World's northernmost gold miners expand digging at Bolshevik Island
Conditions are extreme for the miners that operate the gold fields in the remote Russian Arctic island. Since 2009, company Sezar and its subsidiary Sezar-Arktika has sent hundreds of workers to the stretches located at 78° North.
More than 400 people are now reportedly engaged in the company.
Despite Russia’s current major attention to Arctic developments, little is known about Sezar-Arktika and its operations in the Bolshevik Island.
The 11,300 square km island is part of Severnaya Zemlya, the archipelago that separates the Kara Sea and Laptev Sea. Before the miners arrived, the area had no infrastructure or settlements beyond a small meteorological station.
This is one of the most desolate parts of the world. Temperatures are far below zero through most of the year and the distance to the nearest towns of Dikson and Khatanga is more than 700 km.
“Conditions are truly extreme - this is a polar desert with no vegetation beyond lichen,” the company says about the area. “There are constant strong winds and the weather can change in minutes from blinding sun to showering rains and blizzards. And there are no animals beyond lemmings, arctic foxes and polar bears.”
Over the years, big machinery, housing modules and other equipment has been brought to the area and roads and infrastructure built. Manpower and equipment has mostly been transported by ships. But also helicopters have been used.
One year, the company did not succeed in chartering ships, and the operators on the island had to use equipment and supplies provided the previous year. In 2015, the company reportedly arranged a special pontoon barge capable of delivering more than 60 tons of goods from the mainland to a local beach.
Sezar-Arktika is now aiming for an expansion of activities. Several major plots were recently announced for lease by the local municipal administration of Dikson. Several of the areas are located near the Solnechnaya Bay in Bolshevik Island.
Some of the plots are also located near Cape Chelyuskin, the piece of land that is considered the northernmost point on the Russian mainland. The biggest of them is over 160,000 sq.m in size.
It is likely that Sezar-Arktika is the winner of the auction that took place in March this year. Another auction to new industrial acreage will take place in September, information from the municipal administration shows.
From before, Sezar-Arktika controls at least 7 mining licenses in the Bolshevik Island and one near Cape Chelyuskin on the mainland, a Russian mineral license registry shows.
Several of the license areas are located along rivers running from the major glaciers that cover the northern and central parts of the island. The Bolshevik Island is the southernmost of the islands of the archipelago.
The mining is done from open pits and there is no processing on site, although the company says it has plans for a processing facility.
Judging from company information, the Sezar-Arktika was established in 2009 by Igor Gellershtein, who now controls 93,9 percent of the company shares.
We have big plans for expansion, the company says.
“Despite all complications with our operations and supplies, our company year after year boosts processing of ore, extraction of metals and acquisition of new fields […],” the company informs.
“In the near future, we aim at conducting drilling and blasting at several of our fields and boost resources and enhance the profitability of our operations at the island of Bolshevik.”
The Sezar-Arktika has not responded to request for a comment to this article