Ore-dressing plant named after Vasily Chapaev

The Kolyma region is known not only for its rich gold fields, but also for tin metal exploitation.

Tin ore mining started in the 1930s, when it became obvious that buying it in England was economically unprofitable and that there are large rich tin ore reserves in the Magadan region.

The mining camp named after Sergey Lazo and the ore-dressing plant named after Chapaev opened on January 1st, 1940.

The plant was built in the spot near one of the side streams of the Seimchan River.

A mining field was supposed to be located nearby but works there never began.

We embarked on a search for the ore processing plant named after Lazo on a rainy day in our old and faithful friend.

Together with my father we travelled more than 1300 km (approx. 800 miles) along Kolyma roads.

At the exit from the town of Semchan a memorial cross is installed.

This region is known to have had four camp stations where convicts lived and labored.

Some of them harvested timber, some built roads, and most of them were tin miners.

The road is quite well preserved after more than 50 years. The large number of concrete bridges across small creeks was quite surprising.

And here is the first hollow. The bridge had been washed away during a seasonal flooding and naturally nobody would bother with its restoration.

So, we start looking for a detour. The problem is complicated by the fact that a few days of rain have eroded the ground.

At first we almost got stuck. But a little further ahead we found a road that the locals use.

The landscape is extremely dull. Big trees used to grow here.

But the convicts have cut them all down to construct barracks, to heat the settlement and build factories.

The Lazo mine is located higher and a bit to the right.

But we were not able to get there since the thin old bridge had simple collapsed, and risking our only car when the nearest town was 60 km away and there was no cell coverage was too reckless.

Even if you really want to get there – there is no other way.

Then we remembered seeing a left turn a bit earlier and came back to it.

Geologists have settled on the hill in a search for an ore vein.

After crossing two fords, we found ourselves on something that was more of a path than a road, which soon led us to a river.

There was no bridge and the rain has made the river much deeper.

I had come across photos of this place on different sources, and the captions stated that it was here that the Lazo mine was located.

But in fact, this is not true. If we look at the prisoners’ memoirs and other sources and chronicles, it turns out that it was the Chapaev ore-dressing plant that was before our eyes.

It was built near a mine of the same name and was supposed to lessen the load at the Lazo mine where the workers were not capable of processing such amounts of ore.

Around the facility pulleys and cart wheels that were used by convicts can be found.

Hooks and other working equipment

A nail that was apparently forged right here in the local smith shop.

I don’t know what this is but it looks like a small spinning top.

In 1951 the Chapaev plant was joined with the Butugychag mine and shut down soon after that.

Images by Alexander Krylov, reproduced with permission

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