The Country (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Russia is located in northern Asia and eastern Europe and borders the Arctic Ocean between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean. In 2008, Russia’s gross domestic product was $2.225 trillion, which ranked it as the world’s eighth largest economy. The prominent land features in the country are vast interior plains and plateaus rimmed by rugged mountains. Between 1924 and 1991, Russia was the cornerstone of the Soviet Union, or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). On December 25, 1991, the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, resigned, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Boris Yeltsin became the first president of the Russian Federation. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was then established by republics of the former Soviet Union, including all former Soviet republics except the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In 2005, the members of the CIS were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. In August, 2005, Turkmenistan discontinued permanent membership and became an associate member. Following the South Ossetian War in 2008, Georgia’s parliament voted unanimously to withdraw from the regional organization.
Russia’s economy is heavily dependent on oil and natural gas exports, and its economic growth in the first decade of the twenty-first century was driven primarily by such energy exports....
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Natural Gas (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Russia holds the world’s largest natural gas reserve, with nearly one-third of the world total. Russia gets about 55 percent of its domestic energy needs from natural gas. It is the world’s largest natural gas producer and exporter. Almost all the country’s gas production is under the control of Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas company. Growth in Russia’s natural gas sector has been slow because of aging fields, state regulation, Gazprom’s monopolistic control over the energy industry, and limited export pipelines. Nearly 70 percent of Gazprom’s natural gas production comes from three major fields in western Siberia, Medvezh’yegorsk, Urengoy, and Kingisepp. Production from these fields will decline. In the future, most of Russia’s natural gas production growth is expected to come from independent gas companies.
Russia exports significant amounts of natural gas to customers in the CIS states. However, Gazprom has expanded its natural gas exports to serve the rising demand in the European Union, Turkey, Japan, and China. From 1960 to 2010, natural gas consumption increased more than fivefold. Natural gas generates smaller amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs) than do other fossil fuels and contains fewer pollutants such as sulfur. In addition, natural gas is easier to clean and burns with much higher efficiency in electrical power plants than do other fossil fuels. The Kyoto Protocol calls for many nations to...
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Petroleum (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The Russian city of Baku first began trading its oil around 300 c.e., and by the late 1600’s nearly five hundred hand-dug wells existed in Baku, producing refined oil for lighting and ointments throughout Persia and Russia. In 1833, commercial oil production began in Chechnya. In 1846, the first oil well was drilled in Baku by engineer F. M. Semenov. The first American well, drilled by Edwin Drake in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859, marked the beginning of the modern petroleum industry.
During the 1980’s, the Soviet Union was the world’s largest oil producer, and the Russian republic produced more than 90 percent of the total. However, by 1999, Russia had become the world’s third largest oil producer. The fall in oil production was attributed to economic factors following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Oil output began to rebound in 1999 after the privatization of the industry following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rejuvenation of old oil fields. As of 2009, Russia was the world’s second largest oil exporter. Russia gets about 19 percent of its domestic energy needs from oil. More than 70 percent of Russian crude oil production is exported to CIS countries, Germany, Poland, and other destinations in central and eastern Europe. The majority of Russia’s oil exports are transported via Transneft-controlled pipelines. Russian oil exports to the United States have almost doubled since 2004, rising to more...
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Coal (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The United States, Russia, and China hold about 60 percent of the nearly 1 trillion metric tons of recoverable coal reserves. Russia holds the world’s second largest recoverable coal reserves, behind the United States. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, Russia ranked fifth in the world in coal production, after China, the United States, India, and Australia. In 2006, Russia produced 291 million metric tons of coal, consumed 235 million metric tons, and exported 55 million metric tons. Russia’s two largest coal basins are the Kansk-Achinsk lignite basin in East Siberia and the Kuznetsk Basin in West Siberia.
Russia gets about 16 percent of its domestic energy needs from coal. Environmental concerns and greenhouse-gas emissions pose challenges to coal as an energy source. In February, 2005, the Kyoto Protocol entered into force after being ratified by Russia and other nations. By 2007, 169 countries had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, with the United States and Australia the only major nations abstaining. The Russian government and energy industry wanted to increase coal production and consumption so that more natural gases and oil could be exported. However, this action could increase Russia’s GHG emissions.
