Oleksandr Nosal: Where Ukrainian Amber Lies
Ukraine has large deposits of amber, which is very valued with its variety of colors and has a higher value than Baltic amber. In Ukraine there are three oblasts that have large deposits of amber: Volynska, Zhytomyrska and Rivnenska. These open amber deposits have a combined stock of more than 100 tons, but it is not exact, since the above areas have many undiscovered deposits. Also there is a considerable amber geological province stretching along Dnipro.
Amber is basically mined in Ukraine with a shovel. With a pump pressurized water is supplied to a hole, washing away soil with a certain content of amber. Since amber occurs at shallow depth (3-7 meters), it can be extracted every day for nearly 9 months a year. Speaking of amber extraction in Ukraine, its amount is approximately 270-300 tonnes per year. Out of this mass 200 tons of amber comprise a large fraction, the price of some large pieces reaches the value of gold. That is why it is very difficult to calculate the real amount of sales of this stone. For example, Russia produces 270 tons of amber, out of which only 60 tons of coarse fraction.
Amber: “black” mining
In Ukraine illegal extraction of amber is 5 times higher than legal. “Black” amber extraction in places of its occurrence constitutes the main direction of economy, because it involves various segments of the population: from children to a deputy. Since national mineral resources belong to the population of Ukraine, the state could accumulate the budget by extracting and selling amber, but due to the fact that the legislation regulating the field of mineral resources is not perfect – acquired funds end up in the pockets of people, under whose “protection” the “black “extraction is carried out. According to estimates in 2014 500 million USD worth of amber was produced, and the budget did not get a single penny of this large amount.
Whole families illegally extract amber every day for hundreds of dollars despite the fact that Ukraine has no market for it – amber is successfully sold in neighboring Poland, where the biggest market for selling Baltic/Ukrainian amber is in Gdansk. Despite the fact that Poland itself does not produce amber, and even if it produces, then in small quantities, it successfully sells it to countries like China, the US and the rest of Europe and the Middle East.
“Black” amber extraction not only has a negative impact on the economy of the country but also on its environment, because this method of extraction causes so-called “lunar landscape” that has many earthen mounds and craters.
The prosperity of the “black” amber extraction in Ukraine is due to the fact that there is no law that would regulate its extraction, despite the fact that the Parliament has collected a number of bills on the subject. Maybe someone benefits from it?! Taking into account such profitability, how come there are rumors of SE “Ukrburshtyn” bankruptcy? Perhaps someone profits from this greatly …a
Ukrainian amber: future perspectives
As of now, it is difficult to talk about the prospects of Ukrainian amber extraction, because the industry has the following problems:
1. The first one is the value of amber. Extracted amber is sold ‘wholesale’ on the spot of extraction to intermediaries that sell it abroad three times the price. But people do not have any other choice than to give amber for almost nothing, because they need the money right away. In order for the economy of Ukraine to have at least some benefit from the sale of amber, it is necessary for the state itself to purchase this mineral at a competitive cost and then transfer it to the global market.
2. The second one is the damage inflicted to the environment. Environmental conditions and restrictions on the process of the extraction of amber must be set. It is necessary to regulate the issuance of licenses for amber production areas and also create a special state body that will perform the technical supervision of amber extraction.
3. The third one is “protection racket.” For unobstructed amber mining in certain areas, people who want to do this, have to pay tribute to individuals who illegally and unlawfully exercise control over this territory. It is well-known that these schemes involve law enforcement agencies and officials, so it is necessary to apply measures to detect and halt such incidents, establish penalties and form a transparent system of obtaining permits to mine this mineral.
“Black” mining of amber has acquired such volumes that it is impossible to eradicate. For full legalization of amber mining, a complex of clear and understandable laws with established limits of liability needs to be adopted. It is also necessary to develop certain mechanisms for legal amber extraction by ordinary citizens, who own land containing amber.
Our country is one of the leaders, and, perhaps, the leader in the extraction of amber. All the difficulties boil down to the fact that we have not learned to properly handle our mineral extraction. In Ukraine there is no market for selling amber, such as, for example, in Gdansk, Vilnius, Riga. Despite the fact that the Ukrainian amber is the best in the world, we do not carry out any action in order to declare it to the world. In order to develop this industry, create thousands of jobs and get the tax revenue, the country should attract foreign professionals and executives who have extensive experience and understand perfectly how the amber market works.