Ulba Metallurgical Plant becomes the main export channel for metals for mobile device manufacturers.
Kazakhstan is actively integrating into the tantalum supply chain for Apple and Samsung smartphones. The Ulba Metallurgical Plant is becoming the main export channel for metals for mobile device manufacturers. While Apple has officially refused to use tungsten, tantalum, and gold from Russia, South Korean Samsung continues to use Russian metals despite refusing to supply electronics to the country, as reported by “Kommersant” and inbusiness.kz.
A source close to one of the plants clarified that metals for Apple and Samsung are not directly supplied in any case – the main official export direction has become Kazakhstan. Experts note that re-exports also go through India and China. They doubt that even large global electronics manufacturers, declaring a complete break with Russia, will abandon its rare and precious metals due to the lack of comparable price alternatives.
After the start of military operations in Ukraine, many foreign companies, including Apple and Samsung, limited supplies to Russia. Purchases of Russian raw materials by foreign technology companies also fell by more than 70% by September 2022. The metals in question are mainly used for the production of semiconductors and microchips.
According to the reports on the use of precious metals by the largest smartphone manufacturers, Apple and Samsung, Apple refused to use tungsten, tantalum, and gold from Russian enterprises “at the request of the US government” but still receives tungsten from the Moliren plant in the Moscow region.
Another major electronics manufacturer, South Korean Samsung, has not refused Russian metals. The company’s reports show that Samsung uses tantalum, tungsten, and gold from a number of Russian plants, including the Solikamsk Magnesium Plant (SMZ).
A source close to SMZ explained to “Kommersant” that the enterprise never directly interacted with Samsung and Apple:
“The main partner of SMZ in tantalum, and we are talking about its oxide, i.e., a substance in powder form, is the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan. Previously, the products were also supplied to Germany and Austria, but now it is impossible for obvious reasons.”
Earlier, the general director of the plant, Ruslan Dimukhamedov, said that tantalum oxide is sent to Kazakhstan, where it is processed into metal and re-exported to Russia.
According to Sergei Grishunin, managing director of the NRA rating service, Russian enterprises supplied about 200 tons of tungsten and less than 10 tons of gold per year to the United States. Now, these volumes can be compensated by Chinese and Indian manufacturers.