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In the zone of cold and innovation

Lev Kolomyts on the prospects of Yakutia

In the zone of cold and innovation
Photo: YSIA
The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) is a classical raw material province: its economy is based on a variety of minerals with stable export demand, and living conditions are among the least favorable in Eurasia, which requires enormous expenses for maintaining the livelihoods of the existing settlements and does not contribute to the emergence of new ones.

Over the past year, the leadership has been updated in Yakutia, including the head, the prime minister and a number of ministers, as well as the mayor of the capital. Together with the new team, the innovation-technological and scientific-educational intention, unexpected for such an economic structure, has intensified. It is fully reflected in the new development strategy of the RS (Y) to 2032 year, approved head of the republic Aisen Nikolayev at the end of 2018 of the year. A few days after that Nikolaev has opened in the center of Yakutsk, the IT-park is part of the High-Tech Park of Yakutia, which should also include the Center for Biotechnology and the Regional Center for Engineering. 

Perhaps the republic, following the example of the UAE and the Tyumen region, intends to invest its raw materials revenues in breakthrough technologies?


Budgetary security in the republic is one of the highest in the Far Eastern Federal District and in Russia. With a population of a little less than a million people, the volume of the consolidated budget of the RS (Y) on 1 in January, 2018 amounted to 265,8 billion rubles. (Of these, almost a quarter, or 72,6 billion, are donations from the federal budget). For comparison, this is three times the budget of the Primorsky Territory, with half the population. According to the main socio-economic indicators (the index of industrial production, the growth of incomes of the population, the level of wages, demographic growth, and others), the republic is ahead of not only other subjects of the Far Eastern Federal District, but also the average Russian level.

The source of this well-being is raw materials exports: Yakutia is integrated into the world economy as a supplier of coal, oil, gas, diamonds and a number of other minerals, as well as one of the main Russian sources of gold. The scale of production continues to grow - both due to the commissioning of new fields, and the construction of transport infrastructure.

In the coal industry, the main projects are implemented by the Kolmar company: these are the Inaglinsky mine (coking coal mining and coking concentrate production with a capacity of 6 million tons), the Denisovsky mining complex (designed capacity of 6,5 million tons), and the Elgin coal complex of Mechel 17 million tons of capacity, the famous almost the only private railway that connects the coal mine and the Baikal-Amur Railway. 

Much of the production of "Colmar" is exported to China, Korea and Japan. The Zyryansky coal basin (reserves of about 8,5 billion tons) in the northern regions of the republic is considered promising. By 2030, the cuts of Yakutia should produce 39 million tons of coal. Due to the growth in coal mining and transportation, an increase in the carrying capacity of the BAM-Yakutsk railway line will be required.

The hydrocarbon production sector also inspires optimism: oil reserves (as of 01.01.2016) are 674,2 million tons, while only 9,6 million tons are still being produced per year (up to 2032 million tons by 16). The main fields are Talakansko-Peleduiskaya group (operator - PJSC Surgutneftegaz), Srednebotuobinskoe (PJSC Rosneft), Irelyakhskoe, Chayandinskoe (PJSC Gazprom). Natural gas reserves - 3 trillion cubic meters m, while about 2 billion cubic meters are produced annually. m. In 2019, growth is projected to 7 billion in connection with the launch of the Chayandinskoye field. By 2032, production will grow to 30 billion cubic meters. m. due to the introduction of the Chayandinskoye, Taas-Yuryakhskoye, Sredne-Tyungskoye (PJSC Gazprom) and Srednebotuobinskoye fields (PJSC Rosneft), increasing production at the Otradninskoye field (JSC Sakhatransneftegaz) and a number of smaller ones. It is planned to build its own refinery with a processing capacity of 2 million tons of crude oil. 

Oil is mainly exported. Transportation is carried out through the network of pipelines ESPO-1 (Taishet - Skovorodino, 2694 km) and ESPO-2 (Skovorodino - Kozmino port, 2046 km), with a throughput of 30 mln. Tons per year, as well as along the Chinese branch Skovorodino - Mohe (launched in 2017 g). Gas is exported via the Power of Siberia gas pipeline passing through the southern regions of the republic, about 3000 km in length, with a capacity of 38 billion cubic meters. m per year (planned growth to 60 billion).

It can be considered that the Chinese have already bought out most of this gas for 30 years in advance: in May, Gazprom and Chinese gas company CNPC signed an agreement for supplying similar volumes of gas to China in May, the supply is scheduled for December, 2014. In parallel with exports, it is planned to implement a program for the gasification of enterprises and the public, including the construction of gas distribution networks and the production of liquefied, compressed and hydrocarbon gas.

