No Rest for the Wicked

The stars of this article are all engaged in different rough diamond mining areas. However, there is one thing that is common across the ALROSA board, and that is what makes them not so different. After all they are passionate about what they do and always seeking new growth opportunities. We arranged for our team to get outside and have some fun. Let’s see them unwind, let go, and feel more carefree! But please be warned: the talk was serious. The photos? Not so much.

Photo by: Grigoriy Iftodiy

Tatiana Antonova

Lead Spectroscopist at the Central Analytical Laboratory, Vilyui Geological Exploration Expedition (VGRE).

“My job feels like walking on the Moon”

Interviewer: Elena Brui


— Summer or winter?

— Summer

— A tent or a hotel?

— A hotel

— Diamonds or rough diamonds?

— Diamonds

— Office or field work?

— Office work

I was born in Navoiy, an Uzbekistan city; when I was in 8th grade, we moved to Russia’s Ulyanovsk region. I think that was when it all started for me, namely, my passion for physics. I finished high school in Rostov-on-Don and then got into college, choosing Physics as my major. My mom wanted me to become a physics teacher; so I sneaked behind her back and switched my admission documents. I was bent on making Theoretical Physics my major, a decision I haven’t regretted ever since.

How did I end up in ALROSA? Well, it was all because of love. When I was a sophomore, I met my future husband. It was a twist of fate, events that came together perfectly to lead me where I am today. My friend and I would sometimes hang out after exams in the park nearby; one day, we met a bunch of guys. One of them would soon go on to become my husband. Back then, he studied law in Rostov-on-Don, while his mother worked with the Botuobin expedition in Mirny. That is why, after we graduated, he convinced me to move to Mirny, where I later got a job as a Physics Engineer in the analytical laboratory of the Yakutsk Research Geological Exploration Enterprise of the Central Research Geological Exploration Institute. Then it was all about climbing the career ladder: from a Category 2 Physics Engineer to a Senior Researcher. It was quite a long way to go, but I did it.

In July 2022, I was promoted to Lead Spectroscopist in the Central Analytical Laboratory (TsAL) of VGRE. I still use the Tescan Mira’s Scanning Electron Microscope to study rocks and identify the chemical composition of any particle in the sample. This microscope is a godsend: I can also get good quality photos at different magnifications, with different detectors.

I’ve also been tasked with making sure the TsAL is ready for the upcoming licensing and fully complies with GOST ISO/IEC 17025. I was also part of the task force involved in the development and updating of the Quality Management System documents of the Research Geological Prospecting Enterprise (NIGP) to bring them in line with the requirements of the GOST ISO 9001 standards. I participated in internal and external audits; I helped develop local regulations for the quality management system.

I brought my company to a high level in GOST standardization, which I believe to be one of my greatest professional achievements. Though it’s not just something I decided on my own; that is what other auditors keep telling me. What I enjoy most is knowing that what I do matters, and it is good for the company. I love paperwork, especially when I get to apply my organizational skills and sort everything using my own system. And don’t even get me started on writing articles and bullet points: I live for that. I’ve published a lot of articles in mineralogy and geology journals and attended numerous scientific conferences.

So what am I planning to do next? I think the answer is pretty clear and straightforward: I want to continue implementing a quality management system. Besides, it would be great to get a law degree to dive into some matters I come across in my line of work. 

I don’t think I should be threatened by automation any time soon: my work relies heavily on the processes managed by the operator, i.e., a human. Every single thing should be controlled by a person since it is all about analytics through and through. The operator chooses a scanning area, magnification and voltage, not to mention the detectors they will use to capture an image. My job feels like walking on the Moon, step by step.

Do I see the North and the “Diamond Region” in my future? Of course I do. I love Mirny. I love the northern beauty of its nature and its climate that only special people grow to like.

