NATURAL HERITAGE OF CENTRAL SIBERIA

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Опубликовано в библиотеке: 2021-11-12
Источник: Science in Russia, №1, 2014, C.82-91

by Larissa IGNATYEVA, senior research assistant, Museum of Geology of Central Siberia (Krasnoyarsk)

 

The territory of Central Siberia formed by rocks of the pre-Cambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic age (i.e. from ancient to modern) is one of the unique places in Russia. It comprises the largest geological structures of the Earth such as the western part of the Siberian platform, the West Siberian plate, the Yenisei-Khatanga deflection, the Taimyr-Severnaya Zemlya and Altai-Sayan folded regions, the Yenisei mountain-ridge, Minusinsk, Tuva, Rybinsk and Kansk-Taseevsk basins. The combination of diverse and different-age mountain systems, which occupy three quarters of the whole territory with vast lowland areas, predetermined formation here of numerous deposits of coal, ferrous, non-ferrous, rare and precious metals and nonmetallic raw materials, revealed and assessed by pains of many generations of professional geologists and pathfinders. A wide variety of local minerals and the history of studies and development of mineral wealthare displayed at the Museum of Geology of Central Siberia.

 
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RETROSPECTIVE VIEW

 

Studies of regional geology professionally started in the mid-19th century. For this purpose the Krasnoyarsk Geological Administration was established in 1943. Its staff members, along with research work, were engaged in collecting stone material. The rare specimens discovered by them and the first several dozens of rock and mineral samples received from the Mineralogical Museum of the USSR Academy of Sciences (today the Fersman Mineralogical Museum) in 1944 became the basis of a future large-scale collection.

 

However, the regional ethnographers consider the year 1960 an official birth date of the museum. At that time the Krasnoyarsk Geological Administration sponsored the first exhibition of minerals. It served as a starting point for systematic collection of stone material, which characterizes the geological structure and mineral potential of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, Taimyr and Evenk Autonomous districts (2,339.7 thous. km2), republics of Tyva (170.5 thous. km2) and Khakassia (61.9 thous. km2).

 

Head of the geological department of the said administration Mavr Dobrovolsky (1918-2012) was an initiator and ideological leader of this work. In 1960 Vasily Moiseev was assigned to the post of head of the Geological Museum and became its first staff member (he works there even today).

 

For the past 50 years the museum turned into a large-scale scientific and educational geological center, one of the best in Siberia and the Far East. It was presented among a dozen of the best in Russia in the almanac Museum Collections (2000). Today its vaults include 35,000 items such as minerals of rare beauty and natural perfection, samples of valuable ores, fossilized flora and fauna of our planet. But only the seventh part of these objects is displayed, i.e. more than 5,000 exhibits.

 

ARCHEOLOGICAL FINDINGS AND STUDIES OF SIBERIAN MINERAL WEALTH

 

In 1974, near Abakan a monument of the Mousterian time (a cultural and technological complex, which appeared about 300,000 years ago and is associated with the late Neanderthals) was discovered testifying that man had settled down on the Yenisei banks more than 50,000 years ago. In the late Palaeolith (35-10 thous. years ago) people lived in the southern part of Central Siberia from Tuva to the Angara valley, who possessed skills in stone mining and machining. Nowadays more than 100 Palaeolithic sites are discovered in the region. The artifacts found there (knife-shaped plates, cores, scrapers, knives, axes, arrows, adzes, etc.) enlarged the museum fund.

 

The collection includes also exhibits of the Bronze Age, when gold and silver were mined in the territory of

 
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Central Siberia (deposits of Kantegir, Chibizhek, Uzun-Zhul). In the Iron Age (2nd cent. B.C.--5th cent. A.D.) there formed rather developed cultures, Shurmak in Tuva and Tashtyk in the Minusinsk hollow, in the region. Complete mastery of iron metallurgy was the main achievement of that period. Traces of its smelting and working can be found at Karasuk, Aryskan, Mugursk and other deposits in Tuva and Khakassia. In the mid-6th century there formed a state of ancient Kyrgyz people with developed blacksmith's and jeweller's trade in the Minusinsk mountain deflection.

