Irkutsk
Ulan-Ude

Blagoveshchensk
Chita
Yakutsk

Birobidzhan
Vladivostok
Khabarovsk

Magadan
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

Anadyr
Petropavlovsk-
Kamchatsky
Moscow

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Trans-Baikal Territory: disappointments and hopes

Transbaikalia entered the Far Eastern Federal District in the status of "outsider". Why it happened so, with what systematically the Transbaikal people are not lucky and whether there is an opportunity today to meet their expectations, Rostislav Turovsky argues.

Trans-Baikal Territory: disappointments and hopes
Photo: Dawn over Chita, photo by Shutterstock

Rostislav Turovsky

Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor of HSE, Scientific Editor East Russia
The Zabaykalsky Territory, like the former Chita region, has an established reputation as one of the most peripheral and abandoned regions of Russia, and traditionally assessments of its prospects differ between conclusions about their absence and hopes for successful implementation of at least any projects that can change the situation for the better. Now the region is again beginning to experience a surge of positive expectations, which is due to a number of reasons. First, since November of last year, Transbaikalia, together with Buryatia, became part of the Far Eastern Federal District, which opens up opportunities for using Far Eastern development tools, such as advanced development territories, the Far Eastern Hectare program, etc., and in this connection improve the investment climate and attract federal funds for infrastructure. Secondly, shortly before this, the governor was changed in the region, and the former first deputy minister for development of the Far East, Alexander Osipov, was appointed to the place of the unpopular Natalia Zhdanova. He perfectly knows the technologies for implementing Far Eastern projects and has the necessary competencies for their implementation in Transbaikalia . Third, the prospects for the largest raw material projects, which have been waiting for a very long time in the region, and with which the future economic growth of Transbaikalia can be associated, are noticeably improving. Under these conditions, the federal center’s attention will inevitably continue to grow towards the backward region, since it is obvious that Transbaikalia cannot solve its problems on its own.

So far, all these are only prospects that look bright, but a realistic assessment of which is impossible without an understanding of the depth of the problems that the region faces. The paradox of the geographical position of Transbaikalia is that it is not such a “hole”. This is, generally speaking, a well-located border region next to China, which has, albeit weak, but direct links with the neighboring state. However, the benefits of the trans-Baikal border position are not fully utilized. The region has lost the status of a militarized bastion, which it was in the role of the capital of the now-disbanded Siberian Military District to 2010. But it has not yet become a territory for cross-border cooperation, and this perspective has not been properly worked out.


CHRONICLES OF A STAGING ECONOMY
It is worth remembering that Transbaikalia is a rather large region by Russian standards. The population still exceeds one million people, and it may seem surprising that within the framework of the Far Eastern Federal District it is the third largest subject of the Federation after the Primorsky and Khabarovsk Territories. However, the demographic statistics of Transbaikalia are still not encouraging, and the process of reducing the population in the most recent years has even begun to accelerate. Transbaikalia is characterized by a sharply negative migration growth rate, which was the worst in the Siberian Federal District. During the transition to the Far Eastern Federal District, the region retained this sad status, overtaking Primorye and the Khabarovsk Territory by the number of traditional leaders who left. But there are also positive trends - in the Transbaikalia the mortality rate is decreasing, the average life expectancy is growing (although in terms of life expectancy, the Transbaikalia occupies only the 78 place in Russia). It is interesting to note that the region is at a high 13-th place in Russia in terms of the birth rate, which is largely due to the high birth rate among the Buryat population: however, the birth rate itself is falling. Although the worst characteristics of the demographic situation still noticeably outweigh the population outflow trend, Transbaikalia looks better than Primorye and the Khabarovsk Territory in terms of demographic growth — the demographic decline over 11 in 2018 months was 6,2 thousand people against 6,7 thousand in Khabarovsk Region and 9 thousand in Primorsky.



