Remember a recent posting where Sergey went to Kolyma and enjoyed beautiful views there? (If not you can see it here). So here is another report by this brilliant Russian blogger. While staying there – at Kolyma – which is famous in Russia for its large volume gold mining industries – he visited some gold producing sites and made a report on how gold is actually being mined now there. Sergey even found some gold himself! Interesting stuff.
Sergey says that modern mining of gold in Kolyma is pretty much automized. It’s being mainly done with “mobile factories”. However a few decades before it all was mined by hand with the help of Soviet prisoners.
Wherever Sergey travelled across Kolyma he saw dry rivers – this means that somewhere near some people blocked the stream for their gold mining operation.
This is a result, a dried out river. Ore was taken river bottom, checked for gold and abandoned in piles.
Here is a panoramic shoot of a current mining operation. The river stream is blocked. There is a car in the middle – it pans all the river bottom dirt. the tractors on the sides bring this dirt to it.
Here, the tractors moving river sands and dirt to the panning machine. It has a long hose that goes to another mobile machine. It sends gold thru this hose. By the way do you see green grass on a shore? This shows how deep the tractors and miners went here during this mining session.
Here is gold panning by machine in process.
And this is another type of current gold mining operations – Sergey saw it in different place nearby. Instead of blocking water and digging into river bottom, here what they do is drown the place with much more water and put this large dredge in the middle.
It has a huge excavating conveyor belt which gets sand from river bottom.
And brings it up where it is panned by other machines.
Because this is far North and there is a permafrost just one meter deep from the ground – never melted ice – they first prepare this place with special “warm up” mechanisms. Those look like huge needles that go deep into the ground and warm it up with heat for as long as one year!
And here is a photo inside the huge machine standing on the drowned river.
At first larger stones and ground pieces being filtered out.
There is only one man operating all of this.
Most of these machines are very old, over fifty years old. Most of gold mining on Kolyma is still based on Soviet legacy.
And here is one more similar installation on different river. This small black hill of ground is the “trail” of the operation – the machine moves forward and leaves this trail.
Sometimes gold stops in one place and then people dig a deep channel for the machine to travel to other part of the river with the help of huge excavators.
The almost fine filtered gold is being stored in a locked room of the machine in huge blue jerry cans. Machine operators don’t have an access to those rooms and once in a day specially trained guards arrive to get all the gold. This is not finely filtered gold, but after the final process on the factory this going to result in approximately 4 kilos (10 lbs) of .999 24k gold.
Here are the gold carrying guards go to their bus.
They go on this bus from one machine to another each day to collect the final product.
And then Sergey decided to try his luck out and get some gold out of the river as people did for centuries – with a gold digger pan and water.
They asked a permission from one gold digger who owns some of those huge machines. Previously in USSR state was mining for gold, but now the third party contractors do all the job, however they are obliged to sell all gold to the state.
The guy with suspenders is the owner. He permitted Sergey and his team to do some gold panning on his territory. Remember, he is a rich guy – just one machine brings hime four kilos of gold each day!!
Here is gold ore from the bottom of the river.
Sergey with friends get it into their pans and crush it with hammers.
And then go to the water for actual panning.
After a few tries of putting water in and letting it out, less and less can be found in a pan.
Just small stones left.
But if you look closer..
You can see small pieces of real gold.
Like this 2mm long gold piece. Can you see it?
After the first success the team got real gold rush, says Sergey.
Sometimes you get nothing, sometimes just some gold sand.
Here is a lucky gold digger – a few pieces of gold at once.
Would you like to know what Sergey has done with this gold later? He threw it back to water. Why? Because there is a law in Russia that forbids owning gold sand or gold nuggets is forbidden to anyone except certified gold digging organizations. If person gets searched and found a gold sand or a nugget he would be prosecuted. Locals told Sergey that if they find a gold nugget on a road they won’t pick it up. Too dangerous.
Thanks a lot for Sergey for an awesome report!