In my free time, I enjoy painting. I haven’t always been into it, though. I used to take my daughter to an art school. One fateful day, I signed up for an art class for adults; we painted with gouache and watercolor. I once found myself at an acrylic workshop, and I was hooked instantly. So I watched YouTube tutorials, bought some paints, canvases and brushes, all to hone my skills and get serious. In fact, my friends and coworkers say I’m doing really great. Some of them even asked me to paint something special for them! However, I know a talented, inspired artist when I see one, and I am not that; I just think I can follow instructions to a t and am good at improving my technique. I love painting; ever since I picked up the skills, I started finding joy and beauty in the small, simple things.

What do I think of jewelry? I think all women must wear jewelry; it is our right and duty. Every single piece is an insight into a woman’s personality. If you ask me, I love diamond jewelry. Diamond is my gemstone; it is truly my best friend. I believe every woman should have jewelry, or, better yet, diamond jewelry.

Thanks to modern technology, we can easily find out the deposit of a particular diamond! Isn’t this marvelous? I usually consider diamond jewelry a family heirloom, i.e., something that has high moral value. So you can’t just go around calling any jewelry with artificial or synthetic gems “heirloom”; it wouldn’t make any sense.

Ruslan Matushevsky

Non-Destructive Testing Engineer, Specialized Trust (ST) AA Almazavtomatika

“The best thing about my job is that I get to visit new places and learn”

Interviewer: Elena Brui


— Summer or winter?

— Winter

— A tent or a hotel?

— A tent

— Diamonds or rough diamonds?

— Diamonds

— Office or field work?

— Field work

I was born in Mirny. I went to school there (School No. 1) and a college: all my classmates moved to Moscow in pursuit of higher education, while I stayed in my hometown and applied to the Mirny Regional Technical College. I wanted to learn a trade and get a secondary vocational education, so I majored as a Control Instrumentation and Automation Fitter.

I applied for a job at ALROSA fresh from the college. I went to the Mirny mine to ask about job openings, where they sent me to the Vodorazdelnye Galechniki mine. I got an interview and was hired afterwards, and that’s where I worked until 2018. Then I joined the army in the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in a unit near Vladivostok. After I got discharged, I went back to the mine.

As fate would have it, I heard about a job opening at Almazavtomatika. I’ve come a long way since then, as I now work as a Non-Destructive Testing Engineer, though I started as a Fitter; I had to train in different methods and tolerances and get certified. It took me roughly a year to get promoted to a Category 3 Engineer.

I am in charge of inspecting various products, structures, designs and their elements with the help of technical devices on production sites according to the methods of non-destructive testing. Once a product or design is featured in the company’s balance sheet, the wear and tear countdown begins. The conditions of use and storage, as well as any impact on it (mechanical impact, vibration, weather, etc.) will gradually render it unusable. So you understand how important it is to inspect everything before it is too late and assess wear and tear during operation. Nothing is too small: ropes, pipework, beams, shaft supports, tanks from 3 sq m to 120,000 sq m, you name it.  You need to check every structure according to the regulations in order to make sure it meets the standards. Sometimes, you might need to replace a faulty part, which means downtime; other time, everything is fine and you’re free to continue operating it.

Let me tell you how we check ropes at the Internatsionalny and Aikhal mines: we place a device on the rope, and by reading the magnetic vibrations, the device calculates the data and outputs it in a diagram. This diagram helps us identify the section loss and the number of wire breaks, so we understand just how worn the rope is, and that’s how we decide the rope is (no longer) usable.

The best thing about my job is that I get to visit new places and learn something new. A few months ago, I had to go to Aykhal, an urban locality in Yakutia, where I went down to the Yubileyny quarry. I saw a lot of impressive machinery there. I was particularly taken with the huge dump trucks (half of a wheel is the size of a grown man) and the huge EKG 15 excavator that’s more like a five-story house. It even has a kitchen in the cab and everything.

Besides, we get to hone our skills every once in a while, and for that, we go to Moscow once a year, maybe more. The nature of our work implies we have to learn each method separately. We are authorized to use each method for only three years, which means that we are recertified every three years when we prove method proficiency. 

