Digging for gold in one of Earth’s coldest spots

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The depletion of Soviet-era gold deposits and a weak ruble are pushing Russia into expanding mining operations for the precious metal at home, in one of the harshest environments on Earth.

It gets so cold here that during the winter some people keep their engines running 24/7 to keep from freezing. Minus 40 celsius, that’s routine.

But here in Russia’s Yakutia region, a weak ruble and the depletion of Soviet-era gold deposits is driving a new rush for that precious metal.

It presents some extreme challenges for miners.

Russia’s miners are no stranger to these conditions. The region was historically known for having unusually high amounts of gold ore just beneath the surface.

Enough that prisoners in Gulag labour camps used to be forced to pan for the stuff with their bare hands.

But less is found these days and the industry is switching to expensive factories and digging deep mines to keep production going.

It may be years before they turn a profit.

Russia is the third largest gold producer in the world, behind China and Australia — now trying to keep its spot, in this harsh environment.