Qualitative geological exploration technology, efficiently functioning structure and transparent composition of the exploration complex are three factors of successful solution of the main task of diamond geology - the reproduction of the mineral and raw materials base
They were the basis for the reform of the ALROSA exploration complex, which began in 2017. ALROSA Chief Geologist Konstantin GARANIN tells about the results of the work of the renewed structure and the issues that are yet to be addressed.
FIRST STAGE OF REFORM
The first stage was completed last year. Three specialized competence centers have been established on the basis of four geological exploration divisions. The scientific-research geological enterprise is engaged in forecasting, introduction of modern methods and techniques, conducting laboratory and analytical studies. 121 professionals work here.
The Vilyuisk Geological Exploration Expedition carries out geological exploration, prospecting, evaluation and exploration of deposits, provides the necessary hydro-geological research, engineering surveys. It employs 830 people.
725 people work at Mirny Mountain-Drilling Expedition. The geological services of mining and processing plants and other divisions of the Company continue to operate. The renewed service includes geological subdivisions of its subsidiaries and affiliated companies - Almazy Anabara, Nizhnelenskoye and Severalmaz. The subdivisions of the Company have been formed for work in Africa - JV Kimang and JV Botswana Diamonds. Besides, ALROSA geologists continue to support the activities of the joint venture in Angola, Katoka mining company. The total number of professionals of the ALROSA exploration complex is more than 2.300 people.
In the course of the reform, an audit of exploration projects was carried out: in areas with low potential they were stopped, in the prospective areas - strengthened.
- How necessary was the reform of the exploration complex?
- Changing the structure, reducing duplicate functions, reducing excess costs, intergenerational staff changes, increasing productivity and quality of work - all this and more were needed to optimize and improve the efficiency of the service. he accumulation effect of these changes, according to our estimates, will amount to more than 300 million rubles a year with the current pace of geological exploration. At the same time, the strategic goal of geological prospecting - replenishment and improvement of the quality of raw materials - is unchanged. After the reform, the complex of tasks facing the specialists has expanded. A coherent framework has been formed, thanks to which we have saved experienced professionals who know the geology firsthand, have gone through the whole work path, starting from field work and ending with the management of large projects. An "institution" of project managers was created, it includes leading geologists of the divisions. There is a clear career ladder, beginning with technicians and ending with chief geologists. The reorganization of the complex entails a reduction in operating costs due to a more rational choice of priority exploration facilities, concentration of efforts, as well as a reduction in the share of overhead costs by eliminating duplicate structures.
It forms a coherent framework by which we saved the experienced professionals who know geology firsthand
- What about the first results of the work of the updated geological service for 2017?
- In the perspective Malobotuobinsky, Alakit-Markha and Srednemarkhinsky diamond-bearing areas, we used new technologies of geological exploration: high-resolution three-dimensional seismic survey, aeromagnetic gradient metric survey and geo-radar sounding. Besides, work was intensified in the Ygyatty diamond-bearing region. A technique has been created for the search of primary diamond sources by the properties of diamonds themselves from placers and placers occurrence. The development of a technique for local prediction of kimberlite bodies continues.
- What are the prospects for new discoveries in Yakutia?
- Absolutely all geologists agree that it is necessary to discover new deposits, which for the past 10 years there were few. Meanwhile, prospective mining areas are already known. Among the most interesting diamond-bearing areas in terms of geological exploration - Malobotuobinsky, Daldyno-Alakit, Sredne-Marhinsky, Munskoye and Verkhne-Munskoye in Yakutia, Zimneberezhny district in the Arkhangelsk region. Numerous unique placers of diamonds are localized in the areas of the Lena-Anabar diamondiferous subprovince, which also give rise to the reserves of rough diamonds. The recently discovered Syuldyukar pipe in the Ygyatta district is the first high-diamond body within this region. It is located about 170 km from Mirny Mining and Processing Plant. So far, due to its small size its individual development is not expedient, but this is a clear signal to all of us - there will be new discoveries, new deposits in this area, and after their discovery it will be possible to talk about a new ore cluster, construction of facilities that provide production. Prospects in Yakutia are obvious: over 1.500 bodies of kimberlites and related rocks have been discovered here, half of them are of different diamondiferous character, the share of deposits does not exceed 1%, but several dozen bodies may be involved in development with the course of time.
