In the USSR, the Soviet government maintained strict secrecy protocols regarding the country’s gold reserves and the domestic production of gold. However, in the 1980s, as it became clear that its large, centrally-planned economy was faltering with respect to its competitors in Europe and America, Mikhail Gorbachev instituted efforts to encourage foreign investment and install modern technological methods. Unfortunately for him, these measures were taken too late, and the Soviet economy was unable to adapt.
After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the new leader of the country, Boris Yeltsin, dismantled the central planning apparatus, privatized as much of the Russian economy as possible, and took steps to liberalize markets according to Western neoliberal orthodoxy. This further compounded Russia’s economic problems, as some well-placed businessmen leapt to carve out their own financial empires, and a vicious kleptocracy developed. These oligarchs snapped up Russian assets at massively discounted prices and immediately funneled their billions abroad to strengthen their position. In 1998, the Russian government was forced to default on its debts, and in 1999 Yeltsin resigned in favor of his Prime Minister and ex-head of the KGB, Vladimir Putin.
Since Putin was first elected as President, Russia’s economy has recovered, and its status as a global power has been regained. Its gold production has also risen dramatically, and in 2012 Russia overtook South Africa to become the fourth biggest gold producer in the world. Today, Russia’s gold mining industry is one of the country’s most successful, and the sector is ripe for investment.
Gold Mining Today
Russia is a mining giant, accounting for just under 15% of total global mineral production and placing within the top 10 world producers of a diverse range of resources including coal, iron ore, gold, copper, uranium, aluminum, nickel, silver and cobalt. Whilst this diversification has been extremely important to the success and stability of the Russian mining sector, the growth of gold production has been particularly impressive. According to the Russian State Reserve Balance, in 2014 the country’s gold reserves exceeded 12.9 thousand tons of gold, putting it at the second- or third-largest gold reserve in the world alongside China. In the last 10 years, according to the Russian Union of Gold Producers, Russia mined 2,189 tons of gold and plans to increase the annual production to 400 tons by 2030.
Russia’s gold production has been on the rise for a number of years, but since 2008, it has risen dramatically. In 2009, 2010, and 2011 production figures were 185, 202, 211 metric tons respectively. In 2012, gold production jumped to 226 tons, while in 2015 it rose to 325 tons. Exports have averaged around 80.3 tons of gold every year.
There are three major Russian-domiciled gold miners: Polyus Gold, Polymetal, and Petropavlovsk.
Polyus Gold: Owned by Said Kerimov, son of the esteemed philanthropist and Senator for Dagestan Suleyman Kerimov, Polyus Gold operates five mines in Russia that together produced nearly 2 million ounces of gold in 2016. One of the top ten gold producers in the world, Polyus is the largest gold producer in Russia, with gold reserves estimated at 64 million ounces. The Olimpiada mine, owned and operated by Polyus, is the eighth largest gold mine in the world. In 2016, Polyus Gold reported revenues of $2.45 billion and a profit of $1.44 billion, a marked increase of 44 percent since just 2015. Polyus produces 23 percent of Russia's total gold output, dwarfing its closest competitor Polymetal, which stands at 11 percent.
Polymetal: A precious metals mining group operating in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Armenia, and listed on the London Stock Exchange and Moscow Stock Exchange. Polymetal is the second largest company in Russia in terms of gold production. In 2016, Polymental reported revenues of $1.583 billion, and a production of 890 thousand ounces of gold.
Petropavlovsk: Listed on the London Stock Exchange, Petropavlovsk produced 416 thousand ounces of gold and a total revenue of $540.7 million in 2016. It is an up and coming firm, with ambitious plans for expansion in the Amur region of eastern Russia.