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Russia approves new railway bridge to China, creating a new land-access route for the strategic resource-rich Sakha Republic

On March 20, reports from Russia’s Information Office of the Sakha Republic (aka Republic of Yakutia) announced that approval had been given to start construction of a new railway bridge that would significantly enhance the land-access route between Russia’s resource-rich Far East and China. The bridge will connect Mohe, China with Dzhalinda, Russia, crossing the Amur River (known as Heilongjiang in China), which marks the border between the two countries in this region.

The Sakha Republic produces nearly all of Russia’s antimony, which is used in products like semiconductors and is a critical input for the defence-industrial supply chain and used to make ammunition, explosives, and nuclear weapons. The region is also a major source of Russian diamonds, uranium, gold, silver, iron, coal, gas, and timber – all key resources that can be further developed for export. 

China is the world’s top miner, producer, and processor of antimony, although, since 2015, Russia and Tajikistan have been significantly increasing their mining of the critical mineral. The United States imports around 80% of its antimony from China. This industry dominance has given Beijing influence over global antimony prices, resulting in spikes in 2012 and 2021.  The issue of antimony supply and the amount of reserves in the American National Defense Stockpile has caught the interest of the US Congress, which has elevated the issue and included it in the 2022 Defense Authorization Bill.

The new Amur River bridge would be built on a stretch of currently closed railway that links to the Trans-Siberian Railway. Despite China and Russia sharing a long border, there are only a few direct rail routes that link these vast regions of the two countries. The Mohe-Dzhalinda bridge will also be the start of a new international rail corridor designed to improve regional trade flows. The construction approval follows a co-operation agreement signed between the two countries at the Eastern Economic Forum in September 2022.

According to reports, the bridge will reduce the existing logistics route by 2,000 km and provide Russia’s Sakha Republic with an improved land-access route to China to compete with the primary transport path that requires sea access via Russia’s eastern ports, such as Vladivostok. The northern coastline of the Sakha Republic abuts the Arctic Ocean.

Russian reports estimate that the bridge would result in an increase of 10 million tonnes of shipping freight per year. After opening in 1993, the border crossing at Mohe-Dzhalinda has been closed since 2003 because of low demand. In 2022, Russia-China trade hit record highs.