Today, there are 794 gold deposits that make up the gold reserves of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). Over 67% of the deposits are considered primary deposits, and 15% of those are able to be open-pit mined. Experts predict this will be enough for 200 years. Russia ranks 1st in the world in terms of diamond reserves with nearly 60% of global deposits. Of the Russian reserves, about 80% are located in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). The prospecting for and extraction of diamonds from such impressive natural resources in our harsh climates has required massive investments and has relied on the courage of people who have devoted their entire lives to the diamond industry. Let’s take a look at the history of diamond and gold mining in Yakutia.
In the 1840s, geologist Richard Maack suggested that the Vilyuyski region was rich in iron ore, salt deposits, and precious stones. However, at the time no one thought much of it. In the beginning of the 20th century several scientists, such as V.I. Vernadsky and V. C. Sobolev, spent time on Maack’s findings. They noticed a similarity between the geology of South Africa and Siberia, and concluded that there was a very high possibility of primary diamond deposits in Siberia. During the Great October Revolution geological expeditions were suspended, for obvious reasons. It was only in 1946 that Stalin gave the orders to force the acceleration of diamond prospecting in the Soviet Union, particularly in Yakutia.
In 1947 the first expeditions set off into the harsh lands of permafrost. And by 1949 the first officially registered Yakut Diamond was found in the Vilyuy River basin. Until 1953, diamond deposits were only found in the sediments of the Vilyuy and Olenok rivers. This was because the technology for diamond mining was poorly developed. But this changed in 1954 when, using the newly discovered Pyrope Surveying method, the first Kimberlite pipes in Yakutia was discovered, called Zarnitsa. This momentous occasion was considered the be the discovery of the century by our country. By the end of 1955, 15 more primary diamond deposits were discovered. The next year saw the beginning of the large scale excavation of the Mir Kimberlite pipe. The town of Mirny was established nearby, and within 2 years it had grown into a city.
Since the 1960s, every year more than one billion dollars’ worth of diamonds are mind in Yakutia. The Mir open-pit mine is the largest on the planet. From 1974 to 1987 a series of variously sized nuclear explosions were used to develop new deposits. The first of these was called Kristall, and was detonated on October 2nd 1974 at a depth of 98 meters (321 feet) and was 1.7 kilotons in energy. This was the smallest detonation, with subsequent detonations reaching 15 kilotons, and were set far deeper. Currently, there are more than 200 kimberlite pipe diamond deposits in Yakutia.
Gold was found on the Lena River about two hundred years ago, in the area of Olekma and Vitim. The Yakut, hunters and cattle breeders, and the Tungus, deer herders of the taiga, were the only inhabitants of the area. Since ancient times, merchants from Irkutsk have traded with the nomadic Yakut and Tungus, exchanging goods for furs. The gold in that area remote and nearly inaccessible, so and only individual prospectors were able to pan for gold. But over time, the extremely rich river beds of the Vitimsko-Olekminsky region began to dry up, and even this ‘wild’ mining became unprofitable. It was only in 1924 that the government created the Yakutsk state gold mining trust, Yagzoloto, which marks the beginning State gold mining industry in the territory of the Yakutsk Republic. Soon afterwards, a booming industry grew due to the rich Yakut gold deposits, which in turn gave rise to an industrial working class in Yakutia. The Republic became famous for its gold reserves and this determined its economic role in the state labor administration. From 1970-80, the Yakutia gold mining industry employed more than 200 thousand people, and added 30-35 tons of gold to the state treasury annually. The crisis of the 90s hit the mining industry hard, but in the 2000s, the situation had stabilized and a group of large and medium sized enterprises were formed, forming the main part of annual gold mining. One of the main organizations that provided support for the restoration of the gold and diamond mining industry was the Committee for Precious Metals and Precious Stones of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) (Komdragmetall).