Kopy Goldfields’ operations are mainly concentrated to Lena Goldfields in the Irkutsk area of Russia. Lena Goldfields has a long history associated with gold production. The regional center of the Lena Goldfields area is the city of Bodaibo, located approximately 880 km north east of Irkutsk. The Irkutsk region is bigger than France but has a population of only 2.5 million people. So far, alluvial production has been dominant with bedrock production initiated only some ten years ago. In total, more than 40 Moz of gold has been produced in Lena Goldfields to date, with large parts of the area still remaining to be explored
Location and geology
The area of Lena Goldfields covers 105,000 km² and lies between 57 and 60 degrees North latitude, approximately 900 km south of the Arctic circle. The region comprises a broad, subcircular topographic dome, termed the Patom Highland, rising to more than 1,800 meters with a diameter of approximately 350 km. It is partly encircled by the Vitim and Lena Rivers. The deep alluvial and colluvial deposits in most channels and river valleys result from long periods of gentle drainage and glacial erosion. The major high-level landforms developed during several episodes of Pleistocene ice-sheet erosion, a late phase of trunk valley glaciation, lengthy periods of periglacial erosion and several phases of interglacial warm climate chemical erosion. The regional geological setting of Sukhoy Log and the Lena Goldfields is a complex folded sedimentary sequence at the exposed northeast end of the Akitkar Foldbelt and the included Olokit Zone, parts of which extend into the western side of the goldfield.
The gold rush began in Lena Goldfields in the 19th century, when the massive goldfields that lined the river Lena attracted gold pioneers from both Russia and abroad. The jointly owned Russian-British company “The Lena Gold Mining Joint Stock Company” was the principal owner of the majority of the goldfields in the region and one of the most profitable enterprises in the Russian Empire. Alluvial gold production has been conducted in the area ever since the 1840s and the region has steadily been producing around 0.25 Moz of alluvial gold per year. Previous exploration work has also shown that the Bodaibo area hosts several world-class bedrock gold deposits, including Vysochaishiy (2.9 Moz), Verninskoye (3.8 Moz), Chertovo Koryto (2.4 Moz) and Sukhoy Log, the latter being the largest undeveloped gold deposit in the world with some 60 Moz of reserves (see page 25 for more information). In the 1970’s, there were Soviet ambitions to exploit the bedrock deposits in Lena Goldfields and ambitious exploration work was carried out. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the Russian state has focused on producing oil and gas leaving exploiting its other mineral reserves to primarily private companies. The Russian Central Bank has been the largest buyer of gold for a number of years – only beaten by Turkey in 2019 – and now has the fifth largest gold reserves in the world, with about 30 per cent of the total Russian gold production being conducted by international companies.
The regional centre of Lena Goldfields, Bodaibo, is a lively city of more than 16,000 citizens, with schools, colleges, hospital and other service facilities, and the majority of the population have a relation to the gold mining industry. The area has developed infrastructure with an airport in Bodaibo, state roads maintained all-year round to access the most important gold production sites, and hydropower plant located on the local Mamakan river. There are several established electric grids crossing Kopy Goldfields’ Krasny site. In 2019, the project received an offer for electricity supply from the local national electricity land grid for 15 MW capacity which should be enough to support a production start. The Krasny site is located favorably, with the distance to the main state road – which runs north from Bodaibo to the town of Kropotkinsky – ranging between 1 and 10 km. The Maly Patom project is accessible by all-year-round roads.
The licenses owned by Kopy Goldfields have been grouped into projects with a geographical distribution that makes it possible to process ore from several deposits at one production plant per project.