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Experts named areas in which states should take on the role of a regulator


The Rector of St. Petersburg Mining University Vladimir Litvinenko's speech at the International Forum "Nature Management and Conservation of the World Natural Heritage", dedicated to the need to strengthen the role of the state in the regulation of the mineral resource complex, caused a wide public response. Scientists, politicians and heads of specialized companies are unanimous in their assessments: the government must develop a transparent and effective strategy for managing the extraction and processing of resources. And to offer the subsoil users such "rules of the game", which would be beneficial both for them and for the society as a whole.

To do this, in particular, it is necessary to create the most favorable conditions for investment in the economy of high redistribution and to determine the minimum amount of minerals that must be involved in deep processing. This will not only contribute to the creation of new, high-tech jobs, but will also create the preconditions for the growth of domestic demand and the purchasing power of Russians.

"I totally agree. Our creator made us blessed with a rich resource base, and the government's job is to make the best of it. Business has a different task: to quickly extract raw materials from the bowels of the earth and sell them, preferably abroad, to gain foreign currency. The state, if it acts in the interests of the people, must be concerned about increasing the number of enterprises engaged in deep processing, including those that produce consumer goods. This is the only way to maximize added value. To achieve this goal, the government must work out clear rules and force business to comply with them. Naturally, with the prospect of fair profits. With this formulation of the issue, our industrialists will soon realize that it is actually much more profitable for them to produce high-margin goods than to export raw materials as it is now," said Sergey Filippov, Director of the Energy Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, an expert in the field of forecast system and technological research in the energy sector.

Sergey Serdyukov, the former Technical Director of Nord Streem 2 AG, an expert of the Federation Council of the RF, also thinks that hydrocarbons should be in demand, first of all, in oil and gas chemistry. Mankind has long ago learned how to make polymers that can be used in the production of cosmetics, household appliances, housewares, clothing, and even medicines. It is the state's duty to create conditions for the development of this industry. The main thing is that the regulation should not take the same "bizarre" forms as in the EU.

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"We have built two of the largest gas pipelines in the world, and I am sure that no one will ever repeat our achievement. But when we told our European partners that we needed 18 thousand cubic meters of gas per year for blowing instruments, it took them a month and a half to approve the permit. And now there are 280 million cubic meters of methane escaping from the pipes controlled by Western countries and located in their water areas. The figures are incomparable," said Sergei Serdyukov.

He is sure that mineral resources should be available to everyone regardless of the region of the planet he lives in. It does not mean that they should be "handed out like candy in a kindergarten," but only that trade in them "should be based on fair principles." Equally important is the preservation of ecosystems, that is, the gradual reduction of the burning of fossil fuels in thermal power plants and internal combustion engines.

"I am convinced that when my grandchildren retire, 40% of the world's energy will come from geothermal sources. Why doesn't the government consider this in its strategic plans? Doesn't it set a task for scientists to engage in such a promising area of research? Doesn't it act as a link between business and science? Of course, the role of the government should be much more obvious," the expert believes.

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Another, no less important task facing the state is to create conditions in which private companies will be interested in prospecting and exploring for minerals. Obviously, without a revival of the system of effective replenishment of the domestic resource base, which underlies all production chains, talk of technical sovereignty will be no more than an "empty sound." So far, corporations are not actually motivated to engage in this area of activity. After all, neither monetary compensation nor the priority right to obtain a license for the development of deposits discovered by their geologists is provided for in Russia. In other words, for the most part, we continue to live with the reserves created back in the Soviet Union.

"The process of adequate reproduction of reserves through new discoveries has long been destroyed and does not work. And the potential for reproduction by means of additional exploration of the exploited fields has been practically exhausted. This is a given, which will lead to very sad consequences, if the state regulators do not stop constantly postponing the decision "for later". Establishment of junior companies will not be a panacea for solving the reproduction problem, it's a profanation," said Alexander Natalenko, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Novatek.

