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Acron (Veliky Novgorod) Launches Rare Earth Elements Production

Annual production capacity: 200 tonnes of rare earth oxides; project investments: USD 50 million

As part of its long-term investment programme, Acron Group is implementing a project to process complex apatite-nepheline rock at its Veliky Novgorod production site in order to produce the rare earth elements (REE) cerium, lanthanum and neodymium, as well as concentrates of light, medium and heavy rare earth elements from apatite concentrate process flows. The annual capacity of REE operations is 200 tonnes of rare earth oxides.

Russia’s federal government has included the project in the sub-programme Rare and Rare-earth Metal Technologies of the programme to promote Industry Development and Its Competitive Growth.

The project was launched in 2010, and investments total approximately USD 50 million. The feedstock is apatite concentrate supplied by the Oleniy Ruchey mine (a member of Acron Group) in the Murmansk region. This marks the first time that complex processing of apatite concentrate has been achieved in Russia.

The unique REE processing technology was developed at the Acron (Veliky Novgorod) R&D centre with participation of leading Russian research centres. The project is supervised by the Science and Engineering Board on Rare Earths, headed by Academy of Sciences member Nikolay Laverov.

At the inauguration ceremony attended by President Vladimir Putin, Chairman of Acron’s Board of Directors Alexander Popov noted: “Acron Group’s project is aimed at providing Russia with its own production base of rare earth products. Currently, Acron has the only operations in Russia to separate REE concentrates into elements in industrial-scale volumes. The project will ensure substitution of REE imports in the Russian market”.

All of the end product will be shipped to the domestic market for producers of glass, catalysts for oil cracking and rubbers. REE are also used to manufacture alloys, magnets, and electronics, as well as by the defence industry. Currently, China is a monopoly REE manufacturer, with over 90% of the global market.