 

Of special value in this section of the collection are documents on the history of studies and development of Central Siberian natural wealth, which are connected with the activities of Peter the Great. The museum has at its disposal a rare primary source: the Order of Miners' Case, in pursuance of which the first mining administration was set up in Russia in 1700. The famous scientists of that time were invited from abroad (mainly from Germany) such as head of the first scientific expedition to Siberia, physician and botanist Daniel Messerschmidt, historiographer Gerhard Miller, physician, botanist and ethnographer Johann Gmelin, natural scientist, geographer and traveler Pyotr Pallas.

 

Besides, the collection includes documentary materials on the development of gold-mining industry in the region (19th century), on studies and mastery of Siberian natural wealth in the 20th century by well-known Russian researchers Alexander Churakov (Kuznetsk Alatau), Ivan Bazhenov and Alexander Sivov (Western Sayan), all Drs. Sc. (Geol. & Mineral.), and Corre-

 
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sponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences Sergei Obruchev (Siberian platform). Mineral deposits discovered in those years, became a mineral and raw material base for large mining enterprises.

 

MINERALOGY AND GEMMOLOGY

 

The mineralogical collection is one of the most impressive collections and numbers 1,800 samples. The stone material from deposits of Central Siberia makes up ~40 percent of the exposition, while the remainder was brought from other regions of Russia and also countries of the near and far abroad. The collection includes rare and unique minerals from Norilsk (talnachite, mooihoekite, sperrylite), Sorsk copper-molybdenum (eastern stockades of Kuznetsk Alatau) and Khovu-Aksinsk cobaltnickel (Republic of Tyva) deposits.

 

The earth crust contains more than 40 native minerals. Twelve of them, in particular, copper, silver, gold, telluric and meteoric iron, sulfur, graphite, etc. are displayed in our exposition.

 

A separate section is devoted to problems of gemmology*, a science which studies gem stones (semi-precious stones). These minerals are of rare beauty and are not frequently met in nature; they possess, as a rule, great strength and chemical stability. Today ~200 varieties of semi-precious stones are used in jewelry and stone-cutting production. But only some of them are widely used, e.g. turquoise, opal, ruby, sapphire, pearl, emerald, garnet, topaz and a number of other minerals. Like a substantial part of jewelry they are also included in our collection. The

 

See: V. Pakhomova, "Gemology and Its Development in Siberia and the Far East", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2013.--Ed.

 
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museum has available a sample of charoit from the only "lilac stone" deposit in the world occupying in an area of a bit more than 10 km2 on the border of the Irkutsk Region and the Republic of Sakha. It is mined only on the Stary area situated in the upper reaches of Ditmarovsky stream.

 

CONTACT WITH THE SECRETS OF THE PAST EPOCHS

 

The paleontological collection whose formation started from the first days of the museum includes unique samples of fossilized plants and animals, bone remains of extinct mammals (more than 1,000 units), which "tell" us a life history of the Earth. Practically the whole material was collected in the Krasnoyarsk Territory.

 

Few museums in the country can be proud of the exhibits that are 500-570 mln years old. We have them. Among the most interesting ones there are imprints of the Permian insect wings of the Eoblattida and Dictyoneurida orders from the Abakan riverside, shell parts of orthoceratide Cephalopoda mollusks and a collection of Silurian corals with well-preserved sculptural and structural elements from the Podkamennaya Tunguska coastline, imprints of the Lower Carboniferous fish in the rocks of the Izykchulsky horizon called after the place of their location in the settlement of Izykchul.

 

The rock samples with imprints and remains of fossilized plants of the ancient continent Angarida (called after the Angara river) existing 440-170 mln years ago in

 
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the place of Central Siberia are a real gem of the collection. In the periods of a humid tropical climate the Late Paleozoic flora after its dying-off formed coal deposits of many meters thick. Its imprints are preserved in the form of fossilized trunks of lepidodendrons, Jurassic pine needles, meticulous paintings of Permian ferns and other artifacts. The Angarida flora played a key role in the formation of paleolandscapes and climatic zones in a vast territory of Central Siberia and served as a connecting link in a chain of vegetation distribution throughout the whole of Eurasian continent.

 

Contacts with the secrets of the past epochs are achieved also through that part of the paleontological collection which displays various ancient remains of big mammals such as tusk, tibial bone, mammoth teeth and jaw, bison horn and spinal bone, horn of musk ox.