In terms of its level of development, Transbaikalia found itself in middle positions in the Far East. In Siberia, it outstripped only the smallest regions (Tuva, Altai Republic, Khakassia), and also included with it into the Far Eastern Federal District Buryatia in terms of GRP (2016 was 262,8 in 63). In the Far East, the Trans-Baikal Territory is ahead of the northern territories (Kamchatka, Chukotka, Magadan Oblast) and the Jewish Autonomous Region in terms of GRP. At the same time, it is noteworthy that it lags slightly behind the similar in geographical location of the neighboring Amur Region. However, it is important to understand that in conditions of a relatively “large” population, Transbaikalia is harder to “feed” - if the GRP is divided by the number of inhabitants, then the region turns out to be only at the XNUMX-th place in Russia.



It would be wrong to assume that the federal center and regional authorities were not aware of the problems of Transbaikalia and never made any efforts to solve them. The problem rather lies in the poor effectiveness of the efforts made in the governor’s leapfrog of recent years. Under the former governor Natalia Zhdanova, the federal government approved a plan for the socioeconomic development of the region before 2025, including quite expected and correct directions - cross-border cooperation with China and his Heilongjiang province, the development of the mining industry, electric power industry, the agroindustrial complex, etc. At the same time The inclusion of the Far East, which has been discussed for many years, may indeed give a new impetus to the development of Transbaikalia. Although, on the other hand, the expansion of the borders of the Far East, and then also the empowering of the relevant ministry to the development of the Arctic zone can turn into "erosion" of attention to various "jurisdictional" regions, taking into account the factor of "jealousy" from the "old" Far Eastern territories. Therefore, in the new conditions, Transbaikalia will require energetic efforts to realize the potential that opens up belonging to the Far East.

At this stage, Transbaikalia demonstrates a slow but steady growth of its mining sector, which is associated with the development of previously unused natural resources. However, along with this, the bias towards a commodity economy is growing, and it is not clear whether it can be balanced. The fact is that the manufacturing industry is feeling downright ill, and at least managed to stop its protracted decline last year. Thus, the mining sector has been growing quite a bit in recent years, but the growth rates are declining: by 8% in 2016, by 4,3% in 2017, and by 3,1% in 2018, as for manufacturing industries, the index there was 94,2% in 2016 and only 88,5% in 2017, whereas in 2018, we can speak at least about stagnation (100,7%). Ultimately, the industry as a whole grew in 2016 by 3,8% at the expense of the commodity sector, and in 2017, the extraction of raw materials could not cover the processing crisis, with the result that industry growth was nominal (by 0,2%). In 2018, industrial growth resumed and amounted to 2,6%, but again at the expense of mining. Moreover, the rates of industrial growth were still lower in the Transbaikalia and the national figure, and the average for the Far East. And in any case, the raw material skew is indicated by the fact that in terms of the volume of products shipped, Transbaikalia occupies a good 23 place in the extractive industry and a very pitiful 75 place in manufacturing industries in the country.

In the meantime, the strengthening of the export orientation of the Trans-Baikal economy has become a really positive trend. In January-September 2018, exports reached 261,3 million dollars, significantly exceeding the figures for the same period of 2017 (183 million) and 2016 (136,9 million). However, the export volumes themselves are very small. In the Far East, they are lower only in the Jewish Autonomous Region and the Chukotka Autonomous Region, which speaks for itself. The Trans-Baikal Territory lags even behind the Amur and Magadan regions.

A very problematic area for Transbaikalia is agriculture, which remains a traditional resource for a region with a rich history of agricultural development of the steppe territories in the imperial period, but which also became a burden. Traditions of rural colonization of Transbaikalia continue at least in that the rural population makes up solid 31,8% of the population, although its share is steadily declining for reasons that do not require unnecessary comments (in the Far East, the share of the rural population is higher only in Yakutia, Buryatia and the Amur region). But in terms of agricultural output, Transbaikalia is located only in the 60 location in the country. In recent years, there has been stagnation or a slight decline: the index of agricultural production was 99,1% in 2018, 99,3% in 2017, and in 2016 there was at least a tiny increase of 0,3%. Thus, even to maintain agriculture in good condition, considerable efforts are required, including, probably, the search for economically more efficient models and the determination of the most profitable specialization, which does not exclude the export of products to China. Without this, the village will remain a zone of continuous depression.