What’s the hardest thing about my job? I sometimes have to lug around a magnetic head that can weigh 33 pounds (15 kg), maybe more. In general, though, I can’t say my job is that hard; if you are proficient in the methods and know what and how to do, then you’ll be fine.

Professionally, I am planning to learn new levels of inspection methods—the sooner, the better. I am also graduating from Mirny Polytechnic Institute of North-Eastern Federal University this year, majoring in Electrification and Automation of Industrial Production.

I truly believe my job will be in demand even after 50 years. Technology is thriving at breakneck speed; however, you can’t do without people when it comes to inspection processes. It is simply not possible. But there is going to be innovation in the industry: control devices will be upgraded to provide more detailed information on a more user-friendly interface.

All my hobbies are sport-related. I am not one for lying about like some couch potato; summers usually have me cycling and exercising on the sports field next to my house or in the park. In winters, it’s mostly snowboarding and swimming. I’d been a sports amateur for a really long time; one day, though, I decided to join other people in my outdoor activities, so I got certified as a personal coach. It is now my second job, which I mostly do at nights. It is somewhat of a hobby, something I do for my own pleasure. My girlfriend and I enjoy plays; whenever we have some spare time, we make it a rule to go to the theater. We are also huge movie buffs!

I love the fact that Mirny is eager to develop sports and sports infrastructure: they have recently opened a couple of sports grounds in the town park. However, I could do with more variety and diversity in that area, like a climbing wall.

Yulia Simonova

Geologist, Project Management Center, Vilyui Geological Exploration Expedition

“Creative geology problem-solving will always be up to humans”

Interviewer: Alyona Budkova


— Summer or winter?

— Summer, or rather, spring

— A hotel or a tent?

— A hotel

— Diamonds or rough diamonds?

— Diamonds

— Office or field work?

— Field work

I’d never really given geology any thought before it was time to apply for colleges. As a child, I was always fascinated with the history and culture of Ancient Egypt, so obviously, I wanted to become an archeologist.

I grew up in the village of Ebyakh, part of the Srednekolymsk district in the Far East of Russia. I did not know they offered any career paths other than a schoolteacher, a daycare teacher and a lawyer. But it was before I saw an ad calling for school alumni to enroll at Far Eastern Polytechnic University (now FEFU) to major in Geological Surveying, Prospecting and Exploration of Mineral Deposits, City of Vladivostok. I thought it might be interesting, so I applied and got in. It’s been eight years now, and my geology career is thriving.

After graduation, I moved to Yakutsk to find a job; I submitted my CV to various companies and recruiters on spec, but to no avail. I was about to apply for a job as a consultant at a clothing store, when I was approached by one recruiter, then another. Both job openings were resolute in that I would have to move to the Far North. The first job offered me a room in a dorm and a monthly salary of RUB 25k (about $400). If I’d taken the second job, I would have lived in a house with stove heating and a monthly salary of RUB 28k (about $460). I was okay with the idea of leaving for the Far North, since I thought I had to start somewhere. I all but accepted my faith when I got another call—from ALROSA.

I was invited to join the expedition as a geologist with a salary of RUB 40k (about $660). For me, a graduate fresh from the college who’d been living off of fast food for 4+ years, it was a godsend.

I am now in charge of processing and interpreting field material, preparing graphs and some report sections. In other words, we make visuals out of field diaries and digital data: sections, a plan for counting reserves, depths and locations of wells and an overall view of the pipes, the fields. I use Micromine and AutoCAD to do all that.

Now that my children are older and more independent, I would like to focus on my career, perhaps find some other job where I can put my proactive attitude and ambition to good use. Maybe something to do with thinking out-of-the-box and creative problem solving. I do want to stay at ALROSA, though; this is the company with the best growth opportunities, and it is always eager to support its employees in their career choices.

Geology is very much dependent on automation, as it is a boon in data processing. However, creative geology problem search and solving will always be up to humans.

