kyshtym
HPQ project is based on
the eastern slopes of the southern Urals in
Oblast. (Source: Russian
According to various sources, Rusnano and Khanty-Mansiysk
Autonomous Okrug signed a shareholders’ agreement
for the Polar Quartz project in 2011. Press reports released in
March 2014 however suggested that Rusnano terminated its
agreement with Polar Quartz after the company failed to meet
certain objectives laid out in the deal.
The current status of the project has not been
According to Kozhim’s website, the company
began its activities in 1936 as the Polar Ural Geological
Expedition, a part of Trust No. 13 of Ministry of Defence of
USSR to explore for quartz deposits in the Polar Urals.
After discovering quartz in 1948, the company outlined and
started developing the Zhelannoe deposit.
From 1955-1977, the deposit was exploited using open cast
mining techniques. After 1969, work at the site moved to
underground mining. In 1978, Kozhim began producing and selling
quartz for the speciality glass industry and since the 1990s,
the mine has continued to produce material for various
The last official update from Kozhim was published in 2009
and its present production status is unclear.
*Conversions made October 2015