Can the mining industry use zeppelins?
This is Siberia. Getting to some central locations of this frozen land is hard enough with minimal luggage. But how do you get heavy mining equipment to an isolated nickel and copper deposit, 700km away from the closest city and 270km away from the nearest railway?
If you're Robin Young, CEO of Amur Minerals, you take a zeppelin.
Rather than build a $150 million, 350km road, resilient enough to support 87-tonne dump trucks, Young has found that his best option is to fly the equipment in with zeppelins, the CEO recently told Bloomberg.
The mining industry just might have the potential to revive the waning zeppelin and blimp industries. So far several miners have shunned the unconventional airships. Bloomberg writes that Russia's largest gold producer, Polyus Gold International, had considered zeppelins but ultimately abandoned the idea because it "couldn't find a suitable offer on the market."
But manufacturers Worldwide Aeros and Hybrid Air Vehicles told Bloomberg that they're negotiating with the mining industry for some first sales and expect delivery as early as 2016.
Hybrid Air boasts a heavy lift aircraft that can transport 50 tonnes of equipment to any area in the world, according to its website. But this product has not yet entered the market.
Meanwhile, Peter Hambro, executive chairman of Russia's Petropavlovsk, has invested in a zeppelin-maker, saying he would consider using an airship operations in Russia's far east.
Amur Minerals' Kun-Maine project is located in Siberia's far-eastern region. The climate is characterized by permafrost and winter temperatures reach -40. Amur hopes to extract nickel and copper for export to Chinese and other Asian markets.