Russia’s initiative is in line with other countries, such as the United States, which are also trying to curb their reliance on China, home to 63% of global rare earths production and 37% of global reserves.China’s dominance is so established, it is hard to weaken.
Russia has reserves of 12 million tonnes, or 10% of the global total, and its government is willing to back any foreign investment.
The Russian projects will require at least $1.5-billion in investment, he said.
China will keep its market dominance, but Russia’s “goal is to be at least the second after them by 2030”, Besprozvannykh told Reuters in an interview.
So far rare earth processing is almost totally controlled by China, with the exception of a plant in Malaysia, operated by Australia’s Lynas Corp, and the US is reviving production.
The 11 projects, which include developing the Tomtor deposit in Russia’s far east, will allow Russia to become almost self-sufficient in rare earth elements by 2025 and start exports in 2026, the deputy minister said.
By 2024, Russia’s production of rare earths concentrate may reach 7 000 t/y, he added. The US Geological Survey estimated Russia’s 2019 production at 2 700 t.