Under these conditions, one cannot be surprised at the high level of unemployment, where Transbaikalia is the anti-leader of the Far Eastern Federal District with an 10% indicator, ahead of the unsuccessful neighboring Buryatia and behind all other DFO regions. Formally, unemployment is slowly declining (in 2016, it was 10,8%), but there are no qualitative changes in the labor market.

The economic prospects of Transbaikalia can be judged by the nature and level of investment activity, where the controversial situation is. By itself, the volume of investment is not so small even by the standards of the modern Far East. But there is a noticeable dependence of the region on the investment cycles of large projects, which results in the absence of sustainable growth. Recently, growth has changed completely and recession. Thus, in 2018, the index of investments in fixed assets amounted to only 88,6%, which contrasted with the growth of investments in the Far Eastern Federal District. At the same time, before that, investments in Transbaikalia showed growth - by 5,9% in 2017 and by 6,5% in 2016 (when, by the way, both in the Far East and in Russia as a whole, investments decreased). In other words, from the point of view of investment, Transbaikalia lives its own life, determined by the investment cycles of large companies. At the same time, the volume of investments in the Far East of Transbaikalia with its 90,06 billion rubles looked like a “strong middling”, lagging behind the clear leaders in the face of Yakutia, Sakhalin, Primorsky and Khabarovsk Territories, as well as the Amur Region, and ahead of small regions, as well as Buryatia. And in terms of investment per capita of 37, the place of Transbaikalia (following the results of 2017) instills optimism.

The work of the construction sector in Transbaikalia is characterized by the same dynamics. In 2018, there was a decline here (the index was only 86,2%), whereas in previous years there was an increase - by 7,2% in 2017 and by 3% in 2016. However, the volume of construction work in the region is small - 27,9 billion rubles: in the 2018, Transbaikalia was a little ahead of Buryatia, and from the “old” regions, the DFO passed only small ones — Kamchatka, Chukotka, the Magadan Region and the Jewish Autonomous Region. There is a sharp decline in housing construction, where the index was only 2018% in 61,3, continuing the decline, which was also observed in 2017 (after a significant increase in 2016). It is worth remembering that one of the painful problems of Transbaikalia remains dilapidated and emergency housing, where the unresolved problems can cause great discontent of the Kremlin.

Taking into account the weak development of the economy and a sufficiently large population and the territory of the region, the state of the social sphere is chronically problematic in the Trans-Baikal region, which has repeatedly caused open public speeches and protests. In terms of population incomes, the Zabaikalsky Krai is one of the outsiders of the Far Eastern Federal District. Thus, the average per capita monetary incomes of the population in December 2018 amounted to only 35,6 thousand rubles, and the situation with them was worse only in the Jewish Autonomous Region (even in Buryatia, the income was slightly higher). Somewhat better, however, is the wage situation, which can be explained by the presence of a number of successful large-scale employers in the region. For December salaries, 2018, Transbaikalia, with 55,3 thousand rubles. ahead of not only the Jewish Autonomous Region, but also Buryatia, the Amur Region, and even the Primorsky Territory. Although the level of wages is still lower than in the country as a whole, and given the higher price level, it does not even allow considering the situation as prosperous. In addition, the short-term effect of the last month of last year is striking, which demonstrated a surprisingly sharp increase in incomes and wages. Back in November, 2018, the Transbaikalian salary was much more modest and amounted to just 40,7 thousand rubles, ahead of only Buryatia and the Amur Region. In December, the Trans-Baikal Territory turned out to be the leader of the entire Far East in terms of wage growth by December of the previous year (by 20,5%), although in November (by November 2017) wages also grew quite well - by 10,8%. Similarly, Transbaikalia was distinguished by the best for the Far East dynamics of growth of average per capita incomes of the population - by 13,8% in December 2018 by December 2017.

However, the positive dynamics of the wage situation does not actually change the general state of affairs when the real money incomes of the population have so far only ceased to decline, and even then only through payments made in December. In 2016-17 The decline in real incomes of the population in Transbaikalia was even more noticeable than in the Far East, and in Russia as a whole, demonstrating all the vulnerabilities of the lagging region. The index of real money income in 2016 was only 92,6%, in 2017 g. - 97,7%. The decline continued for almost the entire 2018 year, but, as already mentioned, at the expense of December, the total for the year turned out to be at least without negative changes (100,5%). Usually, the retail performance indicator in 2018, associated with household income, also showed an end to the recession experienced in previous years.

