A private investor has announced its intention to build a railroad from a coal deposit in Yakutia to the Pacific Ocean. Observers believe that the project, if supported by the government, might sideline other initiatives such as the Kuragino-Kyzyl railroad in southern Siberia.
The Elga coal deposit is controlled by the A-Property company. Its management is going to attract at least $3 billion to create a 600-kilometer railway to the settlement of Chumikan in the Khabarovsk territory and build a loading terminal for 30 million tonnes of coal per year there. The project was submitted to the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Railways (RZD) executives. State-private partnership options are being worked out. In other words, the coal miners are waiting for some budgetary injections. RZD might consider the railway as a useful addition to the expanding Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM.)
By the way, this is not the first infrastructure initiative of coal industry representatives. Several years ago, the coal miners announced they were going to build the second stage of the Severomuisky tunnel on BAM in Buryatia at their own expense. A newly opened tunnel would multiply the throughput capacity of the route. The Siberian Anthracite company, based in Novosibirsk, was going to build it for 60 billion rubles ($820,205.46.) In 2020, the holding owner Dmitry Bosov shot himself, and the talks about the construction died down.
In this connection, Kuragino - Kyzyl, another railway project was also recalled. It was supposed to bring Tuva to the Trans-Siberian Railway. This plan was announced almost 20 years ago. Its main goal was to ensure the access to the Elegest coal deposit. Investors and parameters were changed, but large-scale construction never began. At the beginning of this year, RZD suspended the concession agreement, concluded earlier with the Tuva Energy Industrial Corporation owned by Ruslan Baisarov. In other words, the project was shelved once again. This almost coincided with the announcement of A-Property's plans in Yakutia. It can hardly be considered a coincidence.
“Certain coal companies do not want to have competition in exporting quality coking coal. They lobbied for the postponement of construction. Now, when there is a company that is ready to build a road at its own expense from South Yakutia to the Pacific Ocean for the sake of coal exports, it becomes clear which way wind is blowing,” says Vladimir Panteleev, an economic journalist from Krasnoyarsk.
There is another point of view. The Kuragino-Kyzyl project was put on hold by a political decision, since Russia is now concentrating on the development of northern territories. The railroad to Tuva might become the so called “window” through which China will pump out natural resources, timber etc. Transportation is the most expensive link of the economical chain. These costs are always of prime importance. The year before last, we went to Tuva, invited experts from Europe and China and met with the Government of the Republic. We were told that a railroad was lacking. We asked, “What do we need it for?” To quickly send resources to Mongolia and China, they answered. China has already built roads for its part. But we put the construction on hold, and here is why: if the road is built, all the resources of southern Siberia will instantly be transported in that direction. Will this develop Siberia? No, on the contrary, everything will fall to decay there. So, first, the Yenisei infrastructure is needed to connect it to the north of Krasnoyarsk territory and build ports and a railroad from Tyumen region to Norilsk. That is only 700 kilometers. Only then can we think about how to connect the south. We have to get ready for the revival of the north. Ecologists predict that in 50 years half of the Arctic Ocean will melt, and ordinary steamboats will run there,” says Valery Lukinykh, Professor of Siberian Federal University and Doctor of Economics.
Apparently, Tuva is beginning to get used to this idea. According to Aidys Sat, deputy prime minister of the republic, the Kuragino project played an important role in the region's socio-economic development program. Now, there is no need to count on it.
“The project has been suspended since April. It was necessary to check the setup of forces and means that the republic had, and, if necessary, to come up with a proposal for the adjustment. We have finished this work. Now, we will work on amending the normative-legal act of the Government of the Russian Federation,” said Aidys Sat.