The Kuznetsk Ala-tau mines are only now beginning to be explored, while the copper, and perhaps also the silver, ores of the Altai proper were worked by the mysterious prehistoric race of the Chudes at a time when the use of iron was not yet known.
The Talas-tau, sometimes known as the Urtak-tau, while the name of Ala-tau is also extended to cover it, has an average elevation of 14,000-15,000 ft., but lifts its snow-capped summits to 15,750 ft.; it is crossed by passes at 8000-10,650 ft.
But the chief wealth of the northern Altai is in the Kuznetsk coal-basin, also containing iron-ores, which fills up a valley between the Kuznetsk Ala-tau and the Salair range for a length of about 270 m., with a width of about 65 m.
The Altai proper is rich in silver, copper, lead and zinc ores, while in the Kuznetsk Ala-tau, gold, iron and coal are the chief mineral resources.
1 The passes over the Terskei Ala-tau and the plateau country to the south lie at great altitudes - at 13,560 ft.