It is not surprising that the new authorities in the region in the context of its poverty have already shown increased attention to such a chronic problem as the establishment of monopoly high fuel prices. Due to the peculiarities of its geographical location and the absence of its own oil refining, the market with its players (such as Neftemarket), which in remote areas in the conditions of expensive delivery become local monopolies, has long been formed in the region. Considering that the problem of regulating prices for fuel and lubricants is now in the center of attention of the federal government, the acting governor Alexander Osipov immediately drew attention to it, whereas the FAS administration issued a warning to local players.

In the meantime, a very high criterion of social ill-being in Transbaikalia was and remains a very high crime rate. Despite the fact that the last peak was reached in 2013-15, followed by a decrease, the number of recorded crimes on 100 in thousands of Trans-Baikal residents holds a sad second place in the country.


Who feeds Transbaik Budgets?
In turn, the possibilities and limitations for the regional authorities in these difficult conditions determine the parameters of the regional budget. The case of Transbaikalia is complicated by the fact that even with not the worst budget revenues and noticeable support from the federal center, the region is experiencing a constant shortage of funds, given the territory and population. Therefore, the authorities all the time have to maneuver, identifying problem points and forced saving on other directions.

Thus, in terms of budget revenues following the results of 2018 (70,8 billion rubles), the Zabaikalye Territory surpasses several regions of the Far East — Buryatia and Amur Oblast (which are most similar to Transbaikalia), as well as the Magadan Oblast, Chukotka, and the Jewish Autonomous Region. In terms of its own tax and non-tax revenues without transfers (44,2 billion rubles), the Baikal region is still inferior to the Amur Region, but, besides the above-mentioned territories, it is ahead of Kamchatka with its huge subsidies. At the same time, the share of own revenues (62,4%) means a high degree of dependence of the region on the federal budget, although by this indicator Transbaikalia is inferior to even more dependent regions - Buryatia, Kamchatka and Chukotka. Perhaps, the financial assistance of the federal center could be even greater, which in the case of Transbaikalia is not at all shameful. Thus, the region receives very few subsidies from the federal budget (they make up only 3% of its revenues) - almost all of federal aid comes from subsidies (27,9% of budget revenues), incl. standard subsidies for equalization of budgetary security (17,1%).

As for own revenues, there is an extreme financial weakness of enterprises registered in the region (together with the development of the shadow economy) - this leads to a low level of income from income tax (total 11% of budget revenues). Moreover, contrary to the all-Russian tendencies, by the end of last year, revenues from the profit tax in the regional budget also fell. A little “rescues” in these conditions, the presence in the region of large industrial facilities and infrastructure, which raises the income from the property tax of organizations - they grew by 35,3% last year and accounted for 8% of all budget revenues. Basically, as in most of the backward regions, budget revenues are provided by income tax, which amounted to 28,2% of budget revenues in terms of revenue growth (along with wage growth) by 11,9%. But again, for Transbaikalia, all this is not enough. And the question of whether the financial-industrial groups with their mining enterprises will help the regional budget or whether the taxes will leave the region to other profit centers will only become more acute.

So far, the authorities of the region have to rely more on the assistance of the center, and in this direction work is becoming more and more noticeable. This is evidenced by the activity of Alexander Osipov, engaged in negotiations in the government and "knocking out" of funds. Frequent visits to Chita by federal ministers. One way or another, by the end of last year, Transbaikalia turned out to be in the Far East a leader in the positive dynamics of growth in federal financial assistance, which grew almost one and a half times. It is clear that this increase was under Natalia Zhdanova, whom the center helped, knowing the acute social problems of Transbaikalia, and under Alexander Osipov it continued. The growth of subsidies turned out to be especially noticeable (in addition to subsidies for equalization of budgetary security), but the volume of subsidies also increased (although, as already mentioned, there are still too few of them). The flip side of the medal is, of course, a decline in the financial independence of the region, but it cannot be considered an end in itself under severe conditions.

