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How much is a pound of niobium?

The editorial board of EastRussia tried to understand the situation with Zashihinsky GOKom

How much is a pound of niobium?

In the Irkutsk region in 2018, a mining and processing plant (GOK) may appear, which can close the needs of Russian industry in rare metals - tantalum and niobium.

The cost of the project, which is realized by ZAO Technoinvest Alliance, is 12,9 billion rubles, in case of its implementation, the region's budget will receive about 2,2 billion rubles of taxes annually. Now the project claims for state co-financing. Industry analysts suspect that Zashihinsky GOK will have a high production cost, which means that its products will be difficult to compete with imported raw materials.

Something went wrong

GOK is planned to be built at the Zashihinsky rare metals deposit, which is owned by ZAO Technoinvest Alliance (2005% in the company's capital belongs to the ChTPZ Group structure) since 30. Back in 2011, the investor reported that in 2014 he will launch the first stage of the GOK for processing 250 thousand tons of ore per year. A source familiar with the situation told EastRussia that the initiator of the project was faced with a problem: the previously developed German technology for processing ore in the field "did not go," and the investor had to look for an alternative one. As a result, the planned launch of the GOK was postponed to 2018 year. The construction of the GOK itself, designed to process 1 million tons of ore, as indicated by the government of the Irkutsk region, will begin in 2016.

The project assumes that the plant will produce concentrate with an 44% content of niobium and 4,4% of tantalum, then it will be delivered to the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Combine (AECC, Irkutsk Region, part of TVEL). The latter, by the year of 2018, intends to create pure compounds - tantalum pentoxide (up to 200 tons per year) and niobium pentoxide (up to 2 thousand tons per year). For AECC, the Zashihinsky project is part of the plan to develop alternative production. In 2014, the plant, which was engaged in the production of uranium hexafluoride and uranium enrichment, stopped the main sublimate production - now AECC needs a more or less adequate replacement.

According to information provided by Technoinvest Alliance, the total investment in the development project of the Zashihinsky deposit is estimated at 12,9 billion rubles. According to the end of 2014, the investor financed 580 million rubles - the funds went, including, for geological exploration, design work, R & D.

All twenty yards

For the budget of the Irkutsk region this project is very important. According to preliminary calculations, with 2018 for 2028 years, the regional treasury will be able to get almost 22,2 billion rubles in taxes from the operating GOK. When recalculating to an annual budget, about 2,2 billion rubles is obtained, of which about 1,86 billion is a profit tax, 365 million is for property. For comparison, the Irkutsk oil company paid 2014 billion rubles in the Irkutsk budget (its total revenues amounted to 100 billion rubles) 4,9 billion rubles, the structure of "Polyus Gold" - about 3,4 billion rubles.

In addition to the enrichment technology, the GOK has another significant problem - infrastructure. The Zashihinskoye field is located in the inaccessible area of ​​the Eastern Sayan. To implement the project, it is necessary to build a highway length of 171 km and a power line. The road should lead to the district center Nizhneudinsk on the Trans-Siberian Railway - it is for this that the investor of Zashihinsky intends to deliver concentrate to the AECC. The cost of the road is estimated at 2,75 billion, the transmission line - 3,13 billion rubles, that is, the infrastructure costs account for almost half of the total project cost.

A representative of ZAO Technoinvest Alliance explained EastRussia that the company in this matter is counting on state assistance. In February, the Irkutsk government sent an application to the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of the Russian Federation, which proposed to include the Zashihin project in the list of strategic projects for implementation in the Far East and the Baikal region until 2018. The interlocutor of the agency added that "Technoinvest Alliance" CJSC in 2015 received from Irkutsk electric grid company the technical conditions for connecting the field to the power system.

Deputy Director on the scientific work of the Institute of Energy Systems. Valery S. Stennikov explained to EastRussia that the project of power supply of the Zashihinsky deposit is included in the current scheme and the program for the development of the Irkutsk Oblast electric power industry up to 2020. "The assumed small load for this consumer does not ensure a quick payoff of such a project. But its efficiency will increase significantly with the integrated industrial development of the Eastern Sayan, "the expert believes.

All two hundred yards

Realizing its project, Technoinvest Alliance proceeds from the premise that Russia, although it has its own reserves of niobium and tantalum, has no sufficient production facilities, and therefore has to import rare metals and their compounds. Niobium is used as a valuable alloying additive in metallurgy, now Russia imports ferroniobium for the needs of the pipe industry. Tantalum is used both in the manufacture of capacitors for cell phones and computers, so the production of hard alloys.

According to the company, the average price for niobium pentoxide on the exchange for the last five years was $ 50 per kg, for tantalum pentoxide - $ 280. The investor put these data into his business model and predicted that at such prices the payback period of the Zashihin project would be 10 years. It is assumed that the gross revenue for the project with 2018 for 2042 years will be 235,3 billion rubles (excluding VAT), gross profit - 186,3 billion rubles.

Analyst Rye, Man & Gor Securities Andrei Tretelnikov said that in the Soviet era, the production of pure tantalum and niobium compounds was handled by factories in Latvia. In Russia, the oxides of niobium and tantalum make the Solikamsk magnesium plant (the raw material for this is the Lovozero deposit in the Murmansk region), but its projects for the production of pure compounds have not yet been implemented.

The world market of tantalum and niobium, according to the analyst, is now controlled by China. "The problem is that such metals in the PRC are mostly produced illegally, which causes legal producers to suffer - the price of tantalum and niobium in China and in the world market fell below the profitable level. The Chinese authorities tried to fight illegal production and production by banning the export of metals, but so far nothing has happened, "said Andrei Tretelnikov.

In Siberia, the cost of mining such metals, taking into account the creation of infrastructure will be higher than in China, and hence the final price of niobium and tantalum will be greater. In such conditions, the products of Zashihinsky GOK in Russia will be difficult to compete with the raw materials imported from China. Moreover, the United States and Malaysia are at any time ready to launch their rare metal production, Tretelnikov said.

Analyst BKS Oleg Petropavlovskiy says that, in fact, tantalum is not needed at all for Russia - there are no advanced electronics assembly plants in the country.


Zashihinskoye deposit of rare metals (Nizhneudinsky district of Irkutsk region) was opened in 1971 year. Its balance and off-balance reserves, calculated in 2009 year, are 34,5 million tons of ore, which contains about 105 thousand tons of niobium pentoxide and 8.5 thousand tons of tantalum pentoxide.

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