SOUTH KURILS UNIQUE NATURAL TREASURY, SAYS RUSSIAN MINISTER

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MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will spectacularly promote its geopolitical interests if it steps up ore and mineral mining and procession in its Far East-in particular, the South Kuril islands, the Natural Resources Ministry press service pointed out today with reference to minister Yuri Trutnev.

The ministry and the entire government ought to see Far Eastern mineral prospecting and extraction as strategic objective, said Mr. Trutnev.

His ministry's experts have applied final brushstrokes to a long-term federal program for reproducing the Russian mineral and other raw material bases. The document lays special stress on mineral extraction in areas of especial geopolitical importance.

Prominent among such areas are the South Kuril islands-Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and the Minor Kuril Chain, known in Japan as Habomai Archipelago. Japan is insistently demanding those islands back under its jurisdiction. More than that, it is making this concession a proviso to conclude a peace treaty with Russia. Meanwhile, fabulous treasures have been discovered in the disputed islets-rhenium deposits and inferred reserves of petroleum, gas, gold, silver, iron, titanium, native sulfur, semi-precious stones and construction materials, stress ministerial officers.

The program makes due account for necessary comprehensive works to study and reproduce South Kuril mineral and other raw material resources.

Natural Resources Ministry experts extremely highly evaluate inferred gold deposits in the South Kurils. Apart from precious and rare metal ores, geologists have come in the islets on native sulfur deposits and manifestations, and titanic and magnetic iron ore placers. Several gas- and oilfields are inferred. The latter deposits are estimated at 364 million tons in petroleum equivalent.

Rhenium extraction is estimated at an annual 15-20 tons on Iturup's Kudryavy volcano alone-enough to satisfy national economic demands and export the valuablemetal.

The final program version will be quite soon offered to the country's government for consideration, added the press service.

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