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Uranium and Nuclear Energy (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Uranium mining in Russia was conducted entirely by the corporation JSC TVEL’s ore mining enterprises, through open-pit mining at its subsidiary JSC Priargunsky Industrial Mining and Chemical Union. Annual uranium production has been about 3,400 metric tons, of which more than 90 percent is produced by Priargunsky. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia owned a large uranium stockpile, which totaled between 200,000 and 250,000 metric tons. The country’s annual natural uranium consumption amounted to approximately 9,000 metric tons. Most of the uranium consumption lies in nuclear power facilities.
Sustainable economic growth and rapid industrialization have led to increasing demand for alternative energy resources in the twenty-first century. Hydropower and nuclear power are two common alternative energy resources used by many countries. Hydroelectric power is productive and supplies nearly all of the electricity in some countries such as Norway. Nuclear power accounts for about 19 percent of the electricity generated worldwide. In Russia, power from fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal-fired) accounts for about 63 percent of the electricity generated by Russia, followed by hydroelectric power (21 percent) and nuclear power (16 percent). The Russian government intends to expand the role of nuclear and hydroelectric power generation to reduce GHG emissions and allow for greater export of fossil...
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Gold (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Gold was adopted as the monetary standard by the British Empire in 1821, which led to “gold fever” in the second half of the nineteenth century. Many gold-rich placer deposits were discovered in Siberia, Alaska, California, Australia, and South Africa, and gold coinage became the largest use of gold for more than a century. The first gold rush was in Russia, where the czar encouraged exploration for gold. The production went from 1.5 metric tons per year in 1823 to 5.9 metric tons per year in 1830. By 1846, Russian production was more than half of the world production. In the twentieth century, rapid increases in world gold mining and production occurred. Production in the Soviet Union began a long climb in the mid-1950’s toward its peak of 302 metric tons in 1990.
Total world gold production from its beginnings in prehistory through 2000 was estimated to be 142,000 metric tons, of which more than two-thirds came from only five countries—South Africa, 34 percent; Russia, 11 percent; the United States, 10 percent; Australia, 7 percent; and Canada, 6 percent. In 1999, Russia ranked sixth in world gold output. The majority of production was from placer deposits in the eastern part of country. More than 65 percent of the resources are located in eastern Siberia and the Russian far east. In recent history, foreign companies have controlled 15 to 18 percent of Russian gold production, which was the largest share held for any commodity...
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Diamond (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
In 1999, Russia was estimated to be the world’s third largest producer of gem and industrial diamonds. The first diamondiferous kimberlite pipe, a low-grade pipe, was found in Siberia in 1954, and several higher-grade diamondiferous kimberlite pipes have been discovered since. Among them, the Mir pipe (also known as the Mirny Mine) was one of the world’s largest excavated holes, with a depth of 525 meters and a diameter of 1,200 meters. Similar to the diamondiferous kimberlite in South Africa, a regional zoning of the kimberlites occurs within the Siberian Platform. A central zone of diamondiferous kimberlites is surrounded by a zone with pyrope and lower-grade diamond and, then, by a zone of pyrope, and, eventually, by an outer zone of kimberlites, in which neither of these high-pressure minerals is present. The Almazy Rossii-Sakha Association (ALROSA) accounted for 97 percent of Russian diamond production and about 25 percent of world rough-diamond production in 2005. Its major mining operations were located in the Sakha Republic. However, in 2005, the company began production at the Lomonosov diamond deposit in the northern European part of the country in Arkhangel’sk Oblast. Almost all the production came from kimberlite deposits near Mirny in the Sakha Republic. ALROSA was able to maintain its level of mine output by gradually switching to underground mining to extract low-grade diamond ore reserves. Potential production of...