Valery Yazev, head of the Russian National Committee of the World Petroleum Council, focused on the "highly sensitive topic": lithium and rare-earth metals. Today the world produces about 280 thousand tons of REMs, but the share of Russia in this market is ridiculously small. Moreover, only China has the full technology for extracting, processing, and producing the end product in the form of oxides, alloys, and ligatures. Even the US military-industrial complex, despite the discovery of several large deposits in the US and its allies, is still dependent on supplies from China, since the US has created 3,400 different weapons systems, which leads to the consumption of huge amounts of REM.

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"The state, as a regulator, must intensify scientific research in this area, because otherwise only a narrow group of countries will have specialized knowledge-intensive technologies. And we will not have access to them and will lose our most important competitive advantage. Aviation, space, military-industrial complex, alternative energy, electric cars - the development of all these and many other areas depends on the availability of appropriate raw materials and production chains. There was a top-secret program of thermonuclear research in the USSR. At the initiative of Soviet scientists, it became open, which gave an additional impetus to scientific breakthroughs in this area. Perhaps we should make a similar proposal. But the decisive role in this matter should, of course, belong to the state," believes Valery Yazev.

The problem is that in addition to their knowledge-intensive nature, all these technologies that are now being actively implemented in the U.S. and Europe are also very harmful to nature. The mining and processing of rare earth metals and lithium generates huge amounts of liquid and solid waste. For this reason, many countries have strict restrictions on their production, and in some places their extraction is even strictly forbidden.

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"It is the state that must ensure a balance between the interests of subsoil users and ecology. To develop regulations in this area. After all the main task of any company is profit making, so the presence of clear environmental standards, allowing on the one hand to minimize risks for the environment, and on the other hand - to maintain the economic attractiveness of business, is a fundamental condition for reducing the anthropogenic impact on the nature", - said the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Tatarstan Alexander Shadrikov.

Foreign participants of the forum agreed with the opinion of Vladimir Litvinenko about "deep inequality" in the distribution of the rent from the exploitation of natural resources on a planetary scale. More and more experts in different regions of the world are becoming convinced with each year that Western countries have created a system of international relations that allows them to externally manage the natural resources of others.

Many developing countries are unable to control their own resource base due to lack of technology, investors and local engineering personnel. However, when they ask for assistance from transnational corporations headquartered in the EU and the United States, they become totally dependent on them and practically deprive themselves of the opportunity to fully monetize their resources, as they delegate this right to post-industrial powers.

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"Over the past four decades, the role of the state has indeed been diminished almost everywhere in the world. Neoliberal corporatist capitalism has simply subjugated many governments at the expense of global control of resources and capital. I wholeheartedly agree with Vladimir Litvinenko and believe that the state should have more power and play a more significant role in the regulation of the mineral resources sector," says Ali Taraban, vice president of Lebanese International University.

His colleague Paul Omojo Omaji, Rector of the Admiralty University of Nigeria, stressed that governments, while increasing their involvement in mining and processing management within a particular country, should not take on the role of an employer. In other words, business should ideally take care of production, while the central and regional authorities should only develop transparent industry rules and standards, including those related to environmental conservation, and, of course, monitor their implementation.

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"In Nigeria, the government for decades controlled everything, including hydrocarbon production (through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which participates in every project in partnership with Western companies - ed.). But, unfortunately, the system when the state itself participates in production creates certain risks associated primarily with the lack of competition. That is why this company was transformed into a limited liability company a few months ago. So soon we will be able to see in practice which of these two schemes is more effective," Paul Omojo Omaji said.

Yuri Shafrannik, President of the Union of Oil Producers of Russia, is sure that a competitive environment is the basis of effective business. But creating a favorable business climate, as well as defining the framework of competition in the market, is, first of all, a state affair.