If coal-gas-oil is mined in many regions of the country, then diamonds are a unique resource and business card of Yakutia. Russia ranks first in the world in terms of the volume and value of diamonds mined, and the ALROSA group mines 93% diamonds in the country. For 2017 a year (the results of 2018 were not yet summarized) 36,97 million carats of diamonds worth $ 3,73 billion were mined in Yakutia. Production volumes remain stable despite the failure of Mirny GOK. 

With diamond cutting and turning them into the final product - diamonds - the situation is somewhat worse: compared to 2011 in the year, the decline in the cutting industry was 63%, and in the jewelry industry - 30,5%. Russia occupies the entire 4% on the world market, losing a significant share of the value added on the sale of raw materials. 

In order to expand its presence in such a specific global market as the diamond trade, ALROSA in 2016 opened the Eurasian Diamond Center in the building of the old Vladivostok airport, focused on trade with the countries of the Asia-Pacific Region. The first resident of the EAC was the Indian company KGK, which was regarded by market players as an attempt by Indians to gain access to cheap Yakut raw materials. The strategy envisages the gradual formation of a diamond-diamond complex, including the Diamond Valley jewelery and cutting cluster in the Kangalasy Tor, and the transformation of Yakutia into one of the world's centers for the production and sale of diamonds and jewelery.

The fifth pillar of the Yakut economy - gold - also looks quite solid. The strategy aims to achieve a production level of 38 tons per year and build its own refinery. 

Thus, the Strategy assumes a gradual completion of raw materials extraction by the industry of its processing. The South-Yakutsk Industrial Cluster is also considered a promising megaproject in this area, the core of which should be a steel plant with a production capacity of 6,1 million tonnes of steel casting and rolled products per year, using local resources for work — iron ore, coking coal and electricity from the Kankunskaya HPP.


The transportation problem is the second most acute (after the cold) for the republic, which has the largest area and poorly developed road network among all the constituent entities of the Russian Federation: less than 10% of the territory (16% of the population of the republic) are available all year round, 92% of roads are operated during certain seasons, have a low carrying capacity and throughput. One of the most protracted projects in this area is the bridge (more precisely, two bridges - road and railway) across the r. Lena, about whom the president of the country was even asked a question at the annual press conference in December of the past year. 

At one time, the railway (Amur-Yakutsk main line) almost reached Yakutsk, but the bridge did not have enough money, and today trains go to the Nizhny Bestyakh station on the river bank opposite to Yakutsk, although there is even a railway station in the city. While Yakutsk remains cut off from the mainland twice a year - during the freeze-up and ice-drift, the rest of the time it is necessary to carry cargo on ice or on water, which, of course, is extremely unprofitable both from a logistic and financial point of view.

The republic's leadership is actively breaking through the project implementation in parts: for example, in December last year, the construction of a road bridge was discussed at the Federal Road Agency with the participation of potential investors - the company PowerChina International Group Ltd, ready to participate in the project on a concession basis. Chinese specialists appreciated the cost of the bridge in 104 billion rubles, which is almost twice the estimated 2008 of the year. The bridge, as conceived by the Strategy developers, will not only reduce the cost of delivering vegetables and fruits to Yakutsk, but will also become the main link in the so-called Northern Latitudinal Belt, a transport corridor from Irkutsk to Magadan, which connects Eastern Siberia with the ports of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk. 

Following the road bridge, a railway should be built, which will make it possible to connect the Trans-Siberian Railway and the BAM with the Northern Sea Route through Lena, and in the future - to create an international transport corridor from Europe to China via the Northern Sea Route, Tiksi, Yakutsk and Blagoveshchensk. This is possible with the reconstruction of the port of Tiksi and the construction of moorings on the Anabar, Yana, Indigirka and Kolyma rivers. If these plans come to life, Yakutsk, being at the intersection of land and waterways, will turn into a lively transport hub. In order to ensure river traffic of own-produced river-sea class vessels, construction of a new high-tech shipyard in Zhatay is planned, worth about 5 billion rubles.


According to the Strategy, the non-primary sector and high technologies should form about 2032% of the republican budget by 40 year (today it is about 20%). Yakutia is seen as one of the Russian leaders in the production and hire of unique works of cinematography, the center of design and music, the leader of hi-tech and digitalization of the social sphere.

