First Norilsk geologists were rivals

First Norilsk geologists were rivals

May 31, 2022

Vorontsov suspected Urvantsev of sabotage.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. In 1930 Vorontsov was sent to Norilsk as the geological exploration expedition’s head by the Tsvetmetzoloto head office. In 1935-1938 Alexander Vorontsov was the chief Norilskstroy’s engineer, then he headed the plant’s geological service until 1945. Vorontsov was one of the first seven Norilsk residents awarded the Order of Lenin for participation in the Norilsk deposits’ development in 1943.

Vorontsov is one of the discoverers of copper-nickel deposits of Ugolny Ruchey (eng.: Coal Creek) and Medvezhy Ruchey (eng.: Bear Creek). The first well drilled by an expedition in 1930 hit a large ore deposit. After this expedition Vorontsov went to Moscow and personally reported on its results Sergo Ordzhonikidze. Only after that it was decided to conduct a more detailed Norilsk region’s study.

From Vorontsov’s memories:

Ordzhonikidze received us late at night but nevertheless he listened very carefully and asked many questions about Norilsk. He told us about the our industry’s needs, suggested to explore the promising ore deposit Ugolny Ruchey in 2-2.5 years, to study the narrow gauge route in the direction of Dudinka – Norilsk at the same time and if possible to build more housing for future Norilsk’s builders. After the explored nickel reserves’ approval it will be possible to discuss metallurgical industry’s building in Norilsk in the government. He promised to provide the necessary assistance with drilling rigs and transport.

The Norilsk mining and industrial expedition was switched to the geological Norilsk exploration. I was appointed the expedition’s head, the deputy head of Ivan Zarembo, an experienced worker in the construction field. Zarembo, my wife Sofia and I went to Norilsk. We have been riding horses along the Yenisei for 28 days. Significant high quality ore reserves were explored at the Ugolny Ruchey deposit, the sulfide lens and disseminated Rudnaya Mountain’s ores’ reserves were expanded, and the ore deposit Norilsk-2 discovered by Urvantsev was explored. The expedition’s construction part carried out significant construction work: residential buildings, a chemical laboratory, a radio station and a small power station were built. In total more than 8,000 cubic meters of buildings were built which became the base for the first Norilsk’s builders in 1935.

Vorontsov was called ‘always second’ after Urvantsev: the 1920s – the Urvantsev’s time, the 1930s – Vorontsov’s. Vorontsov was jealous of his predecessor, the widely recognized Norilsk ore resources’ discoverer and the first territory’s explorer. He wrote letters to the CPSU Central Committee refuting the Urvantsev’s role, recalling that Urvantsev was sent to study Norilsk by Kolchakб not by Lenin. He hinted at sabotage: why has Urvantsev found only one microscopic ore deposit working for six years in Norilsk? This intransigence stood between the first Norilsk geologists until the end of their lives. However the geological community did not question Urvantsev’s priority.

The Vorontsov’s role in the Norilsk development cannot be denied: industrial exploration, reserves’ determination, getting money and proof of the profitability of building a large industrial enterprise fell on his shoulders.

In 1933 under the Vorontsov’s leadership the Norilsk-1 deposit’s reserves were calculated. The decision to build a plant was made in March 1935 according to the memorandum written by Vorontsov and after his report to the Politburo’s members. The permanent geological service appeared on Taimyr thanks to Vorontsov.

Vorontsov’s wife Sophia accompanied him on expeditions to Norilsk where she gave birth to his daughter Irina, the first native Norilsk woman in 1932.

In the History Spot photo project previous publication, we told about the first book about Norilsk published by non-Norilsk printing house.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Division archive

May 31, 2022

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