- Speaking globally, what are the main challenges now facing the geological survey service?
- Now we are focused on detailed searches, we pay great attention to the evaluation and exploration of deposits to maintain production levels in the short term. We need to maintain the balance of the "resource pyramid." According to our data, the Company does not have enough resources of P1-2 category (already discovered, specific ore bodies with certain boundaries of occurrence), so we try to focus on the search and evaluation of new resources of these categories. The balanced pyramid, which is formed by the results of prospecting works, allows to ensure a uniform increase in stocks. Regional works of the early stages of geological exploration should be supported by the state. But at the same time, subsoil user companies should be allowed to participate in such projects, for example, within the framework of public-private partnership. A similar principle is realized in many countries-leaders in the production of mineral raw materials.
INNOVATION AND MODERNIZATION
- What are the goals of the updated geological service for the coming years?
- All the works of this year can be divided into target tasks in the field of geological exploration, modernization of the geological prospecting complex, improvement of methodological and scientific and analytical support, introduction of innovations into the practice of geological exploration. We have identified several dozen areas of geological exploration. The most important of them - exploration of deep horizons of several deposits at once: at ‘Zarnitsa’ pipe to a depth of 400 m, ‘Yubileynaya’ pipe to a depth of 1300 m, documentation creation for the exploration of the deep horizons of ‘Udachnaya’ pipe to -1280 m. The search will continue in the Munskoye and Igyatty districts. We plan to obtain new licenses for the right to conduct geological exploration. Specialists of the exploration complex will perform exploratory, engineering-geological and hydrogeological work on the orders of Mining and Processing Plants. We will intensify the search at Mirny, Alakit-Markha and Nakyn fields. The subsidiaries also have a lot of objectives to attain this year. So, ALROSA-Nyurba should evaluate the fourth line of the buried placer ‘Nyurbinskaya.’
Almazy Anabara will approve reports with the calculation of reserves for placers of the rivers Ebelyakh, Billyakh-pritoki-3, Otchuos and Lyaseger-Yuryakh by the State Commission on Reserves. Experts of Severalmaz and the Pomorsk geological exploration expedition (that is part of Severalmaz) should study the areas in great detail and identify new kimberlite bodies in the area of Lomonosov deposit. JV KIMANG will carry out ground detalization of the revealed aero-geophysical anomalies and start drilling operations.
As part of the reform, we plan to transfer the Mirny Geological Exploration Expedition to a subsidiary company until July 1 of this year, solve problems on improving the pricing and wage system, and clarify the structure and concentration of the services of the divisions. In 2018, measures will be taken to increase the efficiency of our production processes, we will define new growth points. In areas of methodological and scientific and analytical support for geological exploration and innovation, there are also many objectives, starting with the selection of new promising areas for further licensing and ending with the assessment of Russia's diamond potential, Angola, other regions of Africa and the world, approbation of resources of kimberlite fields. The focus of innovations in the exploration complex will be aimed at reducing the unit cost of work and improving the search in a complex environment. In general, our entire service will continue to implement the program of innovative development and technological modernization, will more fully implement the investment approach in geological exploration at all stages. At the moment in Russia there are no complexes that large, specializing in and realizing a full cycle of geological exploration like ours.
The reserves of ALROSA as of the beginning of 2018 are 1.182 million carats, which is 25-30 years of production. At the same time, about 400 are "difficult to mine" (requiring complex design solutions for their development), which increases the relevance of searching for high-quality stocks and at the same time easy to develop.
