Russia: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

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With a total population of approximately 144.5 million people, as of 2017, and a total area of, 17,075,200 km2, Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of land mass. Since the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1991, Russia has emerged as a centralized semi-authoritarian state that favors constant economic growth.

About Russia

Russia’s climate ranges from the mild to hot, dry summers and cold winters, particularly within the polar north tundra of the country. The terrain of Russia varies greatly depending on what area of the country is being described. For example, to the west of the Ural Mountains are broad plains comprised of low hills, whereas Siberia is predominantly composed of coniferous forest and tundra.

Russia's Natural Resources

Russia has a wide range of natural resources that include coal, natural gas, oil, rare earth elements, timber, and strategic minerals. Globally, the country has the following credits in natural resources:

  • The world’s largest producer of natural gas
  • The eighth-largest crude oil reserves
  • The third-largest exporter of primary aluminum and steel
  • The world's largest natural gas reserves
  • The world's leading oil producer
  • The second-largest coal reserves in the world

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation is responsible for policies and regulations in order to protect the natural resources of the country. Through this ministry, the government of Russia monitors the production and usage of various natural resources.

Metals and Minerals

In 2009, Russia emerged as a leading global producer of a wide range of mineral commodities including copper, fluorspar, iron ore, diamond, lime, gold, natural gas, magnesium compound and metals, mica flake and scrap and sheet, cobalt, aluminum, asbestos, arsenic, cadmium, coal, cement, boron, bauxite, vanadium, titanium sponge, tin, tungsten, potash, sulfur, silicon, rhenium, steel, pig iron, nickel, palladium, phosphate, petroleum, nitrogen, peat and oil shale.

Rich oil and gas reserves have enabled Russia to export fuels on a large-scale and become self-sufficient in terms of energy. Russia is also self-sufficient in almost all significant industrial raw materials and also has rich reserves of nonfuel minerals. The country has rich reserves of gold, iron ore, chromium, manganese, titanium, nickel, copper, lead, platinum, tungsten, phosphates, tin, and diamonds. About one-fifth of the timber in the entire world is present in the forests of Siberia.

One-sixth of the iron ore reserves in the world can be found in the deposits of the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly. The Urals and the Kola Peninsula comprise the largest copper deposits, and large deposits of iron ore are present in the Far East, Karelia, the Kola Peninsula, and south-central Siberia.

Industrial Minerals

Russia’s vast industrial mineral reserves include phosphate rock, diamonds, and gemstones. In fact, apatite ore is a vital source of raw phosphate material in Russia. To date, 90% of Russia’s apatite reserves can be found in the Khibiny apatite-nepheline ores, and another 6% of reserves can be found in the Kovdor ores. Russia’s major supplier of phosphate raw material is the OAO apatite mining and chemical complex comprising four mining enterprises with four open pits and two underground mines and also a beneficiation complex containing two beneficiation plants with a capacity to produce 8 Mt/yr of apatite concentrate.

Russia is a leading producer of artificial and natural diamonds. Currently, Russia produces 20% of industrial grade diamonds and 25% of global gemstones produced in the world. Alrosa, which is a Russian company that is the largest producer of rough diamonds, in terms of carats, in the world, produces about 97% of Russia’s diamonds. In 2017, Alrosa produced about 36.6 million carats of diamond.

Metals

It is estimated that Russia is home to 25 – 40% of the world’s unmined gold reserves; which has allowed this country to establish itself as the sixth biggest gold producer in the world. In 2017 alone, Russia’s output of gold increased to 249 tons, which was a 7% increase as compared to 2016.

In regard to uranium outputs, Russia, which controls 10% of the uranium reserves in the world, has supplied 8% of the global uranium requirements in the world. Furthermore, Russia also contributes 4.3% and 22% of the world’s magnesium and titanium, respectively.

Russia has vast platinum reserves and is a leading palladium producer. In 2016, Russian Platinum (RP) invested $4.4 billion go begin mining at two deposits in central Siberia in an effort to further increase Russia’s overall platinum production capacity to a promising 70 metric tons by the year 2029.

While 17% of the world’s nickel production is controlled by Russia, the country’s output of this metal has remained relatively unchanged over the past several years. Currently, Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s largest metals and mining company, maintains control over the production of most palladium, nickel, and copper production. In 2018, Norilsk Nickel announced that their production of nickel and copper increased by 3% and 19%, respectively, whereas their output of platinum group metals remained static.  

Russia currently produces 11% of global aluminum; however, this country controls less than 1% of the world's bauxite. Rusal, which is a major aluminum production company in Russia, claimed that their production of aluminum rose 1.3% in 2018; however, their sales volume fell 7.2% as well. This decline in aluminum output combined with an overall decrease in aluminum prices has been linked to the current trade tensions existing between the United States and China.

Fossil Fuels

From 1994 to 2009, Russia found it difficult to increase or maintain its production levels of petroleum, since the extraction of oil exceeded the growth in reserves at that time. By 2009, Russia experienced significant growth in petroleum production levels that allowed the country to maintain its position as the largest exporter of energy resources in the world. Russia currently supplies 14% of the world’s oil and gas supplies. As energy demands continue to rise, researchers estimate that by the year 2040, Russia energy exports will account for more than 5% of the global demand for energy resources.

In 2018, Russia’s exportation of coal increased by 3.4% as compared to 2017, which was the highest level this industry had experienced since 2013. Furthermore, Russia’s production of coal also rose to 431.76 million metric tons in 2018, which was a 6% increase as compared to the previous year. By 2020, Russia expects to continue to increase its production of coal to reach approximately 433 billion tons.

Natural gas production in Russia rose by 1.6% in 2018 to reach 556 million tons.

Investment

Russia is currently facing a number of obstacles in its continuous development of mineral resources, despite having sufficient minerals for domestic usage and export. The key challenges surrounding this issue include insufficient funds available to explore new deposits, the presence of low ore grades in minerals reserves, as well as an overall difficulty in accessing nonfuel and fuel reserves in remote areas.

To address Russia’s mining challenges, major companies in this nation continue to strive in their quest of developing novel and innovative technologies. To this end, mining researchers are primarily interested in automated systems that can replace older systems, increase efficiency and improve long-term forecasting capabilities.

In addition to a need for technological advancements, Russia’s mining industry is further challenged by the increasing amount of economic sanctions imposed on this nation by a number of countries around the world. As a result of these economic limitations, Russian companies often find it increasingly difficult to not only acquire international financial support but also benefit from advanced mining technology and equipment being developed in these nations.

Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned, and all statistical information is publically available.

Sources and Further Reading

This article was updated on the 11th February, 2019.

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