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Премия рунета 2017

Placer gold mining trouble waters in the Udege Legend National Park

11 august 2020
The Udege Legend National Park, together with local people of the villages of the Krasnoarmeisky district of Primorye, is trying to draw the attention of the authorities and responsible structures to the problem of placer gold mining on the tributaries of the Bolshaya Ussurka River, upstream of the federal protected area.
In the course of the press trip to Krasnoarmeisky district, organized as part of WWF-Russia project "People for Nature”, the journalists of the environmental press club "Poslednyaya sreda" and web portal PrimDiscovery highlighted the problem of placer gold mining on the tributaries of the Bolshaya Ussurka River near the village of Melnichnoye, its impact on the ecological situation in the Udege Legend National Park and the life of the remote taiga area.
Here you can clearly see the contrast of the color of the clear Armu water and the yellowish water from the tributaries of the Bolshaya Ussurka dug in the upper reaches
Alexander Khitrov / WWF Russia

Dwellers of the villages of the Krasnoarmeisky district and the Udege Legend National Park have been ringing all the bells about this problem since 2018, sending appeals to the Rosprirodnadzor Administration for the Primorsky province, to the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia, and in 2019 to the President of the Russian Federation.

Comments Boris Litvinov, director of the Udege Legend National Park:

“In recent years, we have seen a sharp deterioration in the ecological state of the Bolshaya Ussurka River due to its pollution. The source of the pollution is several gold mining companies operating above the middle reaches of the Bolshaya Ussurka. Untreated water and heavy metals are discharged into the river, which destroy all life in the river, cause serious harm to the villages in the Bolshaya Ussurka basin, and, of course, to the national park ”.
Boris Litvinov, director of the Udege Legend National Park
Alexander Khitrov / WWF Russia

The Bolshaya Ussurka River is the main waterway of two districts of northern Primorye; 21 settlements are located on its banks. These taiga places rich in fish have always attracted tourists from different parts of the country for recreation, rafting and fishing. The Bolshaya Ussurka (Iman) is a habitat and spawning ground for valuable fish species: Siberian taimen, lenok, grayling, as well as chum salmon.  The national park "Udege Legend" was established in 2007 for the protection of the territory and the development of organized educational tourism, its activity directly depends on the ecological state of the Big Ussurka. Therefore, here, they especially clearly understand the threats from the negative activities of careless gold miners.

The consequences of the goldsmiths work are shocking. A wide dried strip in the taiga and piles of earth in the place where just a short time ago a spring flowed that carried its clear waters to the Bolshaya Ussurka. The same terrifying picture opens up at the entrance to the village of Melnichnoye.

As follows from the response to the appeal of the Udege Legend National Park, the Far Eastern Administration of Rosprirodnadzor in 2019 carried out 4 checks in relation to gold mining companies. There were revealed 3 violations of environmental legislation in terms of the protection of water bodies, as well as 10 violations of the terms of a license for the extraction of minerals. Legal entities and officials were brought to administrative responsibility. In 2019, the Primorsky Administration of Fisheries revealed 5 violations of environmental legislation and the amount of fines imposed on gold mining companies in the Krasnoarmeysky District amounted to 548 thousand rubles. It seems that there are checks and results. However, the situation is not improving, this activity of mining placer gold is too destructive for nature.

The consiquences of careless placer gold mining
Alexander Khitrov / WWF Russia
“Satellite monitoring of river pollution, which is carried out in the regions of Siberia and the Far East with WWF support, reports from local residents show that the situation with Bolshaya Ussurka is, unfortunately, not some unique phenomenon, but a common practice that has developed in all regions of the placer gold mining, - comments Yuri Gafarov, project coordinator for protected areas of WWF Russia Amur branch. - So, for example, this and last year throughout the summer, dirty water flowed along the Meun River, which flows along the border of the Norsk Nature Reserve in the Amur Region. Pollution of the Gilyui River, which flows along the border of the Zeya Reserve in the Amur Region, is regularly observed. And this year, one of the companies in general began work on the search and exploration of minerals right in the protected zone of the Zeya Nature Reserve, without any agreement with the administration of this protected area. When issuing licenses, Rosnedra is guided only by one parameter - whether the license area is located directly on the territory of the protected area. The fact that damage to the natural complexes of protected areas can be caused by mud flowing down the rivers from the gold mining areas located upstream of the rivers is not taken into account at all. That is why we believe that alluvial gold mining should be stopped in the upper reaches of those rivers on which specially protected areas are located ".

WWF Russia, together with public environmental organizations, developed the position on the issue of placer gold mining. The text is posted on the site zolotari.net and is open for general discussion until the end of the summer. The position contains such proposals as:

· to establish a moratorium on the development of deposits on rivers that were not previously affected by gold mining; in areas adjacent to protected areas and settlements; areas important for economic activity;

· to increase the role local people, local administration bodies and government authorities in the regions of gold mining in making decisions on launching the development of a particular deposit;

· to improve the efficiency of government regulatory bodies and toughen penalties against gold mining enterprises that violate environmental legislation.

Based on the results of the discussion and submitted proposals, an appeal will be prepared to the Government of Russia to reduce the impact of placer gold mining on the environment and living conditions of the population in the territories where it is carried out.

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