Anatoly Shirokov: "Caucasus is a dream for me, and part of this dream is Baku"
The guest of the program Tribune is Anatoly Shirokov, member of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Construction, the senator from the Magadan Region.
- Today we are discussing the Magadan Region. One of the most pressing issues for the region is the subsurface resources management. How well does the current legislation regulate this sphere of activity?
- It regulates, but the subsurface resources management could be different. We mined silver, there are a huge number of different kinds of mineral resources, which are also in need of development, waiting for investors. There are large deposits of gold, where it is produced industrially. If it is a placer deposit it is produced through surface mining, if it is ore body, then we place mines and large groups of people work to extract the ore. There are small deposits of only 10-15 kg of gold reserves. It is unprofitable to produce gold industrially there.
The first prospectors appeared here a long time ago, and from 1927 the prospectors' teams worked seriously, there has been commercial production of gold since 1932, it was headed by the state trust Dalstroy. From the beginning of 1930 until 2000 more than 3000 tonnes of chemically pure gold were extracted in Kolyma. These are huge reserves.
The State Duma is now passing a law amending the Federal Law 'On Mineral Wealth', where the Magadan region will be declared as a pilot region for non-industrial gold mining. People registered as individual entrepreneurs will have the right to engage in gold mining in small fields. They will be allocated a specific area - 0.15 square kilometers for 5 years. They will not be able to conduct blasting operations, but they can reach a maximum depth of 5 meters. The balance stocks there should be no more than 10 kg of placer gold. And on these conditions the region plans that the Kolyma piggy bank will receive about 250-300 kg of gold per year. It is not a very large value in comparison with the 24 tons of gold which Kolyma currently produces, but it's still something.
This project is of great social importance. People who cannot find work in the Kolyma villages will be able to support themselves. According to estimates by Soviet economists associated with mining, a mined ton of gold employs thousands of people. And for every one miner four staff specialists are employed.
- The introduction of such a law will legalize some of the illegal gold diggers, but not all of them. How can we deal with them?
- The methods of struggle are different. What is the crime? According to a witty novelist, crime is the normal reaction of normal people to abnormal living conditions. There is always a criminal veil around gold, and it's not only in our country. But when we talk about the possibility of these changes, we must make sure that it is more profitable for a man to work legally than to take a risk looking for dealers. This is the first thing.
Secondly, the bill provides tax exemption for the first time. The general approach is that if we cannot completely stop illegal activities, then it is necessary to do everything to make the illegal activity a legal one. And the move proposed by the law seems very correct to me in this context. And, once again, those who, relatively speaking, found these old geological maps somewhere, where these small fields are marked as having no commercial value, and now they're quietly extracting the golden sand there, it will be more advantageous to give it to them legally, because then their income will stop raising questions. After all, in fact, if we start to work illegally, there are a lot of questions to us from different departments, people and so on. Now the main task is to legalize what we have today. The illegal gold market causes huge losses. About 10 tons of gold in our country in the annual turnover are illegal. It is very important to move it to the legal market, and such measures allow us to do this.
- Is it about pure gold?
- Yes, when we extract gold with a pan or bulldozer, with the help of cradles, it is the so-called schlich gold. It should be sent to the relevant enterprise, where it will be refined during the wohlwill process. In this sense, the Kolyma gold was certified 9999 for its quality by the London Metal Exchange, this is a great achievement.
- What else is happening in Magadan?
- It has the same problems as the whole of Russia has. The specifics, of course, are that there are certain difficulties during the delivery of some things, opportunities to leave the place urgently when needed. But it is a beautiful developing region. The energy sector in Kolyma is in a unique situation. There are a lot of energy resources, a second station of the cascade of the hydropower stations, planned many years ago, is being built on the Kolyma River. It is the Ust-Srednekan Hydroelectric Station. It is being built through a major economic breakthrough, linked with the development of the Yano-Kolyma gold-bearing province. The mining industry requires a lot of energy, so the energy sphere is developing here very actively. The project, which allows the closed power system of Magadan to enter the territories of Yakutia and Chukotka, has already become a reality. There are also mining, social and industrial infrastructures. All this requires energy. Magadan has a surplus of electricity, which can be given. Of course, it is also a very serious achievement.
It is no secret that today, for example, Magadan fishermen extract about one third of the Russian market of shrimps. And they're not tiny shrimps, but ones you take in your hand and feel. The fishing industry is seriously developed. All this suggests that there is a certain development today. The Regional Authority's objective is Kolyma, which is no longer perceived as an area with a complicated and dark past. No one gives up the past, but now Kolyma is completely different. Today, very interesting, patient and hardy people live there, who have repeatedly argued that they will live and work throughout the various economic tests. Kolyma today provides a major share to the treasury of Russian gold, 50% of silver reserves, as well as energy, fish and tourism resources.
