27 Mar 2024 14:22

Russia's mineral resources agency begins systemic studies of country's shelf for first time in 30 years

MOSCOW. March 27 (Interfax) - The Federal Agency for Mineral Resources (Rosnedra) has begun systemic studies of the Russian shelf for the first time in 30 years, agency head Yevgeny Petrov said at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

The agency has developed serious potential for legal and technical regulation of geological prospecting over the past two years, which makes it possible to conduct strategic planning of national mineral reserves and guarantees Russia's technological and raw material sovereignty, Petrov said.

Rosnedra operates 190 sites nationwide between Kaliningrad and the Far East, with projects ranging from deep drilling for oil and gas to geophysical exploration of solid minerals by drones, Petrov said.

"A unique project we completed in 2023 deserves a special mention. For the first time in 30 years, we have taken a systemic approach to shelf exploration, begun working on the shelf, and drilled four wells. These are truly significant geological results. This is the last blank spot on Russia's geological map. The fundamental geological task of evaluating the basins' oil and gas reserves has been accomplished. Most importantly, we now have a unique paleoclimate record and can see how the climate changed in the past several thousand years in, say, the Arctic Ocean. These are very important scientific results," Petrov said.

Some 1,400 million tonnes of oil and 1.6 trillion cubic meters of gas were added to the state balance sheet at the expense of the federal budget in 2023, Petrov said. "These are impressive results, a 20% year-on-year increase," he said.

"Despite the foreign media claims about stagnation in our mining and geological prospecting sector, I can say that the sector is growing steadily and there is no decline in funding, first and foremost by mineral developers," Petrov said.

As for solid minerals, 168 deposits were discovered in 2023. "Most of them are precious metals, 142 gold deposits, which can yield around 140 tonnes of gold in the near future. Companies that develop solid minerals have intensified drilling. Drilling rates have increased by over 70% since 2022. The scope of geological mining surveys has also grown 102%. This means that companies will acquire high-quality mineral reserves within a year or two and will add development projects to their balance sheets. This will have an effect on state revenue already in the near term," Petrov said.

Speaking of the Geology: Revival of the Legend federal project, he said deposits first undergo full feasibility study, including the economic and technical aspects. This makes it possible to auction deposits of a completely different quality for mineral developers, he said.

"Considering how demand is changing today and the huge demand for the liquid group of minerals [that are] in short supply, we expect these 22 deposits to have a rather broad effect; its budget effectiveness might top 900 billion. These are possible incomes from the deposits' development," Petrov said.

"For example, a new gas cluster is being formed in Yakutia, it will contribute to the republic's economy and the Power of Siberia pipeline. In terms of solid minerals, the liquid group of minerals tops the list, and 60 tonnes of gold are expected to be put on the balance sheet," he said.

The agency is responsible for storing all geological information in Russia, Petrov said. "Currently, we are operating seven petabytes of geological information, and 15 petabytes of information are stored on the servers of mineral developers. This hybrid format is used to provide prompt access to all information. We have two geographic information systems. The key one is the automated mineral development licensing system (ASLN). This is our core for managing all mineral reserves. In 2022, we finalized the transfer of electronic licenses to the register, and we could say at the end of 2023 that it was a highly successful experience. ASLN combined full federal and regional authority for licensing common minerals and groundwater with at least 500 cubic meter output. The system is currently operating 90,000 licenses," he said.

For his part, Mishustin noted the need for a further expansion of geological surveying. "Undoubtedly, we need to broaden capacities for mineral development, carry out deep processing of our mineral resources [and] mineral reserves, and try to use Russian products to the fullest. Research and development projects are underway to this end. You are aware of a number of new products offered by Russian research centers and enterprises. Clearly, their use is of major importance for the technological and raw material sovereignty we have talked about," he said.