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Satellite monitoring of river pollution during placer gold mining: Amurskaya province in the Russian Far East is again in the “leaders”, but the situation is changing
16 june 2021
The results of the first month of satellite monitoring of river pollution caused by placer gold mining showed again the absolute “anti-leadership” of Amurskaya province with identified 21 cases of water pollution out of 31 in the entire Amur River basin, and with 687 kilometers of contaminated river sites on the province’s territory out of 926 kilometers revealed in all provinces of the Amur basin. This year the monitoring was launched on May 15 as part of “People for Nature” project carried out with the support of WWF Russia.
Therefore, the number and total length of polluted river sites in Amurskaya province twice increases the indicators of Zabaikalsky, Khabarovsky, Primorsky and Evreiskaya provinces all put together.
However, there is good news: compared to the same period of last year, the total number of detected cases of pollution and the length of contaminated sites in the Amur basin has decreased: on June 15 in 2020, there were 37 cases and 1411 kilometers, respectively. Moreover, this decline was caused particularly by the situation in Amurskaya province, last year on June 15, there were 34 detected cases of pollution and 1321 kilometers of polluted sites. Thus, this year the number of pollution incidents in the province has been decreased by about 30%, and the length of contaminated sites by almost half.
Comments Peter Osipov, director of WWF Russia Amur branch: “In our opinion, the move towards the improvement in the situation with river pollution is the result of strong position of the Government of Amurskaya province against unfair gold miners and the enormous work to identify violations and bring violators to justice, which was carried out in the past year by the Administration of Amurskaya province Rosprirodnadzor and the Ministry of Natural Resources. The regulatory authorities managed to get the payment of fines in tens of millions of rubles, and the claims for environmental damage amounted to hundreds of millions of rubles. And most importantly, the miners realized that their activities are under regular supervision that ensures the punishment in case of violation of environmental legislation.”
However, it is impossible to achieve a radical change in the situation with pollution by control alone. The main problem is the issuance of a huge number of prospecting licenses, designed to explore new gold deposits, but often used by gold miners to cover the illegal exploitation of gold deposits. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, there are currently about 1400 licenses in Amurskaya province for prospecting, exploration and mining of placer gold, of which more than 800 are exploration licenses. It is simply physically impossible to provide regular control and supervision over the activities of all gold mining enterprises in such conditions.
In this regard, WWF Russia supports the initiatives of the Government of Amurskaya province to restrict the issuance of new licenses for prospecting for placer gold deposits in the province, to toughen penalties for violations of environmental law, in the first place - early termination of licenses in case of repeated violations in license areas, improving the supervision measures, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, video recording systems and others.