Resource constraints have traditionally forced regional authorities to engage in fiscal policy in the style of “patching the Trishkin caftan.” Moreover, their priorities were influenced, of course, by the public protests of the state employees, which had received an all-Russian resonance, which began under governor Konstantin Ilkovsky and continued under Natalia Zhdanova, turning into an increase in protest sentiments and the emergence of reasons for gubernatorial resignations (although the dismissal of Konstantin Ilkovsky was tied up time with the disruption of the program of resettlement of dilapidated housing).

So far, the authorities of Transbaikalia, like most Russian regions, have managed to improve the situation with a balanced budget by restraining the growth of some expenses and cuts of others. This allowed for a budget surplus. However, the need to “plug” certain holes is reflected in fluctuations in the cost of certain needs. So, last year, the education sector became a clear priority, which was explained by the need to “reassure” the most numerous category of state employees, raise their salaries and avoid protests, especially during the preparation of elections to the legislative assembly. This attempt to extinguish social tension led to the fact that the share of expenditure on education in the budget of Transbaikalia turned out to be maximum for the Far East (36,7%), and the growth dynamics was noticeably higher than the national average (by 26,2%). Especially noticeable growth characterized the scope of preschool education. Whether this allowed to solve social problems remained an open question (given the extremely unfortunate results of the voting for the “party in power”), but an attempt was made. Also, Transbaikalia is consistently characterized by increased attention of the authorities to social benefits - the share of social policy spending reaches 25,6% (in the Far East it is higher only in the Jewish Autonomous Region). True, there was no significant increase in these expenses last year.

However, increased funding for education and social policy turns into underfunding in many other areas. In particular, unlike most regions of the country, spending on road facilities is reduced, the share of which (5,2%) is already lower than in Russia as a whole. A small increase in housing and utility costs can not hide the fact that their share in the budget (4,75%) has become very low (and even lower in the DFO it is only in Buryatia). Last year, Transbaikalia sharply increased spending on health care (more than one and a half times), but even in this case the share of expenses (4,6%) is very low and is minimal for DFO. Against this background, it is somewhat surprising that the high level of expenditures on nation-wide issues, i.e. the content of the authorities. Their share reached 9,1%, while expenditures themselves rose last year by 22,1%. In the Far East, only the Khabarovsk Territory and the Jewish Autonomous Region differed even more, and, by the way, there were many complaints from the public about the work of the authorities. And the most noticeable dynamics was demonstrated by the expenses for the functioning of the head of the region. Therefore, with all the inevitable “patching up holes”, reserves in the regional budget are likely to exist.

The debt problem remains a big burden on the regional budget. In relation to regional incomes, the public debt of Transbaikalia is huge, and the subject of the federation remains among the most problematic. As of 1 in March, the public debt of Transbaikalia amounted to 27,6 billion rubles, which roughly corresponds to the level of the neighboring and also very heavily credited Amur Region (but less than the leaders in Yakutia and the Khabarovsk Territory). However, regional authorities are trying to solve this problem. Over the year, debt declined by 6%, which is very good for the Far East - only Buryatia (and it is very vigorous) and Yakutia reduced debt even more actively. However, the parallel increase in the debt burden on municipalities, although it is not so great (1,7 billion rubles), is alarming. However, in this case, there was an increase in municipal debt by a third, which turned out to be the worst dynamic in the DFO.


OLD PAIN AND NEW INCENTIVES
Thus, the existing financial and economic resources of the Trans-Baikal Territory are exhausted and do not allow to improve the position of the region and its inhabitants in a qualitative manner. This requires new incentives. From this point of view, the spread of the Far Eastern development institutions to the region inspires cautious optimism. However, it should be remembered that the question of the implementation of large projects and, most importantly, the speed of their implementation for the Trans-Baikal is sick. And rapid changes for the better are clearly not foreseen.

