WWF appeals to the Ministry of the Environment to protect rivers from placer gold mining
WWF Russia has sent a number of proposals that will reduce the negative impact of placer gold mining on ecosystems and human life. The letter reflects the position of WWF and a number of non-governmental environmental organizations in Russia regarding the problem. The message is sent on the eve of World Wetlands Day - February 2, 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention for the Protection of Wetlands of International Importance, because placer gold mining first of all affects freshwater ecosystems.
Thanks to the public monitoring, which WWF Russia conducts jointly with a
number of environmental NGOs with the support of the Presidential Grants
Foundation, in recent years many river pollution cases have been revealed during
placer gold mining, including in areas close to indigenous peoples settlements.
As a result of satellite monitoring, in the period from May 15 to October 15,
2020, 231 cases of river pollution were detected on the territory of the Far
Eastern Federal District. The total length of the polluted river sections was
about 6650 kilometers. There are 78 cases of pollution with a total length of
contaminated areas of 2649 kilometers were detected on the territory of the
Siberian Federal District. Most of these violations have been confirmed by the
results of inspections by state environmental authorities.
The letter also includes proposals of ecologists to return the project documentation for the development of placer gold deposits to the list of objects of the state ecological expertise, as well as to introduce a moratorium on the development of deposits near protected areas and in areas of value for the conservation of biological diversity and economic activities of the local population. The authors of the letter also advocate strengthening the role of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, municipalities and the local people in making decisions on the issuance of new licenses, increasing the efficiency and transparency of the activities of government bodies that control the work of gold mining enterprises.
Placer gold mining has a long history in Siberia and in the Russian Far East. Due to depletion of the most of large and promising deposits of precious metal, mining enterprises are forced to look for new deposits. These deposits, on the one hand, have very poor gold reserves, on the other, they directly affect protected areas, places of traditional nature use of the indigenous people.
Over the past three years, in some regions more than 200 licenses have been issued annually, most of licenses are so-called exploratory licenses issued by the application procedure, without open tenders. This type of license does not give the right to mine placer gold, but many enterprises begin the actual mining operations without concluding a water use contract, without creating the necessary infrastructure to prevent river pollution, without carrying out reclamation of disturbed land.
For the past four years, WWF Russia has been working with the Coalition of environmental organizations to address placer gold mining issues. Satellite monitoring of river pollution, carried out with the support of WWF, made it possible to assess the scale of the problem and draw the attention of state bodies to it. Training of public inspectors is underway to reveal the facts of river pollution on the ground. Work is underway with state authorities to tighten control over gold miners.