Yakut high technologies are not limited to shipbuilding. The above-mentioned IT park area 9000 square. m designed for 100 residents, developing export-oriented projects in financial technology, the Internet of things, Big Data, computer games, artificial intelligence, robotics and virtual / augmented reality. "Biotechnological Park" will deal with food, cellular and agricultural biotechnology. 

It is planned to implement projects in several areas of the National Technology Initiative: MariNet (intellectual technologies for the development of the coastal Arctic zone), NeuroNet, SafeNet, HealthNet, FoodNet and FinNet. At the Festival of the Far East, held in Moscow at the end of 2018, an agreement was signed on pilot implementation of NTI projects between the RS (Y) and AeroNet government in the republic.

Science and education are supposed to be included in a single complex "Education-Science-Technologies-Innovations-Economy". Representatives of these fields of activity - the Academy of Sciences of the RS (Y) and the North-Eastern Federal University - claim to create one of the 15 federal research and educational centers (REC) in Yakutia, positioning themselves as a center of competence in the development of the Arctic: Academy of Sciences trains a program to study the productive forces in the Arctic, and NEFU promotes the Arctic topic at conferences and publications. By the way, the government supports this rate, and recently there was created Specialized Ministry for the Development of the Arctic.

The Yakut authorities pay great attention to education, as the goal of all strategic actions is designated “international leadership in the competitiveness of human capital”. In addition to standard measures for the development of schools and colleges, it is planned to create several children's technology parks such as "Kvantorium", to expand the network of circles, STI Olympiads and WorldSkills competitions. Head of the Government of the Republic Vladimir Solodov saidthat education should change faster than other areas of society, and announced the development of a strategy for building an education for the future in Yakutia.

Among the non-commodity sectors of the economy, it is impossible not to mention two more, on which great hopes are placed - tourism and agriculture. 

Inbound tourism in the republic is still extremely small, about 6 thousand people per year. This figure is planned to increase to about 200 thousand due to the organization and holding of a number of international events such as the “Winter Games”, the creation of the World Mammoth Center, and the positioning of Yakutia as a generator of “Ice-experience”. Sale of cold in cultural packaging should take place in the form of tourism projects with the "five E" - "Eco, Ethno, Extreme, Exotic and Exclusive." The development of creative industries - crafts for the production of souvenirs, ceramics, toys, stone products, wood, bark and bones, as well as designer clothes will contribute to the influx of tourists. Yakut cinema has already achieved fame outside the republic. The Yakut cuisine with its exclusive planing, fish and deer can play a significant role in increasing the tourist potential. 

The 2032 agriculture responsible for venison must meet the needs of the population with locally produced 71% products (35% meat, 65% milk, 76% eggs, 80% potatoes and vegetables, 72% fish). Obviously, such an explosive development of vegetable growing is possible only due to the large-scale use of greenhouses, to which gasification of the territory should help, reducing the cost of heating and lighting.


The implementation of ambitious plans will face the need to solve very significant problems. Industrial growth requires labor, so the labor market, for example, has an imbalance in labor force: unemployment in industrial areas is minimal (less than 5%), whereas in the village where a significant proportion of the population still lives, it exceeds 8%. There is a shortage of workers and engineering specialties, which forces employers to attract workers from outside the republic, but not all are ready to move to cold, uninhabited lands. 

The energy intensity of buildings and structures is extremely high, the tariffs for electricity in the isolated energy systems are the highest in the district. The housing stock is in an extremely depressing state: centralized heating is provided for only a quarter of the housing stock, water supply - 6%, sewerage - less than 8%; utility network wear exceeds 50%. There are difficulties with the construction of high-quality roads, as qualified contractors prefer areas with less severe construction conditions and lower cost, for example, the Khabarovsk Territory.

A similar situation arises with the construction of housing, which in Yakutia must meet several mutually exclusive requirements: energy efficiency, construction speed, acceptable cost, environmental friendliness and others - which, in turn, imposes new requirements on building materials, engineering networks, developers and power engineers. In general, the construction and energy sectors are considered promising for innovative development (including for their digitalization), and Yakutia can be considered as a natural testing ground for advanced technological solutions at low temperatures.

Summarizing what has been said, if it is possible to do all our plans, it will be a breakthrough on a continental scale. For him, there are certain chances - as far as can be judged, all of these (and many other) problems are realized and reformulated into tasks that are recorded not only in the text of the Strategy, but also in the working agenda of the government.

Now it's up to their implementation and monitoring of results.
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