Rare earths, niobium, tantalum: Russia-China project planned for eastern Siberia

In late-2019, Russian pipemaking company Chelyabinsk Pipe Works (part of the ChelPipe Group and affiliated with Tekhnoinvest Alliance) was looking to team up with the Chinese steelmaker Inner Mongolia BaoTou Steel to develop its Zashikhinsk rare earths deposit. Located in the Nizhneudinsky district of the Irkutsk region, the deposit is reported to have reserves of 33.5Mt and contains significant quantities of niobium and tantalum, which could also be extracted. A new domestic source for rare earths would be welcomed by Russian consumers, which currently rely heavily on imports. 

There have already been attempts to develop the Zashikhinsk deposit that have not come to realisation. Chelyabinsk Pipe Works was granted project approval by the local government in December 2011 and planned a mine and processing plant to produce a concentrate containing 40% niobium and 4% tantalum. The project was to be carried out in three stages, expanding throughput from 250ktpy to 500ktpy and 1Mtpy between 2014 and 2018. It is hoped that the new Chinese partner will help resuscitate the project. 

In October 2016, Tekhnoinvest Alliance signed an agreement with China Machinery Engineering Corporation and China National Electric Engineering Company to construct a 1Mtpy processing plant, along with a hydrometallurgical plant for the production of high-purity niobium and tantalum pentoxides, in Irkutsk.

Roskill is about to publish three new reports in January 2020 on the industries of rare earths, niobium and tantalum. In each case, a subscription (which includes the report, three updates throughout the year and access to the analysts) provides up-to-date supply, demand, trade and price data, along with ten-year forecasts, profiles of the major producers and processors, and a detailed breakdown of the major end use applications. Click to download the brochure and sample pages for each of the reports, or to access further information.

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This article was written by Suzanne Shaw. Please get in touch below if you wish to discuss further:

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