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Russia has $1.5bn plan to dent China’s rare earth dominance

Russia plans investment of $1.5 billion in rare earth minerals, critical to the defence, telecommunications and renewable energy sectors, as it strives to become the biggest producer after China by 2030, a top government official told Reuters.

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.

Alexei Besprozvannykh, Russia’s deputy industry and trade minister, said Russia is offering reduced mining taxes and cheaper loans to investors in a list of 11 projects designed to increase Russia’s share of global rare earths output to 10% by 2030 from 1.3% now.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 a plant in Malaysia, operated by Australia’s Lynas Corp, and the U.S. 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 tonnes a year, he added. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated Russia’s 2019 production at 2,700 tonnes.

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