For me, jewelry is something that gives you flair, an accent on your beauty and your mood. I myself prefer the timeless classics: I love it when there is this one unique piece of jewelry that is expensive.

My engagement ring is my most valuable precious possession. I didn’t find out till much later that my future husband had hidden the ring box in his car when he first bought it. He didn’t want me to accidentally stumble upon it. It sat there for a week! He proposed to me in early October. This day is still fresh in my memory, as if it happened yesterday. We strolled through the park by the church; it was snowing heavily, with blankets of snow illuminated beautifully by the lampposts, snowflakes whirling around in front of us. Suddenly, he got down on one knee and mumbled something incoherent, all shy. All I was able to hear was something along the lines of, “our lives together...” I only realized what he meant when the lamppost cast the light on the ring box he was holding.

I really want to learn to ride a motorbike. We love family outings outdoors and cycling. Mirny is perfect for raising a family. I enjoy living here; sometimes I go away for a while, but it’s never for long. I could never leave this town for good. One thing’s missing, though: I wish they arranged for bike lanes in the town. When it’s winter or spring, you can re-purpose them for ski trails.

Aleksandra Khankharkhanova

Geophysicist, Vilyui Geological Exploration Expedition

“History of my jewelry matters to me”

Interviewer: Alyona Budkova


— Summer or winter?

— Fall

— A hotel or a tent?

— A tent

— Diamonds or rough diamonds?

— Diamonds

— Office or field work?

— Fields in summer, office in winter.

I was born in the Irkutsk region, but I come from Aykhal, a town in Yakutia. Once I finished school, I got into Irkutsk National Research Technical University. I didn’t stay long in Irkutsk, though; my heart longed for Yakutia, so I moved back there as soon as I graduated. I am what you would call a child of the North; I can’t just leave here. I’m enjoying my life here.

I’m friends with all my coworkers in my main job, so I am happy to be back in Yakutia. I think people here are different. Kinder, maybe.

I did not choose my job; the job chose me. At 17, I didn’t think hard about my career prospects and such. As a small-town girl, the only thing I was sure about is that I wanted to move to a big city with opportunities. I got a scholarship from ALROSA to major in Geophysical Methods of Prospecting and Exploration of Mineral Deposits. I have no regrets. Geophysics is basically a combination of physics, geology and mathematics.

I now work as a Category 2 Geophysicist with the Vilyui Geological Exploration Expedition as part of the Surface Geophysical Methods Interpretation group. I receive and process field material, build charts, compile maps and annexes to reports.

I have been working for VGRE for just a couple of years now, but I already want to learn more and more about specialized geophysical software for processing and interpreting all geophysical methods and to try my hand at different areas of geophysics. I aspire to be a multidisciplinary expert who is engaged in field work.

I don’t think it’s possible to fully automate everything I do, maybe some part of it, such as processing field data, calculating errors and the like. It might happen in the future, but not for at least fifty years. Perhaps the robot workers will handle the equipment more carefully, and they won’t require rest, so they will be available for work 24/7. Obviously, the company can benefit from that. But still, there is no alternative for professional experience.

This year, they gave me a job mentoring young and new VGRE experts, which is an honor and a pleasure. This is a completely new experience for me; it is quite hard to juggle and balance youth work and main job. i.e., basically, two jobs. Sometimes, when we’re in a rush and there’s a lot of work to do, I have to skip lunch and stay after work. There are a lot of activities going on: we cut things and glue them, we blow things, we rehearse and exercise on the weekends or after work.

I spend almost all of my free time getting ready for competitions and events. It is never boring. It is fantastic that the company is following a youth development strategy, employing a youth-oriented policy. For example, the company held a major sports event across all company branches, with all company employees taking part, which led me to fall in love with streetball. We quickly formed an expedition team and got a few prizes. I also go to the gym in my free time.

Jewelry is something I can express myself through. I don’t much care for the gems or their history; what matters to me is how they ended up in my jewelry box. A small diamond ring that my mom gave to me is the most prized possession in my collection. I treasure it above all else.