In Siberia, copper mine hopes to become a global energy pivot

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Udokan, Russia

In 1949, a Soviet expedition in Siberia was looking for uranium to supply the national nuclear arsenal when it stumbled on a vast deposit of copper.

More than 70 years later, a mining complex in Rus-sia’s Far East between Lake Baikal and the Pacific Ocean is finally due to launch operations next year.

With copper key to the world’s energy transition away from carbon, the hope sis it will be a boon for Russia and beyond.

“The long-awaited project is a long-awaited event in the life of the Far East and the entire mining indus-try of Russia and the world,” said Valery Kazi-kayev, chairman of Udokan Copper, the company developing the site.

Kazikayev, who makes the nine-hour journey by plane from Moscow to the mine twice a month, brought AFP journalists on a tour late September.

At an altitude of 2,000 metres (6,500 feet), the heavy snow covering the mine offers a glimpse at the difficulty of rendering it operable.

“The Soviet Union wasn’t able to develop these deposits,” Kazikayev, 66, said at the site, where construction began in 2019.

The mine is located both in a seismic zone and on permafrost — ground that remains completely frozen all-year round. Temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 degrees Fahr-enheit) in the winter.—AFP

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