Russian government plans to boost rare earths output
Published: Friday, 09 June 2017
Russia's Ministry of Industry and Trade has signalled its intention to support the rare earths sector through with financial backing, as restrictions on foreign processing technologies could be relaxed to help the country exploit its large resources.
by Eugene Vorotnikov
Russia’s government plans to increase domestic
rare earths production over the next few years, officials
familiar with the scheme have confirmed to IM.
According to Denis Manturov, Russia’s minister of
industry and trade, the Putin administration will initially set
aside the equivalent of $350m to directly and indirectly
support the sector.
Speaking at a ministerial meeting in May, Manturov said that
generating strong local demand for the elements was essential
to grow the industry. He also stressed that Russian companies
involved in the rare earths value chain need to be given access
to modern international technology in order to be
A trade ministry official told IM that the
government will allocate funding to research and development,
tax incentives, guaranteed purchases by the State Institution
on Formation of the State Fund of Precious Metals and Precious
Stones (Gokhran) and the creation of a strategic reserve for
rare earth materials.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) currently ranks Russia as the
fourth largest producer of rare earths in the world, at 3,000
tonnes of production in 2016. This puts the country a long way
behind the world’s number one rare earths
supplier, China, which mined 105,000 tonnes of the minerals
last year. However, the USGS estimates that that Russia hosts
at least 18m tonnes rare earths reserves, giving it significant
potential to expand output.
Manturov said that the development of Russia’s
rare earths sector has been hindered by a lack of analytical
capabilities, meaning that mineralogy and separation techniques
for Russian rare earth ores have not been fully explored.
He also blamed the geographical remoteness and geological
complexity of many of Russia’s largest rare earths
deposits for making it difficult to attract the large sums of
capital needed to develop them. Weak international prices for
rare earths have similarly deterred investors from backing
Russia’s largest rare earths deposit, the Tomtor
field in the Yakutia Republic, eastern Siberia, is likely to be
a priority development asset for the Russian government, along
with the Seligdar field, also in Yakutia and the Lovozero field
on the Kola peninsula, northwest Russia.
According to Manturov, Russia’s government has
accepted the need to develop rare earths processing capacity,
with foreign help if necessary. Since Vladimir Putin first
became Prime Minister of Russia in 2000, Russian companies have
been largely restricted to using domestically produced
technology, which has failed to keep pace with global
developments particularly in mineral processing.
Although the emphasis is still heavily on Russian-led
development in rare earths and includes a hydrometallurgical
separation plant in Solikamsk in the country’s
Perm region and by-product enrichment of fly ash, coal ash,
titanium-zirconium fields, apatite and tailings,
Manturov’s comments suggest that
Russia’s technological restrictions may be
Andrei Tverdov, technical director of Moscow-based consultancy
IMC Montan, told IM that while China’s dominance
of the global rare earths market has encouraged private
investors to take a closer look at Russian projects,
implementation will be impossible without state support.
Such assistance, he said, is particularly important during the
early stages of projects, which require large capital
Figures from the Russian industry ministry suggest that
domestic rare earths output could rise from 1,000-3,000 tpa
today to 40,000 tonnes by 2020-2022, assuming the slated
policies are put into effect.
Gennady Sarychev, deputy director of JSC Science and
Innovations, one of Russia’s largest scientific
research institutions, is confident that demand for rare earths
in Russia will grow in the near future.
"Further development of nuclear medicine is impossible without
the use of lutetium, the rarest of the rare earth elements," he
"Ever-increasing environmental requirements for fuel will
result in the increase of the use of oil cracking catalysts,
autocatalysts and additives for diesel fuel, which are based on
rare earths. In addition, the development of energy-saving and
electronic technologies will also contribute to demand growth.
The expansion of nuclear power will result in the increase of
the use of rare earths including gadolinium and erbium," he
This article from Industrial Minerals' June magazine
was first published online on 3