3.1 Mineral raw resources

3.1 Mineral raw resources

Mining industry within the basin is based on the extraction of non-ferrous and precious metals, coal, chemically pure limestone and uranium (pic. 3.1.1). The overall gross value of the explored mineral reserves in Buryatia is almost $135 billion. Two thirds of this are accounted by fuel and energy resources, precious and rare metals, including rich fields of nepheline ores, fluorite, phosphates, brown coal, potassium and iron ores. Geological surveys have discovered 228 deposits of alluvial gold along the tributaries of the Verkhneya Angara and Barguzin rivers, valleys of the Dzhida, Temnik and Chikoi rivers. Buryat Republic possesses large deposits of uranium, coal, fluorite, lead, zinc, tungsten, apatite and granular quartz situated within the 140-200 km zone of Lake Baikal [1,2].

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Pic. 3.1.1 Ferrous, nonferrous, rare and precious metal resourses and their extraction [1]

Legend to the pic. 3.1.1

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In Irkutsk part of the basin, mining industry is based on the extraction of marble. There is a considerable number of discovered, but yet unexplored deposits, including quartz deposits in Olkhon district, and deposits of syenites, lazurites, wollastonite in Slyudyansky district [4]. Slyudyansky, Irkutsky and Olkhonsky districts of Irkutsk region, lying within CEZ, have 29 registered mineral deposits, including 16 deposits of technical and chemical materials and gemstones (none is being exploited) and 13 deposits of construction materials (6 of them are being exploited). Among the 6 exploited deposits, the biggest deposits are Pereval (Slyudyanskoe), which produced 902 and 776 thousand tons of marble and 311 and 266 thousand m3 of limestone in 2012 and 2013, respectively, and Angasolskoe, which produced 505.8 and 447.9 thousand m3 of gravel in 2012 and 2013, respectively [3,4].

The major exhaustible energy sources within the Russian part of the basin are coal and oil. Considerable coal reserves are located within the Selenga river basin. Oil and natural gas were discovered in Lake Baikal basin as early as in the XVII century; however the exploitation of these reserves is impossible as they are located within the CEZ BNT.

In 2012, 5 deposits of brown coal and 3 deposits of bituminous coal were being exploited in the Republic of Buryatia (pic. 3.1.2).

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Pic. 3.1.2 Energy resources and their development [1]

Legend to the pic. 3.1.2

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In 2012, the coal company «Bain-Zurkhe» extracted 932.1 thousand tons of coal, which was 146% of 2011 level. 1,150 thousand tons of coal were extracted in 2013.  The company «Coal razrez» extracted 1,200 (2.6 times more than in 2011) and 1,650 thousand tons in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The company «Buryat Coal» extracted 255.6 and 298.3 thousand tons in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The company «Tuguniskiy razrez» extracted 12.5 million tons of coal in 2012 [3,4].

The amount of extracted placer gold in 2012 was 1.35 tons, and in 2013 it was 1.56 tons, 15.6% more than in 2012. About 4.6 tons of lode gold were mined in 2012, 4.4 tons were mined in 2013. The biggest gold-mining enterprises in 2012 were «Buryat Gold Company» and the «Western gold-mining cooperative».

In Zakamensky district there are 4 tungsten deposits. Dzhida tungsten and molybdenum plant was exploiting Inkurskoe and Kholtosonkoe deposits on the right bank of the Dzhida river. After the closing down of the plant, there remained a tailing dump with the area of more than 1 km2, which is the anthropogenic Barun-Naryn deposit with the tungsten trioxide reserves of 21 thousand tons. From 2010 «Zakamensk» Company started the exploitation of this anthropogenic deposit, setting up new production sites, building a modern ore-processing factory, a hydrometallurgical unit for processing of tungsten concentrates [3].

In Zakamensky district there are also registered reserves of molybdenum of the Malo-Oynogorsky deposit. Zharchikhinskoe deposit of molybdenum ores (Tarbagataisky district) and Ermakovskoe deposit of fluorite-phenacite-bertrandite ores have been included in the state fund of distributed mineral reserves.