 

MINERAL AND RAW MATERIAL BASE

 

The Krasnoyarsk Territory is among the oldest mining districts in the country. Around 83 kinds of mineral raw materials are revealed there, 1,472 deposits and 474 ore manifestations of minerals are under active exploitation, which makes up ~7 percent of all underground store rooms of Russia.

 

The exposition acquaints with metallic (ores of ferrous, nonferrous, precious, rare and dispersed metals) and nonmetallic (kimberlites, graphite, thermoanthracite, magnesite, zeolites, etc.) minerals of Central Siberia. In this respect the fuel and energy resources (coal, oil and natural gas) hold a special place. Within this territory 12 oil and gas-bearing regions are located, wholly or partly, of three oil-and-gas provinces--West Siberian, Khatanga-Vilyui and Lena-Tunguska and also the Minusinsk oil and gas-bearing region. The museum stands display flasks with oil and condensate from Suzunskoye, Yurubchenskoye, Sobinskoye and Kuyumbinskoye deposits. Besides, the exposition is rich in poster information on the formation of oil and gas fields, their use and exploration. Ecological problems of combustible raw materials are reflected in the exposition exhibits too. The materials on the history of oil exploration in Siberia and large oil-producing enterprises are also of interest for visitors. All information is intended for a wide audience from schoolchildren to college students.

 

The Krasnoyarsk Territory is related to promising diamond-bearing regions. In 1934, the well-known mineralogist Nikolai Fedorovsky published a book In the Country of Diamonds and Gold, in which he wrote: "... you should search for diamonds... in the regions of Siberia and Northern Urals." It was a scientific forecast of the gifted scientist. His point of view was shared by the member of the USSR Academy of Sciences Vladimir

 
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Sobolev (1908-1982), who supervised diamond industry of the national economy. He generalized the studies of Siberian trapps (complex of flowed out and subvolcanic basic rocks) and compared them with other similar ancient formations. Then he drew a conclusion (in 1936) that the Siberian platform was promising for diamonds by analogy with South Africa. In 1940, Sobolev recommended to start prospecting works in the northern regions of the Krasnoyarsk Territory. And the results were immediate. Diamonds were discovered in the places associated with the basins of the rivers Podkamennaya and Nizhnyaya Tunguskas and Angara. High concentrations of the mineral were found also in channel deposits of other rivers, in particular, the Tychana, where 94 crystals of an average weight of 50.9 mg (0.25 carat) were found. That is how the 150 km Tychanskaya diamond-bearing placer, first in the Krasnoyarsk territory, was discovered. In the ensuing years the expeditions revealed also a number of other promising diamond areas. But when the first diamond pipes were discovered in Yakutia (1949), the diamond search and production shifted to that region. And great prospects which took shape in the Krasnoyarsk territory remained unrealized. However, today scientists are discussing the

 
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problem of resuming diamond prospecting in the western part of the Siberian platform.

 

It should be noted that our museum displays crystals of diamonds found in Anabarye in the Dogaya riverbed and Kharamaiskaya placer.

 

The exposition gives an idea of a vigorous development of gold-mining industry in the region. At present we can single out 10 gold-bearing and gold-platinum-bearing provinces: Taimyr-Severozemelskaya, Norilskaya, Maimecha-Kotuyskaya, Anabarskaya and West Evenkiyskaya, Yeniseyskaya, East Sayanskaya, Kuznetsko-Alatauskaya, West Sayanskaya and South Evenkiyskaya. The gold output in 1998 made up 14 percent of the national output (second after the Magadan Region). After 2005 the annual gold mining exceeded 30 t, which brought the territory to the first place in the country. Today 140 gold deposits (16 in ore and 124 in placers) are in commercial development, and 27 enterprises are engaged in its mining. Among them are 6 enterprises (Polyus, Zoloto, Angara, Sevemaya, Severo-Angarsky Mining and Processing Complex, Tsentralnaya) providing 97 percent of metal production.

