DS correspondents spent one day with Serik Konakbayev, geologist at Polymetal.

Geologist Serik Konakbayev works at the largest Russian-Kazakh enterprise. Every morning, arriving at Bakyrchik gold mine (Eastern Kazakhstan), he starts his day in the control room of his assigned production area. Data about the gold ore mined in one day is fed to a special program on the computer. Geologist carefully examines the data, analyzes the composition of the ore from each well and discusses the numbers of the target plan with colleagues. Rich ore goes to the ore warehouse and then to the factory where it is cleaned from impurities, creating the desired physical composition. Poor ore is enriched, mixed with the richer ore and then processed. Next Serik goes to the quarry to make sure drilling operators are not making any mistakes. As he explained, the most important thing is to make sure that the drilling rig follows the well plan and only goes as deep as necessary. As it turned out, the geologist is responsible not only for production, but also for dispatching the ore to the mill factory. According to Serik, one wrong step at the final stage can ruin the bottom line of a promising field. Once well drilling or well repair is finished, it is time for the most grueling work. Serik literally lives in the field, spending several days in a row on the site. But a true professional is always up to the challenge.

“I can’t say it was my plan to have this career,” says Serik. “A geology college had a Doors Open Day, so me and some other guys from my school, who didn’t know yet where they wanted to study after school, decided to give it a try. The moment I saw mineral samples I decided I wanted to have a career in this field. At the time I had no idea what challenges lay ahead. Long exploration routes, collecting numerous samples, working in any weather. In these circumstances, you have to detect the presence of ores, develop maps and plans.

– What challenges did you have to face?

– Challenges were only at the beginning of my career. There were days when I had to move two or three hundred boxes of core samples from the drilling rig to the warehouse. It was so exhausting I thought about quitting. But then I got promoted, and it was a crucial moment for me when I thought I was born for this job.

– What is the daily routine of a geologist?

– You have little or no comfort, it’s like you are camping all the time and deal with the elements. Usually you set a base camp at the next exploration station: this includes tents, a field kitchen and a large tent for working with the data obtained during the field work. Normally you start at 7:00 am. After breakfast, geologists go on their routes. Geologists have to work in places that have not ever been visited by man. This is when your survival skills come in handy. By the evening, you return to the camp with samples and have dinner.

– What are your most vivid memories associated with your profession?

– They are from the days when I worked at Anisimov Klyuch field in East-Kazakhstan region. Strong team spirit, the great outdoors, stunning sunrises and sunsets. I felt like a real trailblazer, a frontierman.

– Are you in contact with colleagues from other countries?

– Polymetal produces gold and silver in Russia and Kazakhstan. I often meet my Russian colleagues at science conferences. Prospecting in Russia and in Kazakhstan are very different, and we are happy to share our knowledge with each other. In Russia, a group of geologists can be brought in the deep taiga by helicopters or all-terrain vehicles with hundreds of miles to the nearest settlement. So, geologists in Russia need to know how to survive in the wilderness. In Kazakhstan, there is always a village not that far away.

– What advice would you give to geologists at the beginning of their career?

You have to be born for it. For many people, it’s the allure of exploration, but it’s actually more than that. Living in the field is very challenging, so you need to have good physical and mental health.