Gold Mining Industry

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gold Mining Industry


a branch of the mining industry engaged in the extraction of gold from bedrock and placer (alluvial) deposits.

Gold has been mined since ancient times. In the modern era, gold has been extracted in various countries in which rich deposits were discovered: Ghana (1471), Mexico (1500), Peru and Chile (1532), Brazil (1577), Russia (the Urals, 1745), Canada (Quebec, 1823), the USA (California, 1848; Colorado, 1858; Nevada, 1859: Alaska, 1890), Australia (1851), and the Republic of South Africa (1884). The discovery of these and many other gold-bearing regions with large bedrock and placer deposits and the general development of technology in the late 19th and early 20th century were responsible for the large growth of the gold mining industry: 763 tons in the 16th century, 914 tons in the 17th century, 1,890 tons in the 18th century, 11,616 tons in the 19th century, and 54,714 tons in the 20th century (up to 1970, excluding the socialist countries). The gold fields of Alaska attracted tens of thousands of persons, many of whom became the victims of “gold fever” and perished from sickness and the harsh living and working conditions.

In the territory of the USSR gold was mined intermittently throughout history in the Caucasus, the Carpathians, the Urals, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, and the Far East. The year 1745, however, when the Berezovo gold-ore deposit was discovered in the Urals, is recognized as the official beginning of the gold mining industry in Russia. Considerable developments were made in the gold mining industry after 1814, when numerous placer deposits were first exploited in the Urals and, somewhat later, in various regions of Siberia.

In tsarist Russia, gold mining was confined primarily to placer deposits. Until 1917 no more than ten relatively large bedrock deposits were being mined. The gold mining industry was of a rather primitive nature; only rich ores and placers were mined. Gold mining was based mainly on the use of manual labor; mechanized mining methods first began to appear in the late 19th and early 20th century. The development of the gold industry in prerevolutionary Russia facilitated the opening of new territories, including Eastern Siberia, where new settlements sprang up.

In 1900 foreign capital began to flow heavily into Russia’s gold industry. In 1914 foreign sources accounted for 55 percent of the gold industry’s capital.

After the October Revolution, the Soviet government gave top priority to the development of the Lena and Ural gold mining regions. The great importance of the gold industry to the state was manifested in the decree On the Gold and Platinum Industries issued by the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR on Oct. 31, 1921. A congress of gold mining industry workers was convened in 1926 to establish guidelines for the restoration and mechanization of gold mining industrial enterprises. Rich gold-bearing placer deposits were discovered in 1923 in the Aldan area; bedrock deposits were discovered in the same region in 1930; 1928 saw the discovery of the Balei deposit and the first of numerous large placer deposits in the Kolyma river basin. The Dzhugdzhur and Indigirka gold-bearing regions were discovered in 1933, followed by the Chukotka region in the 1950’s, and the Kular region in the 1960’s. Numerous placer deposits were discovered, and reserves were increased considerably at major bed-rock deposits, in the old gold-bearing regions of the Urals, the Lena taiga, the Amur River, the Primor’e, and the Enisei Ridge. Large bedrock deposits were discovered in the 1960’s in Central Asia, Kazakhstan, the Caucasus, and the Far East.

The Soviet gold mining industry has been transformed into a technologically equipped branch of industry. Gold prospecting has been important in the development of the gold mining industry. The mining of placer deposits is done primarily by the open-cut method with the use of modern, high-efficiency technology (heavy-duty bulldozers and excavators) and dredging and hydraulic methods. Bedrock deposits are mined by the open-cut and underground methods. The ore is recovered at plants with the complete cycle process. Highly qualified personnel and specialists in the gold mining industry have been trained, and prospecting and mining camps, towns, and settlements have become well-organized cultural centers.

Future increases in the extraction of gold from bedrock deposits and continued long-term stable placer mining are assured by the reserves already explored ana the plans for their development.

The gold mining industry in capitalist countries. Approximately 1,140 tons of gold per year were mined in capitalist countries during the 1940’s; World War II caused a drop in gold production to 659 tons in 1945. (For individual capitalist countries, see Table 1.)

Table 1. Gold extraction in capitalist countries (in tons)
 1939195016901970 (estimate)
1 Including the production of Burma and Pakistan
2 For countries listed and all other capitalist countries
South Africa, Republic of ..........39903627665 19997
Canada ..........1584138.1144.074.2
United States ..........143771 251 8529
Australia ..........
Japan ..........2594 88.178
Mexico ..........
India ..........9816 1502.9
Total2 ..........1,074.0751.01 ,057.01,293.8

Subsequently, because of the gold conglomerates of the Witwatersrand (Republic of South Africa), gold production increased despite a gradual decrease in gold production in other countries of the capitalist world. Placer deposits in the capitalist countries are almost completely exhausted, yielding only approximately 30 tons of gold annually. Approximately 65 tons of side-recovery gold are extracted each year during the mining of copper, lead and zinc, and other complex deposits.


Danilevskii, V. V. Russkoe zoloto. Moscow, 1959.
Rozhkov, I. S., and A. P. Morov. Zoloto. Yakutsk, 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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