Thus, the process of creating a territory of advanced development in Transbaikalia was launched in the key already familiar to the Far East. There is a selection of large and small projects, large amounts of investments are called (the first stage is 107 billion rubles), and the Trans-Baikal TOP looks from the very beginning more powerful and solid than the Buryat. At the same time, the inclusion of the largest mining projects (such as the Udokan copper deposit, the Apsat and Zashulansk coal deposits, etc.) in the PDA may be subject to longer approvals from the FIG. The same applies to the attempts to develop wood processing in the region (the project of the Amazar timber processing complex with the participation of the Chinese). At this stage, there are more chances for the TOR projects of the conditional “average” level (such as the Nasedkinskoye gold deposit and the Noyon-Tologoyskoye polymetallic ore deposit), as well as small food industry enterprises in Chita and more - to be potentially dangerous for the social stability of waste recycling projects. Nevertheless, for the time being it is noticeable that almost all promising projects of Transbaikalia can enter the numerous sites of TOP, the list and composition of which are in the process of development.

The implementation of the “Far Eastern Hectare” program, which has already caused protests and fears in neighboring Buryatia, can become a more complex process in Transbaikalia. It is planned that residents of the region will be entitled to a hectare from July 1, residents of the Far Eastern Federal District - from 1 in January 2020, and all Russians - from 1 in August 2020. On the one hand, the demand for hectares in Transbaikalia is quite likely and very necessary, given the considerable the area of ​​abandoned farmland. On the other hand, there is a risk of a new promotion of the “Chinese expansion” theme, which has already arisen in a public space while discussing the lease of land by Chinese business. Then it turned into a campaign of criticism of the governor Konstantin Ilkovsky, affecting his already shaky positions.

The introduction of a simplified border crossing and electronic visa regime, which is likely to spread to the border station in Zabaikalsk and the airport in Chita, can cause similar problems. In the meantime, it is important for the authorities to launch a program of preferential flights for their citizens, which may have a positive impact on their social well-being. It is also natural that the assignment of interim governor Alexander Osipov to improve domestic air accessibility in the region by zeroing the VAT on shipments.

However, for the prospects for the economic development of the region, it remains fundamentally important to search for directions for a breakthrough, which so far only raw projects can provide. But the problem of the “time factor” is connected with them. An illustrative example is the Norilsk Nickel Bystrinsky GOK, which turned out to be a new long-term construction company. As you know, the company has been eyeing Transbaikalia for many years, then for many years it has built a mining and concentrating plant. And only last year, finally, the company began to function normally, but also very gradually. Summarizing the results of 2018, copper production reached 18 thousand tons (which was below the plan), 2019-40 thousand tons is expected in 46. At the same time, the company was resolving issues of ownership of the mine that were equally important for it, which still remained unresolved. Probably, the GOK will be removed from the structure of Norilsk Nickel and transferred directly to shareholders, that is, probably, V. Potanin and G. Berezkin, as well as their Chinese partner Highland Fund.

At the same time, the largest raw material project of Transbaikalia was and remains Udokan, where the matter was also delayed for many years. The structures of Alisher Usmanov, represented by the Baikal Mining Company, have long been licensed, but construction was once planned for 2013, and the launch of the first phase was for 2016. In fact, the project is only now moving from the dead center. There were agreements on lending to the first stage with state-owned banks (Sberbank, Gazprombank, VEB), there is a positive conclusion from Glavgosexpertiza. In this regard, we can confidently talk about the rapid creation of the necessary infrastructure - the construction of a power line and substation, an access motorway, a shift station and a water intake, and reconstruction of Chara Airport are expected. The main agreements with the authorities and contractors have been completed, which means that the implementation of the Udokan project has indeed begun. As of today, the first stage of the plant is to reach its full capacity in 2022. It is expected to produce up to 130 thousand tons of copper with the prospect of export mainly to China.

It should be remembered that Udokan is not just a single large project, but also an anchor project of the northern mining cluster located in the BAM zone. The Apsat coal field, which is under the control of SUEK, is already working here, where it is planned to reach a capacity of three million tons of coal per year. In the "standby mode" remains Chiney iron ore deposit. The development of the northern cluster will be linked, of course, with the solution of the nationwide task of modernizing and expanding BAM. However, it is important to note that for Transbaikalia this is a very remote and transport-isolated territory, and its development may not have so much impact on the region as a whole and on the subjective sensations of its inhabitants.

