The USSR occupies one of the very first places in the world for the copy and variety of its mineral resources. Most of these, it is true, belong to the Asian sector; however, even limited to the territory which is west of the Urals, no European state and few in the other continents can compete with Russia in this respect. With all this, only in a very recent period has the extraction of raw materials started in an adequate way; the low potential of the extractive industry, its fragmentation, the lack or inadequacy of communication routes, the same imperfect knowledge of the real size of individual deposits have meant that Russia has participated in a relatively modest measure in world needs; on the contrary, by resorting to the internal import of minerals which it also has in abundance in its subsoil. Already the needs of the war period had stimulated a more intense search for various minerals; the tendency to reach, in this field as well, not only a large autonomy, but the possibility of a convenient grandiose industrial development, constituted one of the cornerstones of Soviet policy. On the other hand, the conditions necessary for this purpose had been prepared, at least potentially, by the Tsarist regime, under which a large part of the mineral wealth of the European sector had been recognized, studied and subjected to a first, albeit imperfect, treatment.
Of these riches, the most conspicuous are perhaps represented by the reserves of fuels, coal and naphtha, for which the USSR has the advantage not only of quantity, but also of an appropriate geographical distribution, since these are deposits that involve several regions. distinct. Even for naphtha, in fact, the deposits of which are almost all concentrated in Asia (the only one in Europe, near Syzran ′, on the middle Volga, is almost negligible), the Caspian and the Black Sea represent a easy and convenient way to the regions of southern Russia from the Caucasian sector, which alone provides 80% of the extracted quantity.
If for oil it is estimated that the reserves contained in the Russian subsoil represent no less than 35% of the world ones (from 2.8 to 3.5 billion tons according to estimates), for coal it is probable that the proportion is not equally high; however, it seems certain that at least 475-500 billion tons can be counted on, an equally enormous quantity, of which about 65% is represented by litantrax and 30% by anthracite. Of this mass of fuels, less than 1 / 5 belongs only to the European industry – essentially constituted by three major basins Donets, Moscow and Ural – but it is precisely the most intensely cultivated deposits, as shown in the following table allocating the quantities extracted in the European and Asian sectors of the USSR
The Donec basin, relevant from the Middle Carboniferous, covers an area of 23,000 sq km. The mineral emerges directly there, is found at a small depth, and consists for the most part of excellent anthracite; on the contrary, it is estimated that this accumulates in a reserve of almost 40 billion tons. about 60 of which the deposit becomes capable. The extraction, which had risen to 28 million tons. in 1913, it has largely exceeded this figure for several years. Even more extensive is the so-called Moscow basin (to the East. and S. of the city, between Tula and Kaluga), but its reserves probably do not exceed 12 billion tons; moreover, its cultivation is still too recent. As for the Urals, the coal deposits are numerous, but the only area that falls on European territory is that of Kizel, on the right of the Kama, just north of Perm ‘; however, it is important for its proximity to other (metalliferous) mines, excellent waterways and the Trans-Siberian. The contribution of the other mines is much less, among which, however, we want to remember that of Povenec, on Lake Onega.
The widespread local consumption of fuels – all the more widespread now, due to the intense pace given to industries – does not prevent ever more conspicuous quantities of extraction from being exported (from 97,000 tons in 1913 to 1,800,000 in 1930; moreover the fluctuations from year to year are always strong); however, coal and coke appear too modestly in the overall foreign trade of the USSR (1.7% in 1930, just over 2% in 1933).
The USSR is very rich in metal ores; as regards iron, its reserves have been calculated at over 2200 million tons. (i / i0 of the European ones, 1 / 25 about global ones): they are for more than 9% concentrated in the European sector, where there are three main groups of deposits: the Uralic, the central and the Ukrainian, each of which consisting of several fields. The first, which is also the oldest (the ore there began to be extracted at the end of the seventeenth century), provided up to 1870 more than 2 / 3of the national product: the mines are located on both sides of the Urals from approximately 60 ° N., up to beyond Zlatoust. The second is the result of a whole series of deposits that are only partially known and cultivated for a short time: those that lie in the Sejm basin are claimed to represent the richest mineral reserve, not only in Europe, but in the entire Earth. Most important of all, currently, the Ukrainian group, formed by the wells of Krivoj Rog on the right of the Dnieper, and by those of the Donec basin, extended from Artemovsk to the Sea of Azov. The latter, while acquiring special interest given the proximity of the richest coal mines in the USSR, yield it by far to the deposits of the Ingulec area, which is centered in Krivoj Rog. The mineral (red hematite) has an average iron yield of 60-62%, which however often reaches 70%, and is found at a depth of just 200 m. The reserves are calculated at approximately 575 million tons; the extraction, which for the whole of Ukraine did not exceed 470 thousand tons in 1931, yielded over 5 million in 1930 from the Krivoj Rog sector alone.
Also in this case, internal consumption absorbs a large part of the production of the USSR, to which the mines of Siberia and the Caucasus contribute, albeit to a relatively modest extent; the quantity of ore mined in recent years (over 10 million tons per year) places Russia in third place in the world in this regard; that exported already marks figures higher than the pre-war figures (551 thousand tons in 1929 against 462 thousand in 1913).
Prior to 1914, Russia was the largest supplier of manganese in the world, alone providing over 50% of its export (1.4 million tons of ore were mined in 1913). The two most conspicuous deposits, located in Transcaucasia and on the lower Dnieper (Nikopol ′; trust “Ruda”), have a slightly different power (70-80 million tons of reserves the first; 60-70 the second) ; others of lesser importance are in Crimea and in Ukraine itself. The extraction has undergone some ups and downs in the last decade, as well as the export (from 1.2 million tons in 1913 to 0.7 in 1931); however, it must be taken into account that the mineral is widely used in the steel industry, which has received a decisive boost from the five-year plans.
We can say that none of the other most important metallic minerals is missing from the USSR, but few have an interest comparable to those mentioned above – the production of copper, lead (8.5 thousand tons in 1929; 16, 1 in 1931) and zinc (3.2 thousand tons in 1929; 20 in 1931), for example, has only a local or national reflection – or they come from deposits in the Asian sector, as is also the case with precious metals. , and in the first place of platinum, in the production of which the USSR retains the world record. On the other hand, when we talk about the mining area of the Ural, the separation between the two sides has a completely conventional meaning, not only because there is a topographical and genetic unity, but also because here, with greater evidence than elsewhere in Russia, the concentration of mineral wealth has determined, in their exploitation, an interdependence, from which the life of the region takes on its own originality. However, as far as the European sector is concerned, it should be remembered, among the non-metallic minerals, magnesite, which is extracted from the Satka deposits, not far from Zlatoust (estimated capacity: 30 million tons), and feeds a good export.
Equally noteworthy are mercury (near Artemovsk) and phosphorites from Ukraine, and apatite from the Kola peninsula: the latter, discovered in 1930, was even responsible for the development of a new city (Chibinogorsk). Southern Russia largely contributes to the production of salt (rock salt from Artemovsk, in the Donets district, salt pans of the Black Sea, the Manyč depression, of Astrachan, etc.) and gypsum. The quantities referring to the extraction of the most important raw materials in recent years are shown in the previous table.