Heading for the Arctic

Mining in the Arctic zone and the development of reserves of the World Ocean. Such future trends are indicated in the draft Roadmap for the Development of the Geological Industry until 2050, developed by Russian experts.

The draft roadmap for the development of the Russian exploration industry until 2050 was presented by specialists of Rosgeologia JSC during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. For several months, leading experts of the geological industry, scientists, representatives of related industries and subsurface user enterprises have been working on this project. As a result, the main risks, trends and prospects of the industry were identified. According to Anton Sergeev, advisor to the president of the Rosgeologia state holding, the data obtained will help subsoil users to more accurately predict future activities and better manage the funds of companies. So what can mining and metallurgical companies face in 20-30 years?

Depletion of mineral resources
Experts predict that the exploited chromium deposits will be depleted by 2025, and significant depletion of copper, lead, zinc, molybdenum and tungsten reserves is expected by 2040. The demand for uranium due to its own production will be satisfied only by 20%, bauxite – by 40%, titanium – by 10%. The problems can be solved by involving in the exploitation of a part of the explored ore reserves of relatively low quality, as well as using innovative technologies to search for new deposits. As for the mineral resource base (SME) of gold, platinum group metals, silver and diamonds, it is quite large and will not be exhausted until 2040.

The increasing importance of the Arctic

The role of the Russian Arctic zone will increase due to the huge reserves of natural resources and the logistical potential of the northern sea routes. According to available data, about 10% of the world's active nickel reserves, about 19% of platinum group metals, 10% titanium, 3% zinc, cobalt, gold and silver are concentrated in the Arctic.

If we talk about large companies that are already implementing projects in the Arctic, then, first of all, we should mention JSC Norilsk Nickel. Today, Norilsk Nickel is actively expanding geological exploration on the Taimyr Peninsula. Canadian gold miners of Chukotka, the Kinross Group, are also showing interest in the Arctic zone. And in the last three years, Rostec has become more active, having received a license for the legendary Tomtor, the world's largest deposit of rare earth metals (niobium, terbium, yttrium and scandium). The development of the Reactor is expected to begin in 2018.

According to the forecasts of the developers of the Roadmap, in the near future, the interests of subsoil users will also extend to Eastern Siberia and the Far East. As indicated in the draft document, by 2025, the share of industrial and raw material centers in underdeveloped regions of the Russian Federation (Arctic, Eastern Siberia, Far East) in the total SME of the country should be more than 60%.

Development of the World Ocean reserves

Back in 1978, hydrothermal vents were discovered in the oceans, from the vents of which particles of various minerals (black smokers) escaped. It turned out that they literally form deposits of non-ferrous metals. Now the development of ores on the ocean floor is a strategic task of the XXI century. The draft Roadmap indicates that by 2050, the main trend in the development of the industry will be the development of underwater mining systems and ore delivery to the surface.

"The metals that we extract on land are being consumed at a terrible rate: every 20 years, metal production doubles. Therefore, the eyes turn to the World Ocean, which contains a significant amount of metals that will be mined in the future," said academician Nikolai Bortnikov.

The scientist also noted that, in addition to active sources with metal particles, there are inactive deposits, the detection of which requires the use of innovative technical developments and serious financial costs. Moreover, no one knows how many such deposits there are. Large deposits may be overlain by sedimentary rocks or late lavas, so they have not yet been identified.

Full automation of work at the fields

By 2050, there will be a large-scale replacement of human labor with robotic systems in all areas. The fleet of unmanned vehicles will exceed 1.5 million units. It is assumed that the widespread introduction of remote exploration methods, the use of interactive geological maps of the state of the subsoil, 3D and 4D models, artificial intelligence technologies. Experts believe that by 2050, work on the developed fields will be fully automated. In their opinion, new information technologies will improve the productivity of exploration and mining.
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