In 2012 and 2013, within the Republic of Buryatia several deposits of nonmetallic mineral resources were exploited, among which the major ones in terms of the production amount were Tatarskiy Kluch with 209 and 82 thousand tons, respectively, of limestone, Tarabukinskoe with 160 and 122 thousand tons, respectively, of dolomite (Zaigraevskiy district), Cheremshanskoe with 202 and 223 thousand tons, respectively, of quartzite (Pribaikalskiy district), Timluyskoe with 35 and 31 thousand tons, respectively, of cement clay loam, as well as Oshurkovskoe deposit of apatite ores (Ivolginskiy district) and Tarakanovskoe deposit with 602 thousand tons of limestone (Kabansky district). JSC “Khiagda” exploits the Khiagda ore field and extracts uranium in its pilot plant. In 2012, it extracted 331.7 tons of uranium, which was 124.5% of the level in 2011 (266.4 tons) [11,12]. In 2013, the company further increased the amount of extracted uranium to 440 tons, which was 33% more than in 2012 [13,14]. In total, the production output of the mining enterprises in the Republic of Buryatia was worth 13.8 billion rubles in 2012, which was 106.4% of 2011 value. In 2013, the production output was estimated at 13.4 billion rubles [5,6].

The territory of Zabaikalsky Krai incorporates enterprises of different forms of property and types of economic activity (table 3.1.1) [6,7].

Table 3.1.1 Enterprises and organizations recorded in the statistic register according to the type of economic activity (as of January 1, 2013)

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The total output of the enterprises of Krasnochikoisky, Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky,  Uletovsky, Khiloksky and Chitinsky districts in such sectors as rock mining, processing industry, production and redistribution of energy, gas and water amounted to 26.2 billion rubles. The leader among the districts is Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky district with its share of 22.1 billion rubles.

In 2012, the enterprises of the Khilok river basin (Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky and Khiloksky districts) were entitled to 10 licenses for extraction of mineral resources, while the enterprises in the Chikoi river basin (Krasnochikoisky district) to 16 licenses. Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky district is rich in the bituminous and brown coal reserves. At «Tugnuiskiy Razrez», Oblon-Shibarkoe deposit 13 million tons of bituminous coal were mined in both 2012 and 2013, while at Tarbagataiskiy brown coal deposit of «Tugnuiskiy Razrez», 260 and 227 thousand tons of brown coal were mined in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Krasnochikoisky district possesses 14 primarily small deposits of placer gold. Some enterprises, such as Khikotoi, Gutai, «Taiga» Ltd, Kunalei, Fedotovka, and Dauriya, extracted up to 200 kg of gold. Nonmetallic mineral deposits, located in Khiloksky district, include Kholinskoe deposit with the amount of extracted zeolite of 0.6 tons in 2012 and Zhipkhegenskoe with 380 thousand tons of granite per year.

Mining industry is the leading sector of Mongolia’s economy accounting for 22% of GDP, 94% of gross export value and 85% of foreign direct investment in 2012, according to figures from the National Statistics Office [9]. Mongolia’s main proven reserves include coal (pic. 3.1.2 and pic. 3.1.3), copper, hard-rock and placer gold, silver, iron, molybdenum, fluorspar, zinc, tungsten, lead, tin, uranium and rare earths.

Pic. 3.1.3 Coal cut brown coal in the area Tevshin Nuruu

In Khangai region, there are discovered and expected reserves of 15 types of mineral resources. There are 89 deposits of 9 types of mineral resources and other minerals are encountered is occurrences. Among the deposits, there are 46 gold, 22 phosphor and 15 coal deposits and mixed deposits of gold, silver, copper, iron, manganese, and fluorite.

