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Russia has the most diamond resources of any country in the world and Russia’s АЛРОСА (ALROSA) is currently the world’s leading diamond miner and distributor. Specializing in more than exploration and mining, the ALROSA group is also engaged in the processing, manufacturing, and sales of polished diamonds. Primarily operating in Russia’s Sakha (Yakutia) and Arkhangelsk (Archangel) regions, the company currently accounts for 95% of Russian diamond production and nearly 30% of rough diamond extraction, worldwide.
Most of Russia’s diamond deposits are located in Yakutia, the world’s largest country subdivision, spanning an area more than four times the size of Texas. First home to hunters and reindeer herders, some of the most inhospitable areas of planet earth lie within that region’s borders. Yakutsk, the capital, is built on continuous permafrost 280 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The average monthly temperature there is the coldest of any large city in the world, ranging from 67° F in July to −38° F in January, with a winter average of −35° F.
Ever since Russia’s cooperation with DeBeers’ ended in 2009, ALROSA has consistently demonstrated a commitment to stewardship of the areas in which it operates, ensuring that the buried diamond treasures they extract in Russia create a two-way revenue stream to benefit local communities, particularly in Yakutia.
In 2011 ALROSA and the Republic began cooperating on local social and economic development. Over the next 10 years, ALROSA contributed over $100 million in funding to support the construction of education, healthcare and habitat facilities, sports and cultural halls, and a museum. They contributed to the Trust Fund of Future Generations in the Republic of Sakha, facilitating the implementation of socially significant projects and programs. A targeted program, “For the Future,” saw cultural activities developed and provided access to education for young people, including children from remote communities.
Today the Russian diamond industry continues bringing jobs to tribal Yakuts and other locals, paying double the average Russian salary along with housing benefits, healthcare, and pensions. In 2019, ALROSA received a Diamond Empowerment Fund / Diamonds Do Good award for community stewardship.
Earlier this year ALROSA renewed its commitment to local communities. From 2021-2025 the diamond miner has pledged to contribute another $60 million toward social and economic development in areas where its core operations are concentrated.
From a statement released May 20, 2021:
“ALROSA remains committed to a socially responsible way of doing business, ensuring social and economic stability in the Republic of Sakha, one of the most remote regions at the Northeast of Russia with extremely harsh climate and sophisticated logistics.”
In addition to community stewardship, ALROSA is listed among the top environmentally responsible mining companies in Russia as ranked by the World Wildlife Fund Russia and a joint project of the United Nations Development Program, Global Environment Facility, and the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources. The company maintains a BB rating from MSCI ESG, which evaluates companies’ environmental, social, and corporate governance performance and remains on the FTSE4Good Index.
ALROSA’s stated environmental strategy is aimed at preserving natural ecosystems, maintaining integrity, and ensuring the environmental safety of operations. This involves rehabilitation at older operations, as well as planning new endeavors in cooperation with the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and the World Wildlife Fund. Their periodical Sustainability Reports are published in the open, with deliberate detail and transparency.
In 2009 ALROSA and the local government founded the Living Diamonds of Yakutia Natural Park, a conservation space created to preserve natural ecosystems, including Yakutia’s “living diamonds” – Russian reindeer.
The park is a protected area spanning 123 square miles where reindeer, yaks, bison, Yakut horses, elk, bears, lynxes, peacocks, and other wildlife are free to live in natural conditions with a goal of maintaining populations of rare animals. Concerns about the world’s reindeer population have persisted for some time, with the world population declining by 40% in less than 30 years.
“The intiative meets both an ecological function, preservation of rare animal populations and nature in its original form, and a social one. Since its establishment, the park has become one of the favorite recreation spots for the citizens of Mirny and for the guests of the diamond capital.” – Alexey Dyachkovsky, ALROSA Deputy CEO.
In 2015 Russian reindeer (caribou) were placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of vulnerable plant and animal species. This stimulated ALROSA to partner with the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 2016, using radio collars to track the movements of wild reindeer. By placing just a handful of collars on various females of the species each year it’s possible to track the movements of around 15,000 reindeer. These collars are harmless to the animals and drop off when the battery has been exhausted.
Marina Nikolaeva, reindeer herder and head of the Department of Agriculture in Olenyok, a rural locality in Yakutia, is working to make it possible for young people to find work in reindeer herding today – a career choice which remains popular despite urbanization.
“Deer is everything for us. As the Russian people used to have a horse, so for the inhabitants of Olenyok- a deer… All our culture, our livelihood is connected with the reindeer. It’s part of our history, it is part of our tradition. It has been as such for years and years. Reindeer is primarily a friend for us.” – Marina Nikolaeva
Marina considers ALROSA the government’s primary partner in the overarching effort to have reindeer removed from the vulnerable species list. In this manner, Russia’s “forever diamonds” are being used toward the preservation of Russia’s “living diamonds” – and jobs for future generations of the herders who love them.
Written by John Pollard
What do you associate with “Russia”? Are you old enough to remember “duck and cover” drills? The Soviet hammer and sickle? The Miracle on Ice? Have you been to Russia since the Berlin Wall fell? Do you like caviar? Did you know ALROSA is the world’s largest diamond miner?
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|On Tuesday, 24th August 2021, our Educational Advisor, John Pollard, and guest Rob Bates, one of the most recognized journalists in the diamond and jewelry industry, discussed all things diamond-related, including some of the most engaging and explosive stories from the industry, and Rob’s recent novel, “A Murder is Forever” appropriately set in the New York Diamond District.
Watch it here.