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Who in Russia was called “the miner’s general”

© Форпост Северо-Запад / В стенах Санкт-Петербургского горного университета императрицы Екатерины II

Today, business coaches often hear the "cautionary tale of the life of Parkes Cadman", who lived at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. A boy from a poor family, from the age of 11 he was forced to work in a mine as a "ponyboy" - driving a coal wagon. At the unloading point he always kept a book and for the standard 120 seconds while the cart was being unloaded he managed to read a page or two. In 10 years the young man managed to devour more than a thousand books, as he was convinced that "only education can get him out of the mine". As a result, he was able to enter and successfully graduate from the University of London and Wesleyan College Seminary and become a famous writer and radio presenter in the USA.

Паркес Кадман
© Из книги Паркеса Кадмана, опубликованной в 1910 году.

However, domestic consultants could avoid digging into American history in search of an illustrative example - in Russia there are no less iconic individuals whose experience demonstrates how talent, persistence and hard work can change a seemingly preordained life path. One of them is Yuri Malyshev.

In the 1950s in Prokopyevsk, a sixteen-year-old boy pushed a wagon (like the same Kadman) along the slope of the Voroshilov mine. He was not allowed into the mine itself until he was 18, so he wanted to work temporarily as a pusher. This was the first position of the future Minister of Coal Industry (Chairman of the Coal Industry Committee of the Ministry of Fuel and Energy of Russia).

His father before the war worked as a chief designer at a factory producing torpedoes for the Navy in Makhachkala ("Dagdiesel"). During the evacuation of the plant to Alma-Ata, he contracted typhoid fever and died when the boy was three years old. Left without a breadwinner, the family had to literally survive on cards and the tiny maternal salary of a nurse.

By the adulthood Yuri Nikolayevich did not lose his desire to associate himself with the mine, but decided to enter it in a higher status than an ordinary tunneller. He entered the mining faculty of the Siberian Metallurgical Institute, and then went to the Kemerovo Mining Institute. During his studies the young man managed to visit all coal-mining regions of Russia - Donbass, Kuzbass, Vorkuta and the East.

Malyshev almost lost his life during one of his practical training. At that time mining was carried out in the most primitive way - with the help of jackhammers. The talented student was appointed a mining foreman. Among his duties included the need at the end of the shift to make measurements, how much each miner "cut off" coal.

"The face turned out to be steep and narrow - 66 degrees of dip at a seam thickness of 0.9 metres. I was taking measurements when suddenly coal sprinkled from above. A new shift came, didn't notice me and started working. The situation was critical, because in such conditions the lungs are instantly clogged with dust. I managed to shout, they heard me, stopped the process and helped me to crawl out. A mine is a mine, especially in those years...". - Yuri Nikolaevich recalled.

© Архив Академии горных наук, «Горная промышленность «Юниор»

This incident did not change his love for mining, but it was not forgotten either. Malyshev began to study the history of mining labour. He learnt that during the war, coal mining moved from the Donetsk Basin, which had been captured by the Germans, to Kuzbass. Coal, the "bread of industry", was urgently needed by the country - it provided work for steelmaking plants and gave heat to homes. Who could work in wartime? Women, German prisoners, detainees. It was incredibly hard labour, and many died. They fell into the furnace (an inclined underground mine), had accidents with special vehicles, suffocated and died in methane explosions. Many years later, Yuri Nikolaevich described in detail the living and working conditions of those workers in his book "Notes of a Mining Engineer".

"Among all mining enterprises, coal mines were the most dangerous. I more than once had to act as a participant in the liquidation of various accidents. It is a terrible business. Even after 60 years I still can't forget the first miner who died in my shift", - told Yuri Malyshev.

All these emotions and memories prompted a great professional goal - to make the coal industry fundamentally different. And Malyshev succeeded. Although, of course, not immediately and not without obstacles.

He worked in Kuzbass alone for more than 30 years: in 1963 he became an engineer at the Zyryanovskaya mine (Novokuznetsk), in 1975 - deputy technical director of Hydrougol, in 1978 - chief engineer of the Hydrougol association and director of the Zyryanovskaya mine, in 1980 - technical and general director of Yuzhkuzbassugol.

© Архив Академии горных наук, «Горная промышленность «Юниор»

The accumulated experience proved to be in great demand in the scientific community and mining management of the entire country. The specialist was invited to Moscow, where in 1889 he headed the Alexander Skochinsky Institute of Mining Engineering and was elected a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Department of Earth Sciences. At the same time he became Chairman of the Coal Industry Committee of the Russian Ministry of Fuel and Energy.