As of 2013, 4.6% of working age people or 50.3 thousand people were officially employed in mining industry in Mongolia. Another 40 thousand people were illegally working in mining of coal, gold, tungsten, gravel, sands, gypsum, etc. Among the illegal miners, about 90% is working on exploitation of abandoned gold deposits. The illegal mining is prominent in Zaamar soum of Tuv aimag, Buregkhangai soum of Bulgan aimag and Tsenkher soum of Arkhangai aimag, all located in the Selenga river basin. The illegal mining has an adverse impact on the environment and, in recent years, rehabilitation of the lands has been underway.

During 1992-2005, the Government of Mongolia implemented Programme «Gold» aimed at developing gold mining industry. Between 1992 and 2005 the amount of extracted gold increased from 773.6 to 21,900 kg, i.e. more than 28.3 times (3.1.4).

Pic. 3.1.4 Industrial gold mining (Zamaar sum, Tuv aimag)

Boroo gold deposit is located in Mandal soum of Selenge aimag. In 1982-1990, a Mongolian and Eastern Germany joint geological expedition carried out a detailed exploration and estimated geological reserves of gold at 42.56 tons. In March 2004, an ore processing factory was put into operation with capacity of 1.8 million tons per year, and till 2013 the factory produced 1,628,000 ounces or 46.15 tons of gold. Boroo gold deposit is exploited by the Canadian mining company «Сеntеrra gold». The company has also received permission to exploit Gachuurt gold deposit located in Mandal soum of Selenge aimag. As of December 2010, the proven gold reserves of this deposit are 1.8 million ounces and prognostic reserves are 491,000 ounces. The exploitation of the deposit has not yet started.

The major metal ore deposits being exploited are the Tumurtologoi deposit in Tuvshruulekh soum of Arkhangai aimag («Beren» company), another Tumurtologoi deposit in Khongor soum of Darkhan-Uul aimag («Darkhan steel factory»), Bayangol iron deposit in Eruu soum of Selenge aimag («Boldtumur Eruu Gol» company), and the deposits Khust Uul and Tumurtei («Darkhan steel factory»). The main ore mineral of these deposits is skarn magnetite and content of iron in ore varies from 51.2 to 55.8%, while content of sulfur varies from 0.1 to 3.8%.

In Altanbulag soum of Tuv aimag, Darkhan soum of Darkhan-Uul aimag, Saikhan soum of Bylgan aimag, districts neighboring Ulaanbaatar (such as Khan-Uul), and along the rivers Tuul, Orkhon and Kharaa, citizens and organizations mine mineral materials such as sands, gravel and rocks, limestone, and gypsum. The activities, often unauthorized, have negative impact on the environment [15].

Metallurgical enterprises of Mongolia are Darkhan steel factory built in 1994 year and Erdenet copper-molybdenum concentration factory (pic. 3.1.5). Darkhan steel processing factory has built a new concentration facility using dry magnet concentration method at the Tumurtei deposit.

Pic. 3.1.5   Erdenet ore-processing plant

A Mongolian-Russian joint venture, the ore-processing plant «Erdenet» started its operations in 1978. About 25 million tons of sulfide ore of complex mineralogical composition are processed per year yielding about 530 thousand tons of copper and 3 thousand tons of molybdenum concentrates (pic. 3.1.6) [2]. Enrichment tailings and pyrite concentrate are accumulated in the combined tailing ponds that, on one hand, pose a significant threat to the environment and, on the other hand, are a resource for extracting valuable components such as copper, iron, precious metals. The ore reserves of Erdenetiin-Ovoo deposit are 1,060,367 tons, copper and molybdenum reserves are estimated at 4.632 million tons and 125,414 tons, respectively. Explorations conducted recently have discovered new reserves of copper (3 million tons) and molybdenum (55 thousand tons).

Pic. 3.1.6 The Erdenet open cast mine

Since 1997, «Erdmin» LLC produces cathode copper using tailings of the ore-processing plant «Erdenet». Over the years the company expanded the range of its products and now produces rolled copper and various types of copper wires.

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