Russia’s Natural Resources: Territorial Localization and Economic Estimates
This monograph has been prepared by a collective team of six research institutesof the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SB RAS): the Institute of Economics and Industrial Engineering, the Instituteof Geology and Mineralogy, Trofimuk Institute of Oiland Gas Geology and Geophysics, the Institute of Systematics and Ecology of Animals, Central Siberian Botanical Gardens, and the Institute of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry.The book summarizes the results of studies carried out in 2003—2005 under the SB RAS interdisciplinary integration project “Natural Resourcesof the Anthroposphere: Territorial Distributionand Comparative Economic Estimates (Information Value and Rent)”
The monograph contains systemized data on 57 kinds of mineral resources, 10 large groups of biological resources and soils (taking into account the specific stock of humus).
For a number of Russian administrative divisions (mostly Siberian), the estimations have been given of resources of 21 metals (296 deposits); energy resources such as oil and gas (705 deposits), coal (467 deposits), oil shale, peat, hydro- and atomic power industry; and other kinds of mineral resources (134 deposits) have been evaluated.
Grass at the price of gold
It is hardly needed to explain to anybody today the importance of mineral and energy resources. But what about products of the biosphere?
One of crucial components of the biosphere is vegetation. It accumulates solar energy and makes organic substances. The monograph gives data on the stock and reproduction of plant resources as well as on the regional distribution of these resources with respect to the types of biomes—single natural complexes characterized by distinctive vegetable species or other features of landscape.
As for the social value of natural resources, the valuations presented in the monograph may not seem trivial. They show, among other things, that biological resources have been considerably underestimated in the modern economic turnover, which, to a certain way, generates degradation of the biosphere.
It would be illustrative to compare the relative value of bioresources with the value of gold in known deposits. It turns out that the average social value of a ton of dried vegetation is close to, and in some cases even exceeds, the value of a ton of gold.
Life on the West Siberian lowland
The monograph is the first to give an integral valuation (including valuation in the form of information value) of the basic types of ecosystems present on the West Siberian Lowland, the vast region that has been actively developed in the last decades.
As the information value of amphibians, birds, and small mammals inhabiting this region varies considerably, the region has been divided into seven typological provinces with respect to the character of distribution of specific value of these animals in West Siberia, ranging from Arctic tundra to non-inundated meadows, steppes and fields in the forest-steppe and steppe zones.
For the West Siberian Lowland, the aggregate biomass of invertebrates has been evaluated: this varies greatly, from 5.9 to 430 kilograms per hectare. Since the dominant part of the biomass consists of the soil inhabitants, it is not surprising that the information value of invertebrates in this region is quite high (as compared with their share in the total biomass).
The authors of the monograph have developed a classification of specific information value of humus and blocks including multicellular organisms. Based on these parameters, ecosystems of the West Siberian Lowland have been divided into three types: non-inundated non-swampy wood ecosystems; open inundated non-swampy ecosystems with scarce woods; and non-inundated marshes.
It has turned out that non-swampy woods located primarily in the south of the forest zone, i.e., ecosystems with comparatively large (in terms of this region) stock of biomass have the maximum information value of humus and multicellular part of biota in West Siberia.
Payments for the resources
An essential issue discussed in the monograph is natural rent, that is, what is paid for using natural resources. Relying on the results of special-purpose investigations, the authors dwell on the theoretical and some applied aspects of the natural rent formation, such as rent in oil and gold-mining industries.
For instance, it has been found out that increase in gold production recorded in Russia since 1999 has resulted from certain structural shifts in the gold-mining industry, namely, switching from predominant stream gold to vein gold mining and applying revolutionary mining and ore enrichment technologies. In addition, the so-called territorial shifts have occurred: the main gold-mining centers moved from the country’s north-east to East Siberia; also, dynamic integration processes have played an important part.
Altogether, the researchers have come to the conclusion that neglect of scientific evaluation of the natural rent, its essence and size, which is typical of Russia, leads to great losses suffered both by individual businesses and national economy as a whole. The outcome is that companies working in harsh environments lose not only the rent but a part of the necessary product whereas companies operating in much more favorable natural conditions do not pay the complete amount of rent.
On the basis of the data available and with the help of mathematical models, the authors prove that Russian tax legislation should be amended so that major tax burden shifts from mineral resource mining to charging for licenses to develop deposits.
How much does the farm land cost?
A most topical and controversial question is estimation of the farmland. The monograph criticizes the method of cadastre estimation currently in use in the Russian Federation and calculations based on this method. According to the authors, the major drawback of the method is exceedingly high estimation of differential land rent, the cause for which is incorrect application of the formula of agricultural profitability.The scientists advocate that the current refusal to determine the essence and size of the natural rent leads to huge economic losses
The authors believe that in Russian statistic estimates of agricultural profitability are incorrect because fixed assets depreciation is in real economic practice sharply understated. Basing on the estimates of the depreciation amount necessary to make up for the fixed assets replacement, it is concluded that agriculture in the current conditions is loss-making virtually all over Russia. This means that there is practically no capitalist system of production in the agriculture.
Results of the mathematical—statistic studies performed have shown that estimations of natural factors effects on the differentiation of current agricultural expenses are insufficient for quantitative determination the land rent as a specific part of net income. Basing on this, the conclusion is made that agricultural rent is essentially indeterminate, which should be taken into account when setting up the system of economic relationships in the agricultural sector.
A separate chapter of the book is devoted to the estimates of agricultural suitability and profitability of agricultural use of the lands of the Novosibirsk oblast (region), which takes up 15 % of the total area of West Siberia.
The lands of Novosibirsk oblast vary a lot in terms of quality. For agricultural purposes, most valuable are plough-fit lands, i.e., those that do not require crucial melioration (such as drainage or washing out easily solvable salts) prior to their use, and are capable of sustaining their ecological condition for a long time and ensure highly productive plant-growing provided that rational agricultural technologies are applied.Today, agriculture is loss-making virtually all over Russia, that is, capitalist economy is missing
Best quality soils (chernozem and meadow chernozem) should be carefully protected to avoid wind erosion and washing off. It is a must that non-agricultural use of plough-fit lands should be allowed only in exceptional circumstances and that appropriate permits should be issued in full compliance with the procedures laid down.The above-mentioned numbers and data are a drop in the ocean of information taking 400 pages written by Siberian scientists: economists, geologists, biologists, soil scientists, and experts in other fields. In this respect, it is a truly encyclopedic work.
The monograph is primarily intended for specialists involved in applied problems of natural resource management and for those interested in the theory of economic estimation of natural resources.