Aisen Nikolayev reported that the republic was making good progress and that he saw his main task in ensuring that during this complicated times, Yakutia remains a strong economic base for the country, as it had always been throughout history. The results, particularly for the past year, show that despite all odds the republic is forging ahead.
The President said that he was familiar with all the positive trends in industry, agriculture and in the construction sector. A particularly pleasant fact, the President stressed, was that Yakutia’s natural population growth indicators were good in general and higher than the national average. The same was true of the growing permanent population numbers.
Aisen Nikolayev said that he regarded this as a result of the policy of supporting the Russian Far East. He confirmed that Yakutia ranks seventh in the country in terms of birth rates and is first in the Far East. People are no longer leaving the republic. In May 2018, when he was put in charge of the republic, it had a population of around 960,000. This year, the population should reach one million people.
According to Mr Nikolayev, much is being done to support families. Last year, the year of the 100th anniversary of the Yakutian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, was declared the Year of the Mother, and the Head of the Republic resolved to pay out 100,000 rubles to every family where a child was born in 2022. This year, Aisen Nikolayev has heeded people’s requests and decided to extend this practice for five years.
Vladimir Putin noted that the natural population growth and the increase in the number of permanent residents was an integrated indicator of the economic and social policy work.
The President also suggested that Mr Nikolayev should pay attention to the labour market. Aisen Nikolayev said that although unemployment had declined from 7 to slightly over 6 percent in recent years, there was potential for improvement. Special attention would be paid to programmes for training and retraining personnel, because Yakutia’s production sector is growing fast, and the demand for skilled workers and engineers is very high. He reported that the coal industry was making headway. In 2017, coal output amounted to 16 million tonnes; last year, 39 million tonnes of coal was produced, primarily by Elgaugol (over 24 million tonnes), Kolmar and Yakutugol.
All companies are growing. Elgaugol is building its private railway from its coal fields to the Pacific coast via the Khabarovsk Territory. A deep-water port with a capacity of 30 million tonnes is being built. At the fields, over 10 coal-preparation plants are being built, with two already completed. An airfield is also being constructed.
According to the Head of the Republic, the most interesting and important investment projects are the ALROSA project for the Mir-Gluboky mine and the Kyuchus gold ore deposit near the Arctic Ocean coast, a project implemented together with Rosatom, gold miners and the Seligdar Group. The project is interesting because this is the first comprehensive national project. At the tender stage, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment stipulated a specific condition that it should be powered up from a small nuclear power plant: a 110-megawatt NPP will be built there.
All decisions have already been adopted. This year, Rosatom is moving to build a rotational camp for workers. The NPP should be ready by 2028, and this will make it possible to develop the largest gold ore deposit with almost 200 tonnes of gold and a number of rare-earth metals and tin deposits. This will help accelerate development in the Arctic. Construction of a deep-water port near Tiksi is being currently discussed.
Vladimir Putin noted that it was necessary to develop the region. The Government of Russia supports the republic in developing this vast territory, Mr Nikolayev said. There are plans for the next three years to lay fibre-optic communication lines in all Arctic areas of Yakutia, to reach the Arctic Ocean coast and to connect to the ocean fibre-optic communication line cable running along the Northern Sea Route. From the safety point of view, this will substantially improve the connectivity of Yakutia’s entire territory.
Answering to the President’s question about preparations ahead of wildfire season, Mr Nikolayev thanked him for supporting the republic in 2021 when federal funding was increased almost six-fold, while the republic has increased its allocations threefold. Back then, 1,600 fires claimed over 7 million hectares of forest. In 2022, a total of 500 fire cases was registered, gutting about 500,000 hectares, a 14-fold drop and an all-time low in the history of recorded observations. All funding was spent on hiring additional full-time specialists. Although the republic is still lagging behind Soviet-era standards, it is starting to catch up: equipment has been purchased and the number of aerial monitoring routes has increased.
Mr Nikolayev noted that last year, the republic conducted an experiment by engaging for the first time aircraft for generating rains in fire-prone territories, and this proved helpful.
This year will not be easy either, the Head of Yakutia said. To reduce the number of forest fires, the area controlled by fire-prevention units has been expanded: it increased from 40 million hectares in 2021 to 50 million hectares in 2022 and to 70 million this year. Additional forces were also deployed.