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Mining may threaten Kamchatka's salmon ecosystems

14 august 2020
The implementation of mining projects may be extremely detrimental to environment of Kamchatka. WWF-Russia sent a letter to the Acting Governor of the region, proposing measures for reduction of possible environmental impact.

This spring, a placer gold mining project on the Bystraya River in Kamchatka became known to the whole country due to footage widely spread by media. The video showed the atrocious results of a mining company’s activity on the river bank. The prosecutor's office examined the site and revealed serious violations of environmental legislation. However, this case is far from being called an exception in the peninsula.

In mid-June, specialists from the control department of the Russian Fishery Agency carried out an inspection at the licensed area of Kamchatnedra, LLC, in the basin of the Kamenisty stream. During the ground and aerial surveys, specialists revealed large-scale man-made changes at the length of almost 9 km. In particular, settling ponds were found in the stream bed, non-approved by officials. Experts noted the erosion of dumps, landslides, which lead to the formation of waterfalls, erosion of the streambed in areas of rapid flow, and siltation where the flow rate decreases. Gross violations of environmental legislation negatively affect not only the stream itself, but also the watersheds downstream, belonging to the Avacha River basin.

“The negative impact on the environment comes not only from companies that extract placer gold. Negative impacts are noted at all large mining projects in Kamchatka. Plans to develop new sites are a matter of concern, especially those located dangerously close to spawning grounds. The salmon populations of the Vyvenka, Asacha, and Vostochnaya Ozernaya rivers are under threat,” says Sergey Rafanov, director of the Kamchatka/Bering Sea Ecoregional Office of WWF-Russia.

WWF-Russia proposes several measures to minimize the environmental consequences of industrial development in the region. The list of suggested steps contains eleven points, including:

  • introduction of strategic environmental assessment when adopting plans and programs within the framework of the strategy for the socio-economic development of the region until 2030;
  • comprehensive assessment of accumulated environmental damage due to the activities of hazardous production facilities;
  • full resumption of state monitoring of aquatic biological resources and their habitat;
  • introduction of a ban on the issuance of licenses for geological exploration and extraction of placer gold on rivers with a special status of fishery (commercial populations of salmonids);
  • obligatory holding of public discussions of the possibility and conditions of deposit development;
  • mandatory implementation of environmental monitoring programs with the participation of the local population and local government bodies on the territories where the deposit development will be conducted.

WWF-Russia is ready to take part in the implementation of the indicated measures and provide expert and financial support of the strategic environmental assessment, as well as the work on monitoring of marine resources and their habitat.

For additional information please contact
Head of WWF Kamchatka/Bering Sea Ecoregional Office