Rhenium is a rare metal
For Japan the issue of the Kuriles return is not only a principle of “historical justice”.
The Japanese have been claiming the Southern Kuriles for more than half a century, calling the islands “their Northern Territories”… All the Kuril Islands – Shikotan, Kunashir, Urup and Iturup are pleasant territories. They are of critical importance for Russia in geopolitical, strategic and economic sense.
Based on expert estimates, there are enough natural resources to finance a budget of any Russian region. Commercial reserves of gold and silver (Praslovskoye deposit on Kunashir and “Kupol” on Urup), 25 offshore deposits of titanomagnetite with vanadium; deposits of sulfur ore, agate, steam hydrothermae are known today on the Southern Kuriles. The estimated value of the mineral resources of the Kuril Islands is over $45 billion.
Before World War II, the Japanese, using underground mining workings, extracted almost 50% of gold and silver reserves known here. There are also oil and gas in the shelf area estimated in up to 1.7 billion tons! Plus forest yield! And seafood – about 800 thousand tons per year!
Today, scientists talk about the fact that it is not only the desire to restore “historical justice” that explains Tokyo’s passionate interest in the Kuril Islands. The thing is they treasure rhenium and other rare metals and elements. And today rhenium is at the cutting edge of high technologies. It differs from other elements by its super-high melting point (3180 °C) and low-temperature ductility.
According to the Director of FGUP (the Federal State Unitary Enterprise) “Institute of Mineralogy, Geochemistry and Crystal Chemistry of Rare Elements”, the first Vice President of the Association of Geological Organizations, Alexander Kremenetsky, one of the properties of the metal, called “rhenium effect”, made rhenium No.1 material for aircraft engines and reusable space shuttles. Addition of only 4% or 7% of rhenium to heat-resistant alloys improves the strength of gas turbine blades by 15% and at the time increases their operation cycle by 25%.
Rhenium had the same revolutionary effect on the process of production of high-grade fuel from crude oil for rockets and aircrafts. New catalysts produced on the basis of rhenium and palladium make it possible to increase the potential of this process by seven – ten times and to maintain its stability four times more effectively.
In Soviet times rhenium was recovered in different volumes in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and in neighboring Mongolia, but after the collapse of the Union, Russia lost almost all rhenium reserves. However, in the early 90s of the past century scientists managed to discover rich deposits of the rare metal. And not just anywhere, but right in the crater of the active volcano “Kudriavy” on one of the South Kuril Islands – Iturup.
Gases of the “Kudriavy” volcano annually emit up to 15 tons of rhenium, up to 50 tons of germanium and indium, as well as several tons of vanadium, gold and silver from deep in the earth out to the surface.
For the first time ever, commercial rhenium salt, ammonium perrhenate, was extracted from the volcanic gas. It contains about 70% of rhenium, and it can be sold for $600-800 per 1 kg. And when a plant is built, it will be possible to extract at least two tons of rhenium from gas annually and make almost $1 billion every year.
Source reference: https://www.pravda.ru/news/science/21-03-2017/1328140-kurily-0/