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    Russian fluorspar

    2003

    Market changes in the wake of Mongolian imports

    THERE are four major active companies in the Russian fluorspar industry: JSC Yaroslavsky GOK, JSC Zabaikalsky GOK, JSC Kalanguisky PShK and Suran Cooperative Quartz. Production is concentrated in south-east Russia and Siberia.

    Russia produced 169,000 tonnes of fluorspar concentrate in 2002. Yaroslavsky accounted for 70-80% of that production; data on its production and total Russian output for the past 11 years is given in Figure 1.

    Yaroslavsky processes fluorspar from the Voznesensky and Pogranichny deposits. Production began in 1964, and by 1988, processing capacity had increased to 1.5m. tpa of ore. 1988 was the peak year of production, with output at 350,000 tonnes. Production stopped in 1997 when bankruptcy procedures were initiated. Operations began again in 1998, but was again idled from 19 November 2002 to February 2003 because of weakening sales linked to increasing supply of lower price Mongolian concentrate.

    Russia's second largest producer of fluorspar concentrate is JSC Zabaikalsky GOK. Fluorspar is obtained as a by-product of the company's main products - tantalum, niobium and lithium concentrates.

    Decreasing demand for rare metal concentrates in the early to mid-1990s forced Zabaikalsky to begin production of the concentrate using fluorspar from the Egitinsky deposit. Reserves are sufficient for around 30 years at a production rate of 40,000 tpa of concentrate.

    However, the deposit is located in Buryatia, several hundred kilometers from the processing plant, making rail costs very high. The company therefore plans to invest $250,000 in a concentrator on-site at the mine. In 2002, the company produced 23,000 tonnes of concentrate.

    JSC Kalanguisky PShK used to process mica-fluorspar ores from four small deposits. The company had a concentrate capacity of 70,000 tpa for metallurgical fluxes and other applications.

    In 1996, the company was declared insolvent and put up for sale. Since 2000, concentrate has been produced by JSC Plavikoshpat Usugli, which was previously part of Kalanguisky. In recent years the company has produced some 10,000 tpa of concentrate.

    Suran restart

    In recent years, a number of projects have pursued the development of promising new fluorspar deposits in Russia. Suran was formed in 1997 to develop the Suransky deposit in Bashkortostan, close to the large Ural metal producers, Russia's major fluorspar consumers.

    Suransky ore started to be processed at Mindyak, after the concentrator was reoriented from gold to fluorspar. However, in July 1999, a shortage of working capital, reagants, and suitable quality ore forced the concentrator to close. In mid-2001, operations were resumed and the concentrator now produces 1-3,000 tpa. At the present time, Suran urgently needs investment to purchase equipment, replenish working capital and finance construction.

    Cooperative Quartz Ltd was also formed to produce fluorspar from the concentrators of the former Nerchinsk polymetallic combine, which was idled in 1994. In 2002, the concentrator produced 13,000 tonnes of fluorspar concentrate.

    Mongolian imports

    Domestic production of fluorspar concentrate satisfies only half the domestic demand. The remainder is imported from Mongolia. Until 1998 and1999, a large share of imports also came from China.

    Russian-Mongolian joint-venture Mongolrostsvetmet exploits the Bur-Undur fluorspar deposit, which produces the full range of concentrates - lump, gravity, flotation, briquetted and pelletised. 

    An order by the Russian State Customs Committee in 1991 exempted the j-v's fluorspar products from an import duty, enabling them to sell at lower cost than their main competitors in the Russian market.

    Mongolian fluorspar concentrate was supplied to Russia in payment for Mongolian state debt. In 2002, Russia introduced a duty-free quota of 56,000 tpa of  Mongolian lump fluorite concentrate, whereas for surplus supplies, a 15% custom duty was introduced. Flotation fluorite concentrate from Mongolia will be also liable to custom duty in Russia.

    Domestic market

    Consumption of fluorspar concentrates in Russia has been between 250,00 and 400,000 tpa for the past ten years. Peak consumption of 398,000 occurred in 2001; consumption was lowest - 253,000 tonnes - in 1997. 

    InfoMine expects Russian fluorite concentrate output to remain at 150-180,000 tpa over the next few years, and for domestic consumption to decrease to about 300,000 tpa.

    This decline will be connected to decreasing consumption by the chemical industry (with decreasing production of Freon and other fluoroproducts due to environmental reasons) and nonferrous metallurgy (mainly in the aluminium sector, where primary cryolite will be replaced with secondary cryolite, produced by the aluminium plants themselves).

    In spite of the availability of large fluorspar reserves, mining and concentrating capacity, Russia imports around a half of the fluorspar it consumes. This trend is likely to continue, with Mongolia providing at least 150-160,000 tpa.

    Dr. Vladimir Troitsky
    "Industrial Mining", October 2003, p.75
     

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