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WWF Russia and VOOP have sent an open letter to the government authorities on threats from new project of Polymetal Company
Премия рунета 2017

WWF Russia and VOOP have sent an open letter to the government authorities on threats from new project of Polymetal Company

20 october 2021
Polymetal company has launched the development of the Kutynskoye gold deposit without taking into account public recommendations to improve the environmental safety of the project. Protecting the interests of people and nature, the Khabarovsky branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation (VOOP) and WWF Russia sent an open letter to the company management, as well as to the Khabarovsky province authorities and to Rosprirodnadzor.
Comments Vladimir Sidorov, the Chairman of the Khabarovsky branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation (VOOP): “The public environmental expertise of the Kutynskoye gold field development projects revealed more than 70 concerns on the project design and measures ensuring environmental safety. More than half of these concerns were ignored. We believe that neglecting the procedure of public environmental expertise jeopardizes the safety of the project implementation and devaluates the importance of public control over the implementation of large infrastructure projects.”
According to Peter Osipov, director of WWF Russia Amur branch: “We and our partners deeply regret that the company was not ready to work with stakeholders in a constructive format. A series of repeated meetings did not lead to dialogue. The team that participated in the public expertise of the project was left without answers to the questions and recommendations raised during the expertise. Such actions of the company can only be interpreted as a desire to implement the project without taking into account the requirements of environmental protection and the opinion of the scientific and expert community.”
A whale in the Ulbansky Bay with the road on the background, constructed by Polymetal for the development of the Kutynskoye deposit
Olga Shpak

In the mid-summer 2021 (27.07.2021), WWF Russia and the Khabarovsky branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation (VOOP) sent a letter to Polymetal Company with a proposal to suspend work in the Khabarovsky province on the project “Development of the Kutynskoye gold deposit by open cut. 1st stage. Mining part” and “Mining and processing complex at Kutynskoye gold field” due to the fact that the key recommendations of the public environmental expertise were not fulfilled. The expertise was performed by the scientific and expert community, as well as by non-government environmental organizations, and the scientifically based comments and recommendations were submitted to the company.

Khabarovsky province. The Tugursky Peninsula
Zarzhetsky Cape. Development of coastal area of the Ulbansky Bay for shimpment operations
Polymetal activities are well detected by remote sensing method
Satellite images by Sentinel

However, Polymetal Company not only ignored these proposals, but also speeded up the process of the area development, including the start of shipping operations and cargo transshipment in the Ulbansky Bay, which is a key habitat for rare species included in the Red List of Russia, such as bowhead whale, killer whale, swan goose, Steller's sea eagle, and others). The intense activities on the Tugursky peninsula are well detected by remote sensing methods (satellite images), which also identified transformed natural sites that go beyond the approved documentation of the environmental impact assessment, for example, the roads to the Tugursky and Ulbansky bays and the coastal infrastructure development for cargo transshipment in the Ulbansky Bay (see the attached photo).

Development works and the pire on the shore of the Ulbansky Bay
Cargo for Polimetal is on board
Ships near Zarzhetsky Cape
The shore after unshipment
Ships in the Ulbansky Bay and coastal development for shipment operations
Olga Shpak

It is important to note that the environment impact assessment (EIA) for the transport and logistics project implemented in the Ulbansky Bay was never presented for discussion with stakeholders and have not been approved by the state environmental expertise. Thus, the company ignored the requirements of the Russian legislation aimed at ensuring the environmental safety in the coastal zone.

It should be highlighted that the company's vigorous activity in remote and intact areas requires special responsibility and careful actions in the implementation of its project. Nevertheless, at the end of September 2021, a fire broke out around 1.5 km from the road that runs from the Kutynskoye field to the pier in the Ulbansky Bay, that destroyed about 7 sq. km of valuable intact forests (see at the attached satellite images).
7 sq. km of valuable intact forests were destroyed
The fire around 1.5 km from the road that runs from the Kutynskoye field to the pier in the Ulbansky Bay
Satellite images by Sentinel

Due to the fact that Polymetal company took a course to ignore the public's recommendations to improve the environmental safety of the project, environmental organizations including WWF and VOOP decided to end the fruitless dialogue with the company and will use other mechanisms to prevent environmental threats from this project. We’d like to inform that we are sending the materials on the identified violations to the environmental agencies. Moreover, we are ready to continue discussing the current situation within the framework of an interagency Commission with the participation of regional executive authorities, environmental structures and prosecutors.

Comments Alexey Knizhnikov, head of the Program for the Business Environmental Responsibility at WWF-Russia: “Last year on Taimyr, we all witnessed the large-scale consequences of neglecting environmental risks by mining companies. The case is not only about the damage to natural ecosystems, but also about the decrease in investment potential for the companies. Unfortunately, Polymetal did not learn from that tragedy. The company's fine words about the high level of corporate social and environmental policy turned out to be fiction in practice.”
For additional information please contact
Director of WWF-Russia Amur branch