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Russia opening access to state geological data to boost junior sector

Russia is making state-owned geologicaldata freely available to the public as part of the country's bid to attract investmentinto early-stage hydrocarbon and minerals exploration, Sergey Donskoy, ministerof Natural Resources and Environment, said July 13.

Speaking during an interview on the Rossiya24 news channel, Donskoy said geological exploration has declined around theworld since the financial crisis, but new state measures could reverse this trendwithin Russia.

"All around the world [geological] information is a key to unlockingand realizing projects. Publishing the information not only broadens the possibilityof opening up investment, but also allows those companies to get more informationon the deposits in the perimeter of their interests," he said.

Despite its size and geological potential, exploration in Russia lags wellbehind industry leaders Canada and Australia. In 2011, Russian expenditure on explorationper square kilometer of land was US$28, compared to US$96 for the average of thetop 10 mining jurisdictions, according to data from Kinross Gold Corp.

Russian Prime Minister DmitryMedvedev recently signed the decree allowing companies and individuals to requestaccess to government-held data on deposits.

Requests are to be made to Rosnedra,the federal subsoil use management agency, and the information can be accessed inboth physical paper and electronic forms.

Donskoy said granting free accessto information was one of the mechanisms the state is using to encourage investment,especially at the key early project stages.

Previous studies have shown thatimproving access to information has led to an increase in investment into miningand exploration.

Antony Benham, COO at International Geoscience Services, tolda conference in Aprilthat investment into exploration rose in Mexico, Mozambique and Namibia in the yearsfollowing liberalization of access to geological data.

Donskoy also said more state stimuluswas needed to encourage investment into remote areas, where lack of infrastructurehas deterred investors from starting large projects in mining, oil and gas.

The chief executive of one foreign-ownedmining company in Russia said it "remained to be seen" whether open accessto information, as well as the Kremlin's other measures, would stimulate the juniorsector in the country.

He also said other initiativesplanned include opening up more deposits with P2 reserves and resources — the leastexplored deposits under the Russian classification system.

Russia has also altered laws toallow junior miners to stake claims — previously there was no guarantee that explorersthat discovered deposits would get to keep them, since the law required that newlydiscovered deposits be auctioned.