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The Public Chamber Told how to Protect Rivers from Pollution during Placer Gold Mining in 2023

13 december 2022
On December 13, in the Public Chamber (PC) of Russia, representatives of the Public Councils of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia, Rosprirodnadzor, Rosvodresurs and Rosnedra summed up the results of the washing season of placer gold 2022 and noted the increase in river pollution from gold mining
Such results indicate the relevance and importance of compliance with the recommendations developed by the Coordinating Council for Environmental Well-being of the PC ("Environmental Aspects of Placer Gold Mining" recommendations dated February 01, 2022).
"Today we are holding a control meeting. In February, the Coordinating Council for Environmental Well-being held an event dedicated to the environmental aspects of placer gold mining. As a result, recommendations of the PC were issued. They have voiced a number of proposals, including an increase in administrative fines. Almost a year has passed since that moment, so we can sum up some results, what has been taken into account, what is not, and where to we move on," noted Elena Sharoikina, chairman of the Coordinating Council for Environmental Well-being.
Public Chamber of the Russian Federation
According to the public monitoring of pollution during the extraction of placer gold, conducted in 2019-2022 by the Coalition “Rivers without Borders” and the Center for Civil Control and Satellite Monitoring, the length of contaminated sites in all regions in 2022 increased by 5,544 km (+48.3%) compared to the previous year, by 7,723.25 km (+83.1%) compared to 2020.
Amurskaya Province remains the leader in the number of pollutants – 41% of the number of cases and extent, in second place is Zabikalsky Province  (25% of cases and 26% of extent), followed by the Krasnoyarsky Province with 7% in number and 8% in length, KhabarovskymProvince (7% and 5%, respectively), Kemerovskaya Province (6% and 9%), the Republic of Tyva (5% and 4%), the Republic of Khakassia (4% and 1%), Evreiskaya Province  (3% and 4%) and Primorsky Province (2% for both indicators).
Experts agree that the main reason for the increase in pollution are prospecting licenses, which are issued by the application procedure and used by unscrupulous prospectors’ teams for semi–legal gold mining with violation of technology. Their number makes up the majority of the total number of operating licenses in all regions, exceeding 70% in the main gold mining regions.
The participants of the event also noted that the problem is aggravated by the fact that some inspections were canceled this year.
“It is important that the authorities both in the regions and at the federal level recognize the scale of the problem. So, this year, Amursky Province and the Republic of Khakassia joined the number of regions advocating a temporary moratorium on search operations by application. And the Prosecutor General's Office of Russia has put the activities of gold mining enterprises under special control,” comments Alexey Knizhnikov, head of WWF’s Environmental Business Responsibility Program.
According to the experts gathered, improvement of the situation in 2023 is impossible without the implementation of the recommendations of the PC of Russia before the start of the new washing season. In particular, in order to prevent unscrupulous users from obtaining prospecting licenses, it is necessary to introduce a restriction on their issuance. And also - to abandon the moratorium on inspections of the implementation of environmental legislation by enterprises engaged in the extraction of placer gold. Restrictions should also be imposed on the issuance of licenses for the search, exploration and extraction of placer gold in areas of rivers not previously affected by such activities, near and upstream of PAs and settlements.