Finally, the time came for Yuri Nikolaevich to solve the most important socio-economic task - restructuring of the coal industry, bringing the industry out of the deep crisis, ensuring its effective development without subsidies from the state.

"Sometimes I wondered why it took us so long to reach the level of Western countries", - admitted the scientist.

He found part of the answer to this question in history. Participants of the famous Shakhtinsky affair of 1928 were shot or imprisoned for reducing the number of faces (the surface of the seam from which the extracted coal is separated), which allegedly led to failure to fulfil the plan. As a result, while Soviet coal miners were formally increasing the number of faces, the whole world was directly engaged in increasing the concentration (production) of coal. And, preferably, from a smaller number of faces. This had a direct impact on the peculiarities of design, cost of construction and development of mines.

© Архив Академии горных наук, «Горная промышленность «Юниор»

At the end of the 80s, the transition from planned to market economy, refusal from subsidised model of work required appropriate productivity and cost of labour.

Malyshev introduced modern technologies of underground coal mining taking into account the peculiarities of scientific and technological progress development and developed rational technological schemes of seam excavation in various mining and geological conditions. He closed unpromising and unsafe low-capacity mines in Donbass and Vorkuta, mines in the Tula Basin with brown coal, which was losing its relevance with the arrival of gas. In total, more than 200 mines were closed between 1993 and 1998. And at the same time, many enemies were made among governors, company executives and trade unions... But Yuri Nikolaevich knew what he was doing and why.

© Архив Академии горных наук, «Горная промышленность «Юниор»

On his initiative, the construction of new modern mines and coal enterprises began, specialists were sent abroad to master new technologies, a "second pension" was introduced, entire villages were relocated from the north of the country, where the mines had closed, to the central part of the country.

Further - more. The year 1993 was marked by the establishment of the state enterprise Russian Coal Company (Rosugol), designed to commercially manage state stakes in 90 per cent of Russia's core companies. Yuri Nikolayevich was appointed its general director by Viktor Chernomyrdin.

"When I took over Rosugol, more than 1.1 million people worked there, producing 400 million tonnes of coal. Now the same volume is mined by 150,000 people. In addition, modernisation has led to a reduction in injuries and deaths. According to dry statistics, previously one person died per 1 million tonnes of coal. Today there is one per 15 million tonnes. This is a completely different industry!" - Yuri Nikolayevich assessed the success of the undertaken restructuring of the industry.

Against the background of constant criticism of the coal industry in terms of its impact on the environment, Malyshev worked continuously to strengthen the image and position of the industry. In particular, he substantiated a new concept of forming the fuel and energy balance of the country taking into account a significant increase in the share of coal in it. The scientist's proposals were not unsubstantiated - he prepared scientific bases for the development of environmentally friendly coal energy, proposed new types of coal fuel (water-coal suspension and super clean carbon fuel) and coal combustion technologies. The main provisions of the concept were used in the development of the "General Scheme of Electric Power Industry Facilities Location until 2030" approved by the Russian Government.

© 22 сентября 2016 года Президент РФ Владимир Путин вручил Юрию Малышеву Орден Дружбы РФ

The academician with vast industrial experience enjoyed exceptional authority among his fellow miners and saw the development of the industry in the effective work of specialised public and scientific associations. After 1997, when Rosugol was transformed from a company into a joint-stock company, Malyshev focused on such organisations.

Thus, on his initiative, the Academy of Mining Sciences was established, the main tasks of which are still scientific and technical expertise on a wide range of issues related to the development of the domestic mineral and raw materials complex, defence of miners' interests in the authorities, and transfer of experience to novice specialists.

In 1999, Malyshev was unanimously elected President of the non-commercial partnership "Russian Miners" at the First Congress of Russian Miners, which he then headed for 14 years.

The scientist paid no less attention to the education of the new generation of mining specialists. He gave lectures at universities and organised numerous projects for schoolchildren and students at the Vernadsky State Geological Museum of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which he headed since 2010.

In 2022, at the 84th year of his life, Yuri Nikolayevich passed away. But colleagues and students still call the academician "miner general". This probably most accurately reflects his unwavering status as a mining engineer, whose biography reflects the entire history of our country's coal industry.