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17 Jul, 2009 01:38

Magadan: Russia’s gold mine

Notorious for its sad and cruel past, this was a major transit centre for prisoners sent to Stalin's Gulag labour camps. But the region is also famous for its natural resources.

Gold mining and fisheries are the main source of income for the local economy.

Magadan is one of Russia’s largest gold producers.

In gold we trust

Howard Golden, a foreign gold miner working in the local industry, provided his assessment of the region’s gold potential.

“Magadan sits right in the middle of the 2,600-kilometer-long belt known as the Okhotsk-Chukotka belt. And I would argue that it is probably the most prospective geological belt in the world for gold and other metals. Magadan is probably sitting on incredible treasure,” he said.

However, not many can take advantage of the region’s riches.

“There are two issues. One, obviously, is the remoteness. The infrastructure is almost non-existent in Magadan, and it’s very remote. It’s almost impossible to get access to a lot of the mineral-rich areas. And that takes, of course, money and resources,” Golden explained.

“And the other issue is the legislative framework to get licenses and permits to mine gold here,” the miner added.

Andrey Khalkachan, a mining equipment supplier, told RT how different interests conflict with each other in the regional gold-mining industry.

“Throughout the history of the development of gold-mining in the area, it was always heavily controlled by the government. But, because production of gold is declining, they have started talking about the revival of freelance gold-mining,” he said.

“But the bigger players oppose freelance mining. They take advantage of the small guys, because those are the same guys who develop the mines and satellite deposits,” Khalkachan added.

Russia, being a country with vast fish resources, still imports some 30% of its fish. Ella Kim, from the local fishing company, explains why the Magadan fishing industry is mostly export-oriented.

“There is no demand for snow crab or sea snail, for instance, on the local market. People here in Russia, especially in central Russia, do not know what snow crab and sea snails are. They do not know how to cook them. And this kind of product is very popular in Japan and Korea,” she said.

“Another problem is the distance,” Ella Kim explained.