Serbia, Future with non-metals

How and in what way can the economy and economy of Serbia get out of the crisis the fastest and in the long term? This question was asked several times in the recent and distant past, but also in the previous days, during the formation of the new government.

For this reason, in Niš, the largest urban and industrial center, but also in the entire south and southeast of the country, the story of the inexhaustible and, by all accounts, the greatest mineral wealth of our country was initiated again. In the Regional Chamber of Commerce, Slobodan Milosavljević, secretary of the Committee for Chemistry, Pharmacy, Rubber Industry, Mines and Non-Metal Industry, told Politika:

– Our chamber is preparing a big meeting for the beginning of June, with the working title “Non-metals – materials of the future of Serbia”, at which we plan to present the huge wealth that this part of our country has, which has already been proven by numerous studies. A lot is known about this wealth, but, unfortunately, so far, not even a fraction has been used, although it can bring prosperity not only to this part of our country, but also to the whole of Serbia.

Decades ago, Milosavljević points out, scientific workers from our country and abroad pointed to the wealth that Serbia has in non-metals. Even so, it didn’t start from a standstill:

– At the end of the 1960s, researches irrefutably confirmed the existence of one large string of pure and finest calcite on Suva mountain. The reasons why the exploitation never started are not known, but it is known that it is not only about that one wire, but also that the whole Suva mountain is in calcite, which is also used in the pharmaceutical, rubber and, especially, in the paper industry. This was recently said by the well-known expert for non-metals, prof. Dr. Siniša Milošević, head of the Institute for Non-Metal Technology IDNMS. The country of Serbia would have an annual income of more than half a billion euros only in the first level of processing, in packaging and transport to industrial plants. If, with the provision of the right and necessary infrastructure, a second level of processing for the exploitation of calcite would be organized, the benefit would be measured in billions of euros on an annual basis.

The situation is similar with the wealth of Stara Planina and other parts of southeast Serbia, says Slobodan Milosavljević:

– There are inexhaustible reserves and priceless values of granite on Stara planina. Although three decades ago there was an attempt to exploit granite on the route between Knjaževac and Pirot, which is why a sample of extremely high-quality stone from this mountain was sent for expertise to Italy, from where the results of the top quality of the granite arrived, nothing was done after that. Just as Serbia’s great wealth in phosphorus, not far from Bosilegrad, is not being used either. For years, as far as is known, the well-known “Viktoria Group” has been looking for a strategic partner, but nothing is being done. In the simplest process of micronization of phosphorus, phosphorus fertilizer can be obtained in this part of our country, and with further organized processing – phosphoric acid.

At the upcoming meeting in Niš, as planned, the Regional Chamber of Commerce will also present the wealth of Serbia in its south and southeast, such as basalt in Kopaonik, zeolite in the vicinity of Vranje or bentonite in the Svrlji mountains. It is a great natural resource, the like of which is not found anywhere in the vicinity, but which is not used at all or is used only sporadically and little.

A major Chinese construction and engineering company agrees to help develop Russia’s largest titanium deposit located in the Arctic

Expansion of an Arctic deepwater port and a new railroad to the port are also part of the development plans.

Chinese investment and interest in Russia’s Arctic natural resources continues unabated. In addition to receiving regular shipments of LNG and crude oil, one of China’s major engineering and construction companies is partnering with Russian Titanium Resources to develop a massive mineral deposit in the Russian Arctic.

Russian Titanium Resources (Rustitan) and China Communications and Construction Company signed an agreement for the development of the Pizhemskoye mining project in the Komi Republic.

The cooperation extends beyond the mining of titanium and includes a host of related infrastructure development including expansion of the Arctic deep water port of Indiga and construction of the Sosnogorsk-Indiga railway connection. The region’s mining cluster extends beyond titanium into other minerals, including zircon, iron ore, and gold.

A key aspect of the project is the transport component allowing for the export of materials through Urals and Siberia and funneling cargo onto the Northern Sea Route (NSR).

Rustitan was founded in 2007 focusing primarily on the mining of titanium and quartz raw materials. The company discovered the Pizhemskoye deposit, located in the Ust-Tsilemsky district of the Komi Republic, in 2021. The field is home to Russia’s and the world’s largest titanium ore reserves. Pizhemskoye contains more than 80 percent of the country’s titanium ore reserves.

China Communications and Construction Company has been involved in a number of the country’s Belt and Road Initiative projects, though it has repeatedly faced scrutiny for its financial practices and has been subject to U.S. sanctions for more than a decade.