 

For the whole history of gold mining many thousands of small, medium and large nuggets (natural isolation of

 
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gold, possessing special morphological and dimensional-weight parameters) were found in the world. Since 1898 ~50 nuggets weighing more than 1 kg have been found in Central Siberia. The biggest nugget called "Bull's head" weighing more than 31 kg was discovered in 1898 by gold miners Roman Tarkhanov and Nikolai Belov at the Spaso-Preobrazhensky mine (East Sayan) and was third by its parameters among all discovered in our country. In 2004 a gold bar weighing 1,078 g was found in the Levaya Zhayma river placer (Mansky district). It was one the latest appreciable findings.

 

The museum collection includes natural samples of gold-bearing ores and dummies of gold nuggets found in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Why dummies and not originals? The answer is rather simple: already in 1825 a special government decree was issued under which all nuggets weighing several zolotniks (1 zolotnik = 4.266 g) should be delivered to the museum of the Petersburg Mining Institute as "most singular items". The museum collection later became a basis for the Diamond Fund of the USSR (today the RF State Depository of Precious Metals). All large nuggets of precious metals are now sent there.

 

Of no less interest are tools and equipment used for gold mining in Central Siberia in the 17th-19th centu-

 
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ries. The collection includes simple implements of the first gold miners in the form of spade, miner's hack and trough. Location monuments of the first mines are kept at the museum as symbols of the Siberian "golden fever" of those years. The big file of documents and photos collected describes hard work of gold-prospectors.

 

GEOLOGICAL MONUMENTS OF NATURE

 

The Krasnoyarsk Territory is located on a junction of four global structures in 11 natural-climatic zones and includes unique objects related to geological monuments of nature and places of interest. The museum keeps a registration map for many years with ~150 such objects of scientific and cultural importance. Extensive information is collected about 45 such objects, namely, a geological section along Oresha, caves Aidashenskaya, Karaulnaya-2, Kubinskaya, Maiskaya, Badzheiskaya, Bolshaya Oreshnaya and Lysanskaya, Mininskiye Stolby, ice-mineral complex "Ledyanaya Gora" and a number of other monuments.

 

The museum disposes of a luxurious speleological collection "Karst of Central Siberia", the best in the country and perhaps in the world. The various materials-- corallites, onyx, stalactites, stalagmites, stalagnates (~600 samples)--were taken in caves of East Sayan and Kuznetsk Alatau without disturbance of speleolandscapes.

 

Let's remind you that there are more than 200 caves of rare beauty, underground passes and voids with intricate labyrinths of passages, lakes, halls and stone columns in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. The largest of them have up to 45 km length and up to 270 m depth. They coincide with distribution areas of carbonaceous rocks in the south of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, Khakassia and Tyva. The suburbs of Krasnoyarsk also abound in them. Of special interest are Kubinskaya in the Yemelyanovsky district, one of the most complex vertical karst pockets in Siberia, formed in the Lower and Middle Cambrian limestones, representing alteration of wells and grottoes, and also Divnogorskaya and Maiskaya. Besides, Torgashinskaya precipice, difficult to traverse, is situated within the limits of Torgashinsky ridge between the Yenisei and Bazaikha rivers. It has been formed in light-grey massive limestones of the Lower and Middle Cambrian and has a very complicated configuration. There are also caves--Ledyanaya with a karst pocket with a ramified system of corridors, Mokraya consisting of 2 grottoes, and Belaya.

 

According to geological standards these caves are young formations with a short period of life. Mainly up to 100 thous. years. Their dating is usually determined by a radiocarbon analysis.

 

Today the museum is no longer solely a storeroom of monuments of geological history. Metaphorically speaking, it appears now before its visitors in the form of exhibitions in libraries, schools and specialized centers. It is only in recent period that our staff members organized several traveling expositions with meaningful titles such as "Mineral Wealth of the Krasnoyarsk Territory", "Oil and Gas of the Krasnoyarsk Territory", "Gold of Central Siberia", "Tunguska Phenomenon", "Karst of Central Siberia", "Fossilized Reef-Builders--Natural Oil and Gas Traps", "Geological Monuments of Nature of the Krasnoyarsk Territory", "The Angara Flora of Ancient Epochs" and a number of other events. Now the museum itself, which from its foundation was situated in the school building of the former church secondary school for girls (1909), a historical and cultural monument of local significance, is planning to move to a new and more suitable building.


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© Larissa IGNATYEVA () Источник: Science in Russia, №1, 2014, C.82-91

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