Welcome to Mirny
Diamond-Mining Centre of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia)

The "ALROSA" Historical-Production Museum

[ Photo ]

On August 22, 1954, a geologist from Leningrad, whose name was Popugayeva L. A., and a worker Belikov F. A. discovered the first kimberlite pipe (primary deposit of diamonds) on the territory of the Yakutian ASSR, and they named it "Zarnitsa", which means "summer lightning".

On June 13, 1955, a group of geologists discovered the pipe "Mir" in the region of the river Irelyakh. (In Russian, mir means peace.) They sent a cryptic telegram which became famous: "Lit the peace-pipe: tobacco is excellent..." All in all, more than 15 pipes were discovered in 1955.

At the end of July 1955, geologists and workers of the Amakinskaya expedition were sent to the Mir pipe to carry out preparatory works. They founded a settlement on the bank of the river Irelyakh. The world press published in 1955-56 reports of the following type:

"Yakutian diamonds occur in quite unreachable places ... Neither beasts nor birds can get to the kimberlite pipes, not in winter or in summer ..."

Yes, kimberlite pipes indeed occurred in the severe uninhabited places of western Yakutia, on a vast western territory of 166,000 km. There were only 3 settlements with a population about 1000 people, then. No navigable rivers, no roads, no timber, swampy areas, marshes, frosts to minus 50-60 degrees centigrade in winter, heat and mosquitoes in summer. The nearest large settlement Mukhtuya was 240 km away from Mirny. There were no electric stations nearby. Everything had to be brought here, starting with needles and including tents, tools, food, and so on. And most important, it was necessary to attract to these severe parts people who would overcome all the hardships in order to master these uninhabited areas of the Extreme North.

In June 1956, the Government Commission of the Ministry of Non-ferrous Metallurgy (MNM), headed by Vorobyev K. V., came to the Mir pipe, and, in 1957, already made a conclusion about the possibility of industrial exploitation of the pipe. The government approved of the project to master the Yakutian diamonds. And the same year, 1956, the first urgent loads of necessary supplies came along the Lena river (about 30 ton). The loads were brought to the settlement Mukhtuya (the town of Lensk today), unloaded by hand, and stored straight on the bank of the river. There was no port on the Lena and no warehouses there at that time. There was no road to Mirny either. When the frosts came, the trucks with the urgent loads of all necessary things started for Mirny along a cutting rammed with snow. Drivers called this road the "Narrow Passage".

The government addressed the young people, calling them for the mastering of the diamond deposits. People, recruited or directed by Komsomol organizations, began to come to Mirny. On arrival, they were accommodated in 10-, 20-bed tents. Such notions as "tents" and the "North" are incompatible things, but such was the reality. In order to provide at least a minimal positive temperature in the tents, the workers had to install iron stoves and keep them heated all the days round. There was an extreme lack of tents, as well.

Tikhonov V. I., the first manager of "Yakutalmaz" Concern, was appointed the leader of all works of civil and industrial construction. Zhelyabin L. V. was the first chief engineer.

In 1956, the Mir pipe was delineated, the borders were determined, and the first rock from this pipe produced diamonds of high grade. On March 8, 1957, the Concern started construction according to the general plan. The work of hacking cuttings and clearing the territory for the future town began. One of the cuttings was hacked by "messengers" of Leningrad, another one by "messengers" of Moscow. In memory of this, Moscovskaya Street and Leningradsky Avenue appeared in our town. Felled trees were put closely together along the cuttings. These were the first roads of Mirny, the so-called "spreads".

According to a decision of USSR MNM, the plant #17 in the Urals was dismantled, marked and delivered to Mirny. On March 18, 1957, the foundation for the first benefication plant #1 was laid on a hard basalt foundation.

Being aware of the significance of diamonds for the country, people worked 14-16 hours a day without weekends and holidays. The plant was mounted in 3.5 months instead of the 7 as planned. On June 5, 1957, the equipment of the plant was installed and tested; and on July 10, it produced the first industrial diamonds. The ore from the open pit was delivered to the plant only in winter, because of impassable mud in summer. In 1958, plant #2 was constructed. Together with the construction of industrial facilities, the building of wooden structures in Mirny expanded, one-storey at first, then, from 1958, two-storey. Building of the houses in Leningradsky Avenue started right away in a stone variant on pile basements. The first planned house was laid in March 1957.