YOUNG SPECIALISTS - GEOLOGISTS OF ALROSA
Roman Eremeev, Chief Specialist of the Operational Geology Department:
- I became a geologist right after the army. I started to work at Botuobinskoye Geological Exploration Expedition as a worker for geological exploration. Having worked a year, I realized that geology was a very interesting science-intensive and promising direction of work. Raising the level of my academic background, I entered the Institute for the speciality "geological survey, prospecting and exploration of minerals." At the end of the third year of the Institute, I was offered the position of geo-technician at the Markha Geological Exploration Crew. After graduating from the Institute, I continued to work as a professional. Our department monitors geological support for mining and exploratory work at enterprises related to extraction. These are plants that mine diamonds, and the Capital Construction Administration with Mirny Motor Road Administration, which on the balance sheet have mineral deposits used for construction. What attracts me most in this area is that I can engage in both scientific research in various fields, be it mineralogy, petrography, lithology, or work as a production geologist. ALROSA has all the conditions for this. If there is a desire to engage in scientific work, you can work at the Yakutniproalmaz Institute or the Scientific-Research Exploration Enterprise. If a person chooses the production line for himself, for this there are production sites for ore mining and processing plants and expeditions. My career was such that I had a chance to work in all these areas. For about five years I worked on an expedition, about the same number of years at the Scientific-Research Exploration Enterprise and five years at Mirny Mining and Processing Plant, Mir and Inter underground mines. These were intense and fruitful years, within which I learned a lot and received an invaluable production experience. As for the results, over the past year the Company has incremented reserves on the pipes Yubileinaya, Internatsionalnaya and on placers Nyurbinskaya, in the total volume of 58.7 million carats. ALROSA is completing the construction of the road from Udachny to the Upper-Muna deposit. Thanks to this, last year the first ore from the deposit was delivered to the concentrator No.12 and the first diamonds were obtained. At the moment, the issue of safe mining is urgent. Each field has its own difficulties. For example, in the open pits, these are problems of the stability of the sides. If this is an underground mining method, then in addition to mining and geological, oil and gas and hydrogeological factors are added. We will deal with all these tasks this year.
Anna Nikiforova, Leading Specialist, Search Geology Department:
- In 2003, while studying at Lomonosov Moscow State University I went to 8th International Kimberlite Conference in Canada, where I presented the results of my scientific work. There I came under notice of the ALROSA's management and they made an offer to work. In the same year, while studying internally, I was recruited as a visiting junior researcher at the Scientific-Research Exploration Enterprise. After the university, I came to Mirny, worked for 10 years as a research assistant at the department of prospecting and forecasting diamond deposits of the Scientific-Research Exploration Enterprise. Since 2016 I have been working at the ALROSA Department of Search Geology. We are engaged in the analysis, control and identification of risks in the development of plans for geological exploration, experimental and methodological and research work on the territory of the work of ALROSA. Also we are engaged in planning the licensing of subsoil plots for geo-research, updating of search licenses, and the formation of a consolidated project plan for geological exploration. I became a geologist for many reasons. In the late nineties the leading central universities of Russia had a practice of visiting regional olympiads for schoolchildren. So I, being a schoolgirl, after the Olympiad in mathematics was admitted to Moscow State University. My points were enough for the Mechanics-Mathematics, Geography and Geology Faculties. The main factor in the choice of the Geological Faculty was that the diamond-mining industry was developing extensively in Yakutia, and my father Yuri Yakovlevich Nikiforov was the founder and head of the Pokrovsky lapidary plant, which at that time held a leading position in Russia after the Smolensk Kristall plant. I was very interested in where diamonds come from, so I chose the Geological Faculty of Moscow State University, already knowing my direction of further activity. Being engaged in geology and working for ALROSA I am attracted to the fact that you can apply your strength in different directions. This makes it possible to apply a creative approach to problem solving, which turns our work into a hobby. And this, in turn, improves the result. Personally I and my department have a lot of objectives. For successful professional growth a person needs a reliable base. I have a wonderful family: a husband, three sons. With the birth of children and their upbringing, I postponed my work on my Ph.D. thesis. Now the children are a little grown up, and I can resume work on the thesis and defense my Ph.D. My work will compare the currently known genetic classifications and develop mineralogical criteria for the complex evaluation of the diamond content of kimberlites, identify groups of factors that affect the potential and actual diamond content of kimberlite bodies. The work will make it possible to improve the methods of prospecting and evaluation of diamond deposits, increase the economic efficiency of prospecting.
Interviewed by Maria Buzunova
Photo: ALROSA archive