More cargo for the NSR

The Pizhemskoye project is a key component of the Kremlin’s official 2020 Arctic investment plan, also called “Strategy of Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation for the period to 2035.”

An expanded deep-water ice-free seaport of Indiga would become an additional point of cargo volume for the Northern Sea Route. Similarly the Sosnogorsk-India railway is a strategic transport lane to increase the flow of mineral resources toward the NSR.

According to the Northern Sea Route administration it expects Indiga to handle up to 30m tons of cargo before the end of the decade with up to 80m tons in the 2030s.

In addition to the meeting between Rustitan and China Communications and Construction Company, a second meeting took place with the China Railway Construction Corporation, the second largest state-owned construction company in China.

“We have reached an agreement with our Chinese partners on the establishment of a joint company, and today such an Agreement is at the development stage. Combining the accumulated competencies of our organizations, both in construction and in financing infrastructure projects, will have a significant synergistic effect for the domestic market,” a company representative explained.

In additional news related to the project, Rustitan announced last week that it had been granted a patent related to the beneficiation, or processing, of titanium ores from the Pizhemskoye deposit specific to the metallurgy present at the deposit.

World’s largest titanium exporter

China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of titanium and as a result is also one of the leading importers of titanium ore required to produce the alloy.

Lightweight titanium alloys are used extensively in the aerospace and defense industry during the production of jet engines, missiles and spacecraft.

Prior to western sanctions Russia’s largest producer VSMPO-Avisma supplied around 30 percent of titanium needs for the global aerospace industry, with US’ Boeing receiving 40 percent of its titanium from Russia and its European rival Airbus procuring up to 60 percent from Russia, High North News writes.

More investments are needed to unlock Mongolia’s ‘huge potential

Resource-rich Mongolia is positioning itself as an alternative to China in supplying minerals used in the renewable energy sector but needs help from foreign investors to develop the necessary mining infrastructure, its deputy prime minster says.

“We will be one of the main players [in critical minerals], I’m sure, but it will take time,” Amarsaikhan Sainbuyan told Nikkei Asia while in London to celebrate 60 years of U.K.-Mongolian diplomatic relations. “The Mongolian government is open for all kinds of investments and partnerships.”

Minerals such as copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt are crucial for manufacturing battery-powered electric vehicles, as are rare-earth metals that largely come from China.

The National Geological Office of Mongolia had registered reserves of 61.4 million tons of copper and 3.1 million tons of rare-earth minerals as of July 2022. Last year, Southern Mongolia’s Oyu Tolgoi mine — one of the world’s largest known copper reserves — received approval to begin underground operations.

Sainbuyan said unlocking Mongolia’s “huge potential” to supply minerals crucial for the green transition would require help from foreign investors in developing environmentally friendly and energy-efficient mining technology.

“A country like Germany, or European or Western producers, they are interested in securing the raw materials, especially in critical mineral and rare-elements metals,” as they seek to reduce their dependence on China, he said. “We have to capitalize” on this interest.

Several high-level German visits have been planned to discuss cooperation on such matters, he said. Germany, a leading vehicle maker, has been eyeing Mongolia’s potential for over a decade, co-founding the German-Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology.

When German Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomed Mongolian Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai to Berlin last October, he said Mongolia would be “an important partner” for “many raw materials” in Germany’s diversification strategy but emphasized that concrete projects need to be identified.

Mining accounted for roughly a quarter of Mongolian GDP in 2021 and 29.6% of budget revenues, according to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. The pandemic slowed activity, but now is the time to “pick up,” Sainbuyan said.

Corruption allegations over coal exports to China by a state-owned enterprise led to demonstrations in December. Investigations are ongoing and several people have been arrested.

Sainbuyan said the government is committed to fighting corruption. “This is the main concern of the government, to reduce poverty and stop corruption,” he said.

Wedged between Russia to the north and China to the south, landlocked Mongolia faces limitations on export routes for coal — a factor that could also affect its ability to ship strategic minerals. Despite strong interest for coking coal from the likes of India, South Korea, Japan and Europe, China will remain its main coal market because of “limited access,” Sainbuyan said.

The government has been building and upgrading infrastructure to better connect the country, mainly through industrial railway links to China and Russia.

“Unfortunately, because of the geographical location, we have limited access and exit — either we have to go to Russia or to China and export,” Sainbuyan said, Nikkei reports.