18 Apr 2023 14:58

Russia could meet lithium needs via domestic production by 2030 - Industry and Trade Ministry

NOVOSIBIRSK. April 18 (Interfax) - Plans call for covering Russia's demand for lithium by organizing its domestic production by 2030, head of the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry's Metallurgy Department Vladislav Vasiliyev told reporters.

"By 2026 we plan to launch the first project [for production of lithium feedstock]. We will not be import-independent by that time, but if we achieve full capacity within three years, we will not only be import-independent, we will have excess production volumes. All in all, it will take us six years to become import-independent - by 2030," Vasiliyev said at a business dialogue on import substitution of metallurgical products organized by Rusatom MetalTech LLC in Novosibirsk on Tuesday.

Vasiliyev recalled that at present there are several lithium mining projects at different stages of completion in Russia. A joint venture by Nornickel and the mining division of the Rosatom state corporation (Polar Lithium), which has been granted the right to develop the Kolmozerskoye lithium deposit, has already begun drawing up the necessary documentation.

"There is a project that is now being actively discussed with Gazprom , there is no final decision on it [yet] because the technology there is slightly different, that is the mining of this lithium. There is the Halmek company which also plans to implement a project. We have quite a wide range of investors," Vasiliyev said.

The ministry official explained that lithium consumption is not limited to the production of lithium-ion batteries, recalling that Rosatom is currently implementing a project to build a plant to produce lithium-ion cells and batteries for electric cars in the Kaliningrad Region.

"We see that the sphere of lithium applications is quite large and we understand that lithium is a strategic metal. The fight for it in the world is already in full swing. The main players - the U.S. and China - are very actively fighting for deposits, so it is definitely important for us to have our own resource base within the country, while not missing out on opportunities that are abroad," Vasilyev said.

Currently, lithium, a key elements for batteries (including electric cars batteries), is not mined in Russia.

As reported, Polar Lithium received a license for the development of the Kolmozerskoye lithium deposit (Murmansk Region) in February of this year, and it is valid through February 20, 2043. The amount of the one-time payment was 1.7 billion rubles. The Kolmozerskoye deposit is considered the largest in Russia (18.9% of national reserves, 75 million tonnes) and the most promising. Forecast category P1 resources of lithium oxide are 152,600 tonnes, while tantalum pentoxide resources stand at 1,215 tonnes and niobium pentoxide at 1,485 tonnes. The Kolmozerskoye deposit development project provides for the production of lithium carbonate and hydroxide (in volume of 45,000 tonnes per year) that are used in the production of car batteries, among other things. The site should reach design capacity by 2030.

Also this February, the results of the auction for the development of the Murmansk Region's other leading lithium deposit - Polmostundrovskoye - were drawn up. TH Halmek and Chemical-Metallurgical Plant (PJSC "KhMZ") will begin pilot production of lithium at this deposit in 2023 - up to 1,000 tonnes with processing at KhMZ with an increase in production to 20,000 tonnes (in lithium carbonate equivalent) by 2026.

In March, the developer of the study, Gazprom VNIIGAZ LLC, reported on the feasibility study for establishing a joint venture between Gazprom and Irkutsk Oil Company to organize lithium production at the Kovykta field. It was reported that Gazprom intended to create a pilot lithium carbonate production unit at Kovykta. This will involve extraction of lithium-containing brines from a depth of 1.5-2 km, brine treatment, adsorptive separation of lithium, and reinjection of spent brine into the reservoir.

It was also reported that Rosatom's energy storage industry integrator Ranera LLC (part of the TVEL fuel company) had started construction of a plant to produce lithium-ion cells and batteries in the Kaliningrad Region on the site of the frozen Baltic Nuclear Power Plant in the fall of 2022. It is envisaged that the first line will be launched in the fall of 2025 with production capacity of 4 GWh per year. If there is high demand for the products, it will be possible to launch the second and third stages of the plant. As a result, the total capacity of the plant could reach 14 GWh per year.