Meanwhile, the question of energy was solved in different ways. Small electric motors were installed in the open pit "Mir", in the settlement, in the industrial zone. In August 1958, the first diesel electric station produced the first current. On September 27, 1960, Mirny received energy from 15 power-engineering trains and 5 diesel-carriages from Lensk along temporary wooden poles of an electric power transmission line (EPTL). The construction of EPTL in Yakutia was headed for 25 years by Tkach A. G. In 1958, the Ministry of Power Engineering of the USSR adopted a decision to construct Vilyuyskaya hydro-power-station (HPS) ~ the first one on permafrost. Batenchouk V. N. was appointed the head of Vilyuygasstroy, Biyanov G. F. the chief engineer. It took 7 years to construct and launch the station (1960-1967).

On January 22, 1960, a group of geologists of the Amakinskaya Expedition headed by Izarov Vladimir discovered the pipe "Aykhal", which in translation from the Yakut language means "Glory". Kadzov G. A., Osetian by nationality, former deputy manager on general issues of the "Yakutalmaz" Concern, was appointed as the leader supervising all the works at Aykhal. He headed the "Aykhal" mine until 1969.

The first group of people was sent to Aykhal in December 1960. A column of trucks and tractors with volunteers and urgent loads for the new mine was forcing its way through the taiga along the watercourse of the frozen river. This column was led by a courageous experienced person Korsyuk A. A. The people blazed the trail of 620 km to Aykhal for more than a month.

The construction of wooden houses, and the first turn of plant #8, began there. On August 7, 1961, the plant produced the first diamonds of Aykhal.

Development of the Aykhal terrain was also accompanied by northern hardships. Mosquitoes, mud, absence of passable roads in summer, severe frosts of the Polar Circle in winter. Illumination of the settlement started with electric engines, then electricity came to Aykhal along temporary poles of the EPTL (Electric Power Transmission Line) from the Vilyuyskaya HPS.

The open pit Mir works in a special way. Its depth is 500 meters. There is the Izhorsky excavator at the bottom of the pit. (In the museum, we can see a model-copy of that excavator but very much reduced in size.) The excavator loads the rock on Belaz trucks, and they deliver it to the plant. There are 4-5 m high mills in the plant. The rock is crushed and transported to X-ray luminescent separators (there are also grease and foam-fluid separators). Diamonds are identified by X-ray beams. They are screened into special holes.

17 km off the city is the "International" pipe for the underground mining of diamonds. Here in the museum, we can see a model of the head frame, which is on the surface of the mine, and of the hoisting machine, which carries people down into the mine and which lifts kimberlite up to the surface. The mine has two shafts. One shaft is 1060 metres and the second shaft is 2040 metres deep. And these are models of combines; one of the actual combines is Russian, the other is foreign. We can also see here some of the tools for the miners' personal use, without which they are not allowed to go down into the mine.

The pipe Udachnaya was discovered in 1955. Udachnaya was mastered without tents. The city of Udachny was designed as a city under a shelter (dome), as it had to be protected from northern winds. Blocks of dwelling houses had to be connected by galleries, and people were supposed to live for months without going outdoors. But that was only a project which did not turn into reality.

In the museum, we can see the cups of the sports club "Almaz", won in mini-football. They were received by our sportsmen in 1992 in Lisbon, Portugal, and in 1993 in Spain.

In 1961, a small research laboratory gave birth to the Research Institute "Yakutniproalmaz", which still works successfully for the diamond mining industry. Construction of open pits, tailings dumps, plants, Vilyuyskaya HPS, dwelling houses and communications, the scheme of diamond benefication: this is far from being a complete list of the developments and initiatives of the Institute.

After extraction, the diamonds are transported to the sorting facility: they are examined, weighed, detected in colour, graded (1 carat is equal to 0.2 gram); then they are delivered to the diamond-cutting plants of Russia. More than half of the diamonds is sold to the De Beers Company.

Looking at the museum photos, we can see a depiction of the largest diamond mined in Yakutia. It was given the name of the "26th CPSU Congress". The weight of the diamond is 352.5 carat. This diamond was extracted on December 23, 1980, from kimberlite of the Mir pipe at plant #3. The diamond is transparent with lemon tint.

Diamonds have indicator minerals ~ semiprecious stones, which are used in the jewellery industry. Red pyropes, green chrizolites, yellow zircons. When geologists came across pyropes, they knew that it was an obvious sign indicating that the diamonds were close by.

Here in the museum, we are able to see the natural shape of diamond faceting ~ octahedron. In the upper row of this display, we can see the grade ~ the carats are given to compare the volumes. At another stand in the museum, we can see faceted zircons, which are indicator minerals of diamond.