- There was a persistent outflow of the population in the Far East in the 1990s, what is the situation like now?
- The migration balance is still negative. But it has decreased dramatically in real terms. Those who wanted to leave in 1990 did so. Then people fled from entire villages in the region. Today, such things don't happen, people are grouped according to the modern economic realities of the region, which are large villages and Magadan as the administrative and logistical center. Today, the situation is stable.
Among those who are arriving there are specialists with rare specialties for the region, such as physicians in the widest range of specialties; a lot of student miners come, because they have an opportunity for professional growth.
Who strives to leave today? I have quite full information about this, because we have recently introduced a bill that will change the procedure for the provision of housing subsidies to the population which wants to leave the northern regions. Those people, who gave all their life to the North and want to live out their days in the warmer parts of the country, want to leave – retirees. In addition, those people who could not find themselves during the Soviet era, also leave. Employee turnover has been a constant problem in the Far East since the Soviet era. The demographer Leonid Rybakovsky wrote that the Far East has become a paradoxical region: having a huge shortage of qualified personnel, it is a contributor of the most qualified personnel to the central regions of the country. That's why these categories leave.
In addition, I need to say that, unfortunately, the modern system of the universal state exams washes the most talented graduates away from the regions: they leave to study in the central regions of the country, and we have very small hope of their return.
- Anatoly Ivanovich, it's Vestnik Kavkaza, so I must ask you about your attitude towards this region. Have you ever visited the Caucasus?
- I was only in Armenia, but I still remember it with great pleasure. If we talk about the Caucasus as a whole, the Caucasus is a dream for me. I want to travel both to Dagestan and Georgia. I've heard a lot about the streets of Tbilisi, where you can walk, feel the breath of the city, its cultural and historic atmosphere. I hope that my dream will come true some day.
At the same time, the Caucasus is the people, whom I have met many times in my life. Both those with whom I had friendly relationships when I was a student and my current friends who live in the Caucasus, and I live in Moscow and Magadan now. For me, the Caucasus is personified by these people – they are honest, generous, open people, who are truly able to be friends. We have experienced the pain and joy of the Caucasian peoples from the earliest times. I would like to express our most sincere condolences to the people of Azerbaijan in connection with the accident at the oilfield in the Caspian Sea. The friendship between our peoples is so great that we not only rejoice, but also grieve for each other. Today the overwhelming majority of Russians share the pain of the Azerbaijani people.
Baku is called the 'Caspian Odessa', because there is a great mix of different cultures and peoples that created the unique atmosphere of Baku, which the city of Odessa also has. The Caucasus is a dream for me and Baku is one part of this dream.
- We have a section in our 'Tribune' program called 'From Kamchatka Territory to the Kaliningrad region'. We ask our guests about the tourist attractiveness of the region they represent. The Magadan Region doesn't have a very good tourist rating in the cinema. Well, do you remember the film 'Diamond Arm': "If you ever happen to be in Kolyma, then welcome to our place... I'd rather you come here to see us." Now everything has changed seriously, tell us what can Russian tourists see in Kolyma?
- I would like to answer with a quote from Vladimir Vysotsky: "...Whatever people say, there's more in Moscow anyway...". It's a part of our history, but today it is a land inhabited by open hospitable people, which you can and must visit. I would recommend tourists to arrive in the summer and do what everyone else does – wonderful and exciting fishing. My friends remember that positive experience 10 years later. In addition, there are hunting, automobile and motorcycle trips on the Kolyma highway and its offshoots. You need to look at a natural wonder of the north – Jack London Lake. Next to it there is a lake of dancing graylings. When a grayling breeds it pops up and travels a certain number of meters on its tail, like dancing. Graylings are very tasty river fish, you can make soup or dry them in the sun. We also have the Great Lake. There are so many things one needs to see and, of course, to breathe the fresh air of the Magadan Region. The sea, rivers, forests and wildlife. There are interesting ethnographic tours to places of resettlement of the indigenous peoples of the North, acquaintance with their culture and history. The Kolyma Cossacks originated from the first Cossack pioneers of Michael Stadukhin. Anyone who comes to Magadan, to Kolyma, will find something to their liking.
- And can a tourist try to look for gold?
- This year we hosted the first festival of the prospector's craft 'Golden Luck' where anyone could try his hand with the famous gold mining pan. So this is also possible. Anyone who visited Magadan will remember it for a long time.
- Are there any places to stay in Magadan?
- Today Magadan has a developed system of hotels, starting from large ones, which have their own buildings and good internal infrastructure, to small hotels with guaranteed family service. There is a vast amount of information on the Internet, on various specialized sites. Magadan Airport is located in the village of Sokol, it's almost 50-60 km from the city. And any traveler passing from the airport to the city for the first time sees the famous Kolyma highway, which stretches for more than 2000 kilometers towards Yakutsk.