Few doubt the potential for world-class mining discoveries in Siberia, but even fewer have been prepared to look. Now, as the climate warms, interest is growing and exploration is increasing, but what challenges remain? Molly Lempriere investigates
Siberia in the north of Russia is one of the coldest, harshest places on earth. Famed for its inhospitable climate, it is also mineral-wealthy and unexploited – a true frontier region. Although it has attracted mining companies for decades, the challenging landscape and conditions have meant they have only just begun to scratch the surface of the area’s potential.
This could now be changing, as climate change leads to warmer temperatures, ice and permafrost are melting and potentially easing the mining process. The mining sector is the second-biggest contributor to GDP in Russia and is expected to continue to play an important role in its economy.
Mining in Siberia grew exponentially during the 20th Century, as successive governments and leaders sought to take advantage of the region. “The Siberian region is rich in minerals including coal, gold, diamond and iron ore,” says Globaldata analyst Alok Shukla.
“Coal is largely extracted from Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Sakha (Yakutia), Republic of Khakassia, and Irkutsk Oblast. Gold originates mainly from Krasnoyarsk Krai and Irkutsk Oblast.”
Russia is responsible for 7% of global aluminium production, of which 95% stems from Siberia. It is home to Russia’s largest coal mine, the Arshanovsky pit in the Khakassia Republic which opened in 2015, and when at full capacity is expected to produce ten million tonnes of coal, with plans to expand this. Plus, Siberia and the Far East also hold 84% of Russia’s known gold reserves.
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