Brilliant faceting is represented in these forms for us to see:

  1. marquis/marquess
  2. princess
  3. trillion
  4. baguette
  5. octobrite

The most precious thing in Russia is the Crown of the Russian Empire with 5500 diamonds in it, most of which are of Indian origin. Of course you know of the Russian writer Griboyedov who was the Ambassador of Russia in Persia and who was murdered by rebels there. To compensate for this loss to Russia, the Persian Shah presented the diamond "Shah" to the Russian tsar. We have pictures of these treasures for us to view in the museum, too.

In 1995, there was a kimberlite conference in Moscow where kings of the diamond industry gathered. In other pictures in the museum, we can see Nicholas Oppenheimer who is the President of the Supreme Council of Belgium, Henih Appelbaum who is the Director General of the Diamond Department of a Belgium Bank, and others. At another photo stand, we can see people who were awarded the highest governmental honours: the Gold Star of the Labour Heroes. Among them is Tikhonov V.I. who was the first director of "Yakutalmaz", Soldatov L.L. who was the Director General of "Yakutalmaz", as well as some ordinary workers.

In still another exhibit, we can see samples of summer and winter national clothes for men and women. It is interesting to note that, long before the time when the Russians came to Yakutia, native people could work in iron and silver. The latter was widely used in jewellery, which beautifully matched their dark eyes and black hair. The head-dress that we can see is called a bastinga. The gown is an haladaï. It is suede, loose cut, sleeveless, trimmed with sable and glass beads. A breast adornment is decorated with Yakut ornamental carving. These summer shoes are made of rovdugi, specially wrought leather, and are decorated with national ornaments of suede and cloth.

A shaman's costume is made of leather. There are a lot of amulets, which were considered to protect the shaman during his imaginary visits to a world or worlds beyond the grave. When a person got ill, the shaman put on the costume, made a fire, and began to drum while running around it. He recited incantations, and then, in ecstasy, he imagined himself to be in a world beyond the grave, fighting against evil demons for the sick man's soul. If the shaman was successful, the very person recovered.

In another display case, we can see feminine decorations made of silver: earrings, bracelets and rings. Other items are made of mammoth bone, for instance: a Yakut national cup, known as a choron, as well as a reindeer team, a Yakutian crane, and a Yakut god, Baï Anaï, the master of the Yakutian land. The knives that we can see are decorated with mammoth bone.

We see a figurine representing the Yakut national legendary hero Nyurgun Bootur, who fought, as the legend goes, against evil and won. Alongside is a figurine representing his bride. These figures are dressed in particular winter clothes. Only the rich Yakut princes and princesses wore such things.

Here, also, are a national musical instrument, known as homus; and here is a smoking pipe.

Returning to the mineral exhibits, we find samples of the diamond satellites: red pyropes, yellow zircons, light green chrizolites, dark green khromdiopside. A large khromdiopside stone was worn by Grigoriy Rasputin, who used to be on close terms with tsar's family, and it is said that the stone helped him to protect himself from being poisoned.

Here we can see exact strass copies of some large diamonds mined in the Mirny region. The diamonds were named after outstanding people or events. For instance, one was named after Anna Akhmatova because it was found on the eve of the birthday of the Great Russian poetess. Remarkable is the fact that when it was weighed the number of carats turned out to correspond to the number of years she had lived.

Samples are available for us to see from the kimberlite pipes Zarnitsa, Tayezhnaya, Udachnaya, Dolgozhdannaya, and others. All in all, about 900 pipes have been discovered in Yakutia.

Pay attention to this composition. Here we see a depiction of the native people dancing the osuohaï, the Yakut national dance. They are dressed in national costumes decorated with the furs of sable, silver fox, northern deer.

One can see semiprecious stones of Yakutia, also: lazurite, charoite, jasper, onyx, jade, amethyst, agate, and others. There is a legend that when God was flying over the earth, he had a sack with gems in his hands. His hands got frozen when he was over Yakutia. He could not hold it any more and scattered the gems, which later were found as diamonds and other minerals in the depths of this land by the people.

In the centre of the hall of the museum, we can see a mammoth tusk found in the Nizhne Kalymsk district. This tusk is some ten thousand years old. Bone cutters made a bas-relief in it, which reflects the history of the discovery of the diamonds, the history of the construction of the town and development of diamond-mining industry, and even depicts the co-operation with De Beers Company. This mammoth tusk weights 56 kg, and is 3m 20cm long. It is decorated with pure silver. This is a trading mark of ALROSA Company. The tusk rests in a birch saddle, in which we can see a representation of the open pit "Mir".

Copyright ©Mirny Lyceum-School 2002. All rights reserved.
Project by 11th Year Students of the Lyceum-School in Mirny
Project Supervisor: Maikova T. N.