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Uzbekistan is set to make a bold move into the rare earth market with plans to invest $500 million in rare earth projects, aiming to position itself as a major producer in Central Asia. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev unveiled this ambitious endeavor, emphasizing the country’s commitment to developing existing deposits and exploring new ones.

The mining industry in Uzbekistan has already demonstrated significant economic potential, reaching a production volume of nearly $11 billion last year, primarily driven by precious and non-ferrous metals. However, the focus now shifts towards tapping into the untapped potential of critical minerals, including rare earths. A 2018 study by the U.S. Geological Survey identified 87 deposits of rare earths and rare metals within the country, laying the foundation for Uzbekistan’s strategic investment in this sector.

The European Union emerges as a potential key market for Uzbekistan’s rare earth exports, aiming to reduce its reliance on rare earth imports from China. Just over a month ago, Uzbekistan signed a memorandum of understanding with the EU on critical raw materials, signaling a promising avenue for future collaboration and trade partnerships.

Meanwhile, neighboring Kazakhstan, linked to the EU through its own raw materials agreement, has also announced a significant expansion of its rare earth industry. With 15 deposits of rare earth metals and 160 rare earth element-bearing mineral occurrences, Kazakhstan presents formidable competition in the regional rare earth market.