Russians Left No Choice but to protest against mining
|January 17, 2014||Posted by Staff under Activism, Environmental|
This 2014 excerpt of The Ecologist, Jan 2, is by Konstantin Rubakhin, coordinator of ‘Save Khoper National Park’. This article was first published by Open Democracy Russia under the title “Where there’s muck there’s brass.”
The local population in the heart of Russia’s Black Earth belt has called for a total ban on the mining of nickel and other non-ferrous metals in the zone known for centuries in this area as Russia’s ‘bread basket’.
The metal deposits, believed to be the last major nickel reserves in Europe, are only 20 kilometers away from one of the few untouched areas in Central Russia: the river Khoper (or Khopyor), a tributary of the Don, and the Khoper Nature Reserve, an important bird sanctuary. The reserve is also home to the almost extinct Russian desman, a small mammal belonging to the mole family.
The project is almost totally export-oriented. Indeed, 90% of the nickel mined in Russia ends up abroad, and the Ural Metal and Mining Company (UGMK), which won the tender, is – like most such companies operating in Russia – registered in Cyprus.
The protest against mining has been going on since March 2012, when the tender documents were released, and it is actively supported by up to 85% of local residents. Two rallies in Novokhopersk – a small town of 6,000 inhabitants – have attracted crowds of 5,000.
We handed President Putin our documentation, explaining that leading experts considered the Yelanskoye project unviable from an environmental, social and economic point of view; and that the region’s development should concentrate on tourism and agriculture.
Putin, however, UGMK’s owner is one Iskander Makhmudov, who has business connections with both Russia’s railway boss Vladimir Yakunin and billionaire businessman Gennady Timchenko – both known to be close to the president.
Since our meeting with Putin, there have been several dozen articles published, and TV reports broadcast, alleging that the Yelanskoye campaign is being manipulated variously by foreign agents, the American State Department, and perhaps even the Devil himself.
Ed. Notes: People who stand up for what’s right do sometimes win against those who wield power and seeks fortunes. Another argument demonstrators could add to the environmental and economic ones above is that the profit from Earth — which is what Putin and cronies are after — is not something for anyone to grasp for themselves but a flow of value that belongs to all the residents. Let’s not let the “rents” of Earth any longer be the low hanging fruit for the scrupulous but the common wealth for everyone.