New coal mining project in Siberia

Fatal for environment, climate and indigenous peoples (Press Release)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has accused the Russian Federation of violating indigenous rights and fueling the climate crisis with new mining projects in Siberia. Thus, new coal mining projects on the Taimyr peninsula will deprive the indigenous people there of their livelihoods and destroy the natural environment. Just this week, the major Russian investor AEON confirmed that preliminary work for the new Syradasaysky mine on Taimyr had begun. The coal mined there will be exported primarily to India and China. "Demand for coal is falling worldwide. Nonetheless, Russia unflinchingly continues to plunder mineral resources on indigenous lands. This outdated energy policy is fatal for the natural environment and for the indigenous communities of Siberia," stated Yvonne Bangert, STP expert on indigenous peoples, in Göttingen on Thursday.

The indigenous Nganasans, Dolgans, Evenks, and Nenets have been living on Taimyr for centuries. They mainly live off reindeer herding and hunting. They are acutely endangered by the construction of new roads, settlements, mines, conveyor belts, and harbors – because the reindeer are restricted in their seasonal migration and are generally pushed back more and more. Taimyr, with its centuries-old unspoiled natural environment and various nature reserves, is also considered an important stopover for migratory birds. Even the Russian environmental agency Rosprirodnadzor has taken legal action against a coal mine – operated by the company Vostokugol – for violating nature conservation regulations on Taimyr.

The Siberian peninsula of Taimyr, which at 400,000 square kilometers is equivalent to the total size of Germany and the Netherlands, has become a Dorado for the Russian mining industry. It was only in October 2020 that a Russian expert commission approved the controversial mining project and associated infrastructure projects. In addition to the open pit mine, the West Taimyr industrial cluster will feature a 61-kilometer-long covered conveyor belt, and there are plans to build a deep-sea port on the Kara Sea. From there, up to ten million tons of coal will be shipped annually to India and China via the northern polar route. The mine is believed to hold up to five billion tons of coal. 

Russia is the world's third largest coal exporter after Indonesia and Australia, and there are plans to increase coal exports to India six-fold by 2025 (with 28 million tons annually). "Siberia's indigenous peoples are the victims of the systematic plundering of their habitat – which is supposed to improve Russia's trade balance and to make Putin's loyal oligarchs even richer," Bangert stated.