25 Nov 2022 13:51

Operator of Afrikandskoye rare earth metals deposit aims to mine first ore in 2023

MURMANSK. Nov 25 (Interfax) - The first ore from the central section of the Afrikandskoye rare earth metals (REM) deposit in Murmansk Region is expected to be mined in 2023-2024, the CEO of Arcmineral Resources, Andrei Trenin said.

"The first product within the context of pilot commercial operation is possible already next year or in 2024," Trenin told reporters in Murmansk on Friday.

"We are now at the stage of concluding geological exploration work as regards analysis of obtained drilling samples. We are also at the stage of main engineering solutions for the design of the future mining and processing complex, plant, open-pit mine, tailings dump, and all the infrastructure," Trenin said.

The main work should begin in 2024 after the start of the design of the plant, he said.

However, the issue of moving a Defense Ministry facility located near the deposit remains unresolved. It needs to be moved before mining work can begin, and the cost of this move was previously estimated at about 2 billion rubles.

"We have been working on this issue for more than three years already. I hope that in the current conditions, when these metals have genuinely become strategically important for Russian industry, we will be able to find some sort of solution with the government," Trenin said.

Asked about the scale of the deposit, he said it has enough reserves "for 600-700 years of open-pit mining."

The Murmansk Region's economic and Arctic development ministry, citing Trenin, said in July that Arcmineral Resources planned to export to countries in Southeast Asia.

Trenin said in the spring that drilling at the deposit was completed at the end of 2021. "The materials are now in analysis. By the end of the year we hope to work out a mining feasibility study and book the reserves so as to already begin the design," he said at the time.

He said the cost of the project was estimated at $240 million.

There are plans to annually produce more than 66,500 tonnes of titanium dioxide, about 4,000 tonnes of rare earths and more than 1,000 tonnes of tantalum and niobium at the deposit.

Arcmineral Resources won an auction held by the Northwest subsurface resources agency in June 2020 for the rights to explore for and mine perovskite and titanium magnetite ores in the central section of the Afrikandskoye REM deposit. Forecast P1 category resources are estimated at 70.7 million tonnes of ore, including 6.7 million tonnes of titanium dioxide (in perovskite). Forecast P2 category resources are estimated at 108,900 tonnes of niobium oxide (Nb2O5) and 345,800 tonnes of other elements.

Arcmineral Resources was founded in 2016 with charter capital of 10,000 rubles, the Unified State Register of Legal Entities (USRLE) showed.

Arcmineral Resources is part of Arcmineral Service Mining Company, according to the website for the project to develop the deposit. Both the parent company and subsidiary are headed by Trenin. The shareholders of Arcmineral Service Mining Company, which has charter capital of 260,000 rubles, are Anna Aivazyan with 58% and Andrei Trenin and Pyotr Trenin-Strausov with 21% each, the USRLE showed.