The Russian Federation comprises 83 political units, and at 17.08 million km2 it is the largest country in the world.
Russia has land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan,
Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It also has maritime borders with Japan (by the Sea of Okhotsk) and the US
(by the Bering Strait).
Russia is also the ninth most populous nation (with 142 million people), and extends across part of Europeand the whole
of northern Asia, spanning nine time zones.
The federation has the world’s largest forest and mineral reserves, and its lakes contain over 20% of the world’s fresh water.
The Russian Federation is particularly well endowed with gold, and the US Geological Survey estimates that the region has the
world’s third most extensive resources of the metal. The country’s exploration potential is difficult to assess, but there are
valid reasons for believing that Russia’s most promising exploration developments, and multi-million-ounce preciousmetals
discoveries, still lie ahead.
The history of gold mining in Russia is different from that of most gold-producing countries. It began with hard-rock gold
mining at Berezovsky in the Urals, before developing into the alluvial mining of gold. For many years Russia maintained a
steady second place after South Africa thanks to this alluvial gold mining (contributing more than 80% of the country’s total
gold output). Some of these mines had deposits in excess of 6Moz, with average extractable grades of over 10g/m3, but recovery
rates were low.
Historically, the most productive regions in Russia have been Magadan, Yakutia, Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk.
Magadan is by far the biggest gold producer, while the Lena goldfield in Irkutsk boasts the greatest number of deposits.
The leading gold-producing regions are currently Krasnoyarsk, Chukotka, Amur, Sakha (Yakutia) and Irkutsk. The changing
gold-producing dominance reflects the process of switching from alluvial to hard-rock production, and the depletion of many
gold deposits in most of the alluvial-mining provinces.
However, alluvial gold is the best indicator of intensive primary gold mineralisation.
For most of the Russian alluvial gold-producing regions, the amount of alluvial gold extracted is a good indicator of the
area’s remaining gold endowment. Although many of the hard-rock deposits would have been eroded, no doubt to form the rich
alluvial deposits, many more will remain. There are a number of cases that demonstrate this conclusion.
For example, the Lena goldfield (with an historical gold output of over 30Moz) has an established mineral resource of around
80Moz (including Sukhoy Log), while the Natalkinskoe deposit in Magadan contains well-established gold resources. Almost all
of the large gold deposits in Russia are surrounded by alluvial mines (whether worked out or still in production).
In this sense, alluvial gold mining is, in effect, the best-ever stream-sediment sampling programme. And the results of this
programme are publicly available.
For example, go to Google Maps, and select satellite mode. Search for ‘Russian Federation, Province of Irkutsk, Vasil’evskiy’
to view the Lena goldfield (placers there have yielded more than 20Moz from the very compact Bodaybo depression).
Under ‘Russian Federation, Province of Magadan,Omchak’, web users can see the 30km alluvial mine next to the Natalka hard-rock
gold deposit (with more than 68Moz of gold resources). Alternatively, visit ‘Russian Federation, Primorskiy kray, Rudnevo’
to see the alluvial workings at Krinichnaya Mountain (very prospective geology located only 15km fromVladivostok).
Not all known deposits are surrounded by alluvial mines, but all of the drainage areas associated with existing alluvial mines
deserve exploration and should be treated as first-priority targets. This makes Russia unique. Apart from being an excellent
indicator of hard-rock gold mineralisation, these alluvial gold deposits resulted in the development of infrastructure in the
regions. Settlements, networks of roads and power lines, and distribution centres are ready to support intensive exploration
and mining. After more than 250 years of alluvial mining, Russia’s hard-rock gold resources are facing an unprecedented
exploration programme. The known deposits are just a fraction of those to be discovered. The only limiting factor for successful
exploration is a lack of investment. In recent years, Russia has been among the leading destinations for exploration expenditure.
However, these amounts are still not enough for a country this extensive. Another factor holding back international investors
is the lack of real knowledge about Russia. The main myth about the nation is foreign companies would not be allowed to develop
‘serious’ deposits here.
The second- and third-largest gold producers in Russia are foreign companies: Kinross and Petropavlovsk.
Other international companies successfully developing projects in Russia include AngloGold.