Another point of growth, but not new, but rather revived, should be Krasnokamensk, the center of the nuclear industry in the south of the region. A gradual reduction in uranium production at the Priargunsky Mining and Chemical Combine (PIMCU), which is part of the Rosatom system, may be replaced by new growth after the commissioning of the No. 6 mine based on the Argunsky and Zherlovoye deposits (its launch is expected in 2023) rated capacity in 2026 g.). Last year, construction work began on the future mine, and the infrastructure is financed from federal funds.

At the same time, the atomic industry of Transbaikalia will also largely be oriented towards China. This is evidenced by an agreement on joint uranium mining with the Russian-Chinese Regional Development Investment Fund, which is to receive 49% in the joint venture. The actual investor will be the China National Nuclear Corporation, which will purchase Russian raw materials.

It is worth recalling that for the development of Krasnokamensk as a mono-city, TOR was created as early as 2016, but it attracted few residents. Now, in connection with the entry of Transbaikalia into the Far Eastern Federal District, this TOP is likely to become one of the sites of the “big” Transbaikalian TOP, which will allow diversifying the economy of the single-industry city. A new project in Krasnokamensk will also be the processing of ore from the Tomtor deposit of rare-earth metals located in Yakutia (the Rostec project and the ICT group, mining will begin in 2022). At the same time, by the way, Rostec has withdrawn from the Udokan project, but, as we see, it intends to establish a presence in Krasnokamensk.

A promising sector of the economy in Transbaikalia is also the “usual” coal mining, which last year exceeded 20 million tons. Here, along with the Apsat field, growth prospects are associated with the Zashulansky field in the south-west of the region, which will also be focused on Chinese demand. A joint venture between the Russian company Vostsibugol (a group of Oleg Deripaska) and the largest Chinese company Shenhua is working at the field, and the construction of the mine should begin this year. The design capacity of the field is 6 million tons, of which about half will be exported. The first coal supplies were made already last year.

Gold mining is also a growing traditional branch of the mining industry in Transbaikalia, where growth last year was 6,65% (to 14,2 tons). In particular, the growth of production ensures the launch of Bystrinsky GOK, whose ores contain gold. Again, new projects have a distinctly Chinese orientation. Not so long ago, an agreement was ratified with the government of the PRC on the development of the Klyuchevskoye gold deposit. According to the document, China National Gold Group Corporation will buy from Indian company SUN Gold from 60 to 70% of the shares of the mining company. Production here can reach up to 6,5 tons of gold per year, which will dramatically increase the production of precious metals in Transbaikalia, where, in addition, the main production is carried out now in placer deposits. So far, negotiations are continuing on the procedure for implementing the project, to which representatives of regional authorities have joined.

At the same time, there are other new projects in the gold mining industry of Transbaikalia. Thus, the Mangazeya group of Sergey Yanchukov received a loan, signed an agreement with the regional government and is engaged in the construction of a mining and processing plant at the Nasedkinskoye field, which is likely to be included in the contour of the Transbaikalian TOP. Here it is planned to mine 3,5 tons of gold per year, launching the company already this year. The Magadan Susumanoloto group in the person of its company Omchak, which intends to launch production at the Verkhne-Aliinsky deposit this summer (with the prospect of 1,2 tons of gold per year), will contribute to the growth of production. Production growth at alluvial deposits will be provided by Uryumkan at the expense of the Kirchenovsky field, where the factory has already been launched. Finally, in 2023, the launch of the Taseyevskoye deposit, which is handled by Highland Gold Mining, is expected.

Thus, the prospects of such a traditional industry as gold mining also look bright. Although old enterprises at the same time may have acute problems. In particular, the protests at the Darasunsky mine, where the owner has recently changed, had a big resonance. The company stopped work, wages were not paid, and the workers went on a hunger strike. As a result, the situation had to be taken under personal control by ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova.

The remaining directions of mining are still in a less clear state. Thus, a sharp reduction in the production of tungsten concentrate continues (and molybdenum production was closed several years ago). Lead mining fell, but zinc mining still increased. In this case, you can count on improving indicators of the Noyon-Tologoyskoye field, incl. in case of its entry into the top. By the way, this field is controlled by the company “Baikalrud”, which also has Chinese origin.

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