Russian billionaire looks to challenge China's supremacy in rare earths

Russian billionaire Alexander Nesis has a new project: Pulling out rare earth elements from discarded Soviet-era metals used during the construction of the atomic bomb, Bloomberg reports.

Announcing a $1 billion investment in September, Nesis' ICT Group hopes to challenge China's supremacy in the REE industry – the Asian giant currently provides 90% of global supply in the sector.

ICT is in a venture with state-owned Rostec "to fast-track production of rare-earths, using thorium-bearing concentrate kept stockpiled for more than 60 years," Bloomberg writes.

But that's not it. The 51-year old's company ICT Group will also bid for the Tomtor deposit in Siberia – one of the largest REE deposits in the world.

“Once we have the technology and the best deposit, we will have a competitive position in this segment,” Nesis recently told Bloomberg.

Nesis made his fortune from precious metals and a private equity firm. He's also known for his holdings in Uralkali, which he sold just before the Russian potash producer unravelled the world's largest potash cartel, sending the industry into complete disarray.

Last month, TriArkMining, the joint venture between ICT and Rostec, won the right to acquire the 82,653 tonnes of stored material which holds rare earths, The Moscow Times wrote. Russia currently uses about 1,500 tonnes of REE per year but this number is expected to reach 6,000 by 2020.