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Nickel (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Russia is the world’s leading producer of nickel. According to Russia’s minister of natural resources, the country has 36 percent of the world’s nickel reserves. The Noril’sk region had 77.5 percent of the country’s nickel reserves. The world-class deposits of copper, nickel, and platinum group metals of the Noril’sk-Talnakh district in Russia are hosted by relatively small, complex mafic-ultramafic bodies that intrude Permian sedimentary rocks and the lowermost suites of the Siberian continental flood-volcanic sequence. Noril’sk has world-class nickel sulfide deposits, with an estimated reserve of 900 million metric tons of ore. Nickel is an important ferroalloy metal used to make nickel steels, nickel cast irons, coinage, and many other alloys. More than 90 percent of nickel in Russia has been produced by Noril’sk Nickel, which mines deposits of mixed sulfide ores mainly near Noril’sk in East Siberia, but also on the Kola Peninsula.
The city of Noril’sk in western Siberia is probably the most polluted city in Russia. Millions of metric tons of toxic gases and wastes are released by the Noril’sk Metallurgical Combine each year. The society and ecosystem in the region are severely damaged. Local physicians have reported that residents in the region have a high incidence of respiratory illness and shortened life expectancy (as low as fifty years).
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Iron (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Russia is the world’s fourth-ranked steel producer after China, Japan, and the United States. Russia and Japan are the world’s leading steel exporters. From 1998 to 2005, Russian steel production increased by more than 50 percent. Steel companies in Russia relied on iron ore from domestic deposits. These deposits often were owned by more than one Russian steel company. Almost 60 percent of iron-ore reserves are located in the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly (KMA) in European Russia, and about 15 percent are located in the Ural Mountains region. More than 50 percent of the country’s iron ore was mined from the KMA. Iron-ore output was expected to be in the range of 100 to 105 million metric tons per year by 2010. A further limited increase in iron-ore production was projected to the year 2020 without a significant expansion of the resource base. The resource base for iron ore was not considered profitable for investment because of taxation issues and technological problems related to mining and processing the low-grade ores.
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Other Resources (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Russia has many world-class resources other than the ones described. The Noril’sk-Talnakh deposit in Russia is not only the world’s richest nickel deposit but also one of the world’s largest platinum-group-metal and copper deposits. Global platinum-group-metal production and reserves are dominated by South Africa. According to Russia’s minister of natural resources, Russia has more than 40 percent of the world’s platinum-group-metal reserves and almost all reserves are in mixed sulfide ores at the Noril’sk complex. More than 50 percent of Russia’s copper metal production was produced by Noril’sk Nickel from ore mined by the company. The remainder came from a much smaller amount of ore mined in the Ural Mountains and a large amount of secondary material.
In 1999, Russia ranked sixth in the world in alumina production and eighth in the world in bauxite output. Russia ranked fourth in the world in mine output of antimony in 1999. All antimony reserves are in the Sakha Republic. The only sources of antimony production are gold antimony quartz vein-type deposits, which account for about 50 percent of the antimony reserves.
Russia is not only the leading country for available fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal, but also a source of substantial unconventional energy resources, such as coal-bed methane, peat, and oil shales, which contain large amount of fuels. These resources are uneconomical to...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Bradshaw, Michael, et al., eds. Essentials of World Regional Geography. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
Butterman W. C., and Earle B. Amey III. Mineral Commodity Profiles: Gold. Reston, Va.: U.S. Geological Survey, 2005.
Craig, James R., David J. Vaughan, and Brian J. Skinner. Resources of the Earth: Origin, Use, and Environmental Impact. 3d ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2001.
De Blij, Harm J., and Peter O. Muller. Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts. 13th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2008.
Evans, Anthony M. Ore Geology and Industrial Minerals: An Introduction. 3d ed. Boston: Blackwell Science, 1993.
Levine, Richard M., and Glenn J. Wallace. “The Mineral Industries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.” In USGS Minerals Yearbook 2005. Reston, Va.: U.S. Geological Survey, 2005.
Misra, Kula C. Understanding Mineral Deposits. Boston: Kluwer Academic, 2000.
Peacock, Kathy Wilson. Natural Resources and Sustainable Development. New York: Facts On File, 2008.
Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Russia. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rs.html
Energy Information Administration. International Energy Data and Analysis for Russia. http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/country/country_energy_data.cfm?fips=RS
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