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"I have worked in 12 countries of the world, so I can say with confidence that no country, even the weakest one, can have subsoil use without the leading role of the state. And I can give any number of examples from Canada to Norway. For example, the director of the Norwegian department, which is responsible for taxes and issuing licenses for subsoil use, under the law has the right to provide them to one company. But in practice it does not happen. Because 3-4 companies create a competitive environment, which makes them more efficient and ensures progressive socio-economic development of the society".

The Iranian participants of the forum also have no doubt that it is practically impossible to achieve technical sovereignty without a decisive role of the state.

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"Our situation in Iran is a good example, because we have been under sanctions for many years. We have focused all of our resources and all of our attention on local production and local technology, and it is this decision that has allowed us to survive despite the unprecedented economic restrictions. However, we have developed different sectors of the economy in different ways. For example, the oil and gas and mining complexes are managed by private companies. But the government has its finger on the pulse all the time - we pass new laws, issue new regulations, and introduce new taxes fairly quickly. In other words, we do exactly what Professor Litvinenko talked about - we optimize the rules and requirements for market players in accordance with the current market situation," said Vice Minister of Oil of Iran Azim Kalantariasl.

According to Sergei Emelchenkov, General Director of the Tsifra group of companies, any market always needs to be controlled by the government. After all, its participants themselves are unlikely to be able to work out mutually beneficial rules of the game.

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"Defining the software registry, removing restrictions on financial transactions to friendly countries, moving away from the dollar in international trade and transition to settlements in national currencies, defining strategic technologies, the financing of which should be a priority. All this is a function of the state, the sphere of its immediate interests, which will develop in the right direction only in case of strengthening of regulatory measures by the government," - said Sergey Emelchenkov.

Yuri Razorenov, Rector of the Platov Southern Russian State Polytechnic University (NPI), says that "increasing economic efficiency of operation of the mineral resource complex is the most important condition for growth of investment in human and social capital." However, this task requires a serious modernization of the entire system of subsoil use, shifting the emphasis toward high-tech industrial sectors and companies of deep processing.

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"The creation of a transparent and effective national policy regarding the extraction and processing of minerals today becomes particularly acute and requires systemic state regulation, in particular - increased responsibility for irrational subsoil use. Only systemized measures of state administration will be able to strike a balance between economic efficiency, the preservation and reproduction of the natural environment and the development of human capital," Razorenov is convinced.

Magomed Mintsayev, Rector of Grozny State Petroleum Technological University named after Academician Millionshchikov, also thinks that increasing the number of competent engineering personnel is one of the most important tasks facing the state today. But it should be solved not by abrupt withdrawal from the Bologna process, but by evolutionary, understandable to all participants of the scientific and educational community, system-forming steps.

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"In our opinion, it is not productive to abolish the Bologna format in a revolutionary way just for the sake of "abolishing" it. The process of increasing the share of the admission quotas for specialist training areas should be based on the demand of the real sectors of the economy, including the key employers themselves. Our university, for example, this year, with the support of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, has increased the number of budgetary places in a number of specialist programs. We have a total of eleven of them, but the areas in which we requested an increase were initially agreed with the administration of the Republic and companies representing various sectors of our economy. That is, we concentrated our efforts exclusively on those areas, which are of interest to potential employers of our students. This is an example of effective integration of high school and business with the participation of federal and regional authorities acting as a regulator," said Magomed Mintsayev.

Yuri Karaev, Director of Program Development Center for Sustainable Development of Mountain Territories at North-Caucasus Mining and Metallurgical Institute, called the biggest plus of the International Forum, which took place on the platform of St. Petersburg Mining University, "the coverage of modern conditions and the special role of mineral resources in the sustainable development of mankind." He also proposed "to make it a regular event and in some areas to make it permanent."

This initiative fully correlates with the text of the final declaration adopted by the conference delegates. It states "the need to establish an international expert group to develop proposals for the principles of environmental management in the context of the conservation of cultural and natural heritage sites."

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