Economic Intelligence Report
Central Intelligence Research and Reports
Sanitized Copy for Release
May 20, 1952
1. General Description
2. Uses and Specifications
— a. Metallurgical Grade
— b. Ceramic Grade
— c. Acid Grade
[Note: detailed descriptions of the location of mines in each of these countries]
II. Production and Reserves
1. East Germany
— a. Northern European USSR
— b. Kazakh SSR
— c. Central Asia
— d. East Siberia
4. North Korea.
1. Steel and Aluminum Industries
2. Cryolite Plants
V. Strategic Position [classified]
The nonmetallic mineral fluorspar is essential to the steel and aluminum industries. The steel industry uses metallurgical-grade fluorspar directly as marketed. The use of acid-grade, required for the aluminum industry, is more involved.
Acid-grade fluorspar is a raw material source of hydrofluoric acid (HF), from wkich synthetic cryolite (for the aluminum industry) and other fluorine products are derived.
Recently, relatively new uses for HF, in the preparation of chemical warfare materials and in the atomic energy programs, have assumed great importance.
The total production of fluorspar in the Soviet Bloc is broadly estimated at 200,000 metric tons annually as of 1951, which is approximately one-quarter of the total world production. The principal fluorspar producing centers are located in the USSR and East Germany. Chinese and North Korean mines, important producers under the Japanese occupation, may have been reactivated to some extent by the Soviets, but North Korean mines have probably been inoperative during the period of military action in that country. Proved ore reserves of fluorspar in the Soviet Bloc are estimated at nearly 5 million metric tons, with the major portion in the USSR.
Consumption of fluorspar by the steel and aluminum industries of the Soviet Bloc in 1951 is estimated at 110,500 metric tons of metallurgical grade and 23,600 metric tons of acid-grade. This leaves a balance of about 66,000 metric tons for distribution to other consuming industries. It is assumed that part of the Soviet supply of acid-grade fluorspar is being diverted to new military as well as to industrial uses, but these additional needs are not estimated.
The fluorspar industry of the Soviet Bloc apparently is capable of supplying the demands of the USSR, but the position of the Satellites may be critical. The Satellites have depended mainly on Western countries for their supply. If East-West trade restrictions are effective, the USSR will be required to relinquish some of its supply or increase the total Bloc production. A similar situation exists with regard to the Satellite supply of cryolite.
Any limitations to the fluorspar industry within the Soviet Bloc would probably be in fluorspar processing capacity for the production of acid-grade and in the capabilities of HF plants for the manufacture of fluorine products.
New developments in the use of anhydrous HF include the manufacture of freon used as a refrigerant, and also as a carrier in aerosol bombs for dispersing insecticides, paints, and other materials; the alkylation process in which HF serves as a catalyst in the manufacture of high octane gasoline; and the manufacture of fluorcarbons including the strategic plastic “Teflon.”
Recently, new military uses of HF in chemical warfare and in atomic energy programs have assumed great importance. In atomic energy programs, HF is used in the manufacture of uranium metal; in the manufacture of uranium hexafluoride, which is the only suitable gas compound for use in isotope separation plants; and in the manufacture of highly stable fluorcarbons for heat exchange fluids and gasket material…
2. Cryolite Plants.
In reference to the terms natural cryolite and synthetic cryolite, it is necessary to keep them in separate categories. Greenland is the only country in the world producing natural cryolite, which is marketed either direct or through Denmark, and as the US is the only other country importing direct from Greenland, the marketing of natural cryolite can be traced through Denmark’s trade data. All other production of cryolite, East or West, is synthetic cryolite. The evaluation of cryolite plants operating in the USSR is derived mainly from prisoner-or-war reports.
Prewar synthetic cryolite installations in the present European Satellites, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, as well as in the USSR, suffered either by dismantling of plants or by actual war damage. Postwar activity was directed mainly to the reconstruction and some new construction of synthetic cryolite plants. It is not certain that Czechoslovakia’s or Poland’s prewar plants are currently producing cryolite, but one plant in East Germany is definitely producing this material. Three important cryolite plants are operating in the USSR, with the possibility of smaller plants being under construction at various aluminum centers. The Japanese did not establish a synthetic cryolite industry in Far East Satellite areas during the war period.
In East Germany the fluorine works at Dohna is currently producing synthetic cryolite and other fluorides, with plans for eventual production of organic fluorine compounds. Plant capacity is from 48 to 60 tons of cryolite a day and from 48 to 60 tons of fluorine salts (fluorides) a day, which on an annual basis would amount to from 14,000 to 18,000 metric tons for each category. 34/
The Usti plant in Czechoslovakia produced synthetic cryolite before the war, but all recent data point to the production of other fluorides but not of cryolite.
In the USSR, synthetic cryolite plants are operated in the economic regions of Northwest USSR, Ukraine, and Urals at or near the aluminum centers. The Volkhov (Kirov) aluminum plant in Northwest USSR was rebuilt after the war, with a new installation for the manufacture of synthetic cryolite.35/ Plant capacity should be adequate to supply the aluminum industry in this region. In the Ukraine the cryolite plant operated at Zaporozh’ye before the war was to be reconstructed by 1952. Prewar capacity at Zaporozh’yem was 7,500 metric tons annually. In the Urals the Polevskoy cryolite plant,also reconstructed after the war, supplies Ural,s industry and possibly other regions of the USSR. Plant capacity at Polevskoy should amount to at least10,000 metric tons annually. In the Transcaucasus a cryolite plant may have recently been constructed to supply new local industry, but this has not been verified. No other cryolite installations at aluminum plants have been verified. …