Confrontation breaks out between a coal mining company and population in Kemerovo region

Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” monitors the situation in the village of Cheremza in Kemerovo region, where on June 13, 2020, confrontation occurred between the local residents and the “Kuznetsky Yuzhny” open pit coal mine, which had decided to build a coal loading complex without acquiring proper authorization for it. The company builds its loading complex near the village, on the border between Novokuznetsk district and the town of Myski. Local residents protested against this and have set up a protest tent camp on the site of the future complex. Residents and environmental activists from neighboring areas are on duty in the camp around the clock. The management of the coal mine tried to resume construction works at least five times, but local residents and activists blocked the traffic of equipment by standing in front of the trucks as a human shield. On June 17, Timur Frank , director of the coal mine, announced that the company had stopped construction of the coal loading station, however, in spite of this construction works continued. On June 24, several residents of Cheremza and their supporters went on a hunger strike to protest against the coal company’s refusal to remove equipment and stop illegal construction. On June 28, Piotr Frolov, executive director of the “Kuznetsky Yuzhny” open pit coal mine LLC, informed environmental activists about the temporary suspension of works in order to clarify the situation with the construction of the loading facilities, but despite this local residents refused to leave the camp for fear that illegal construction would resume. They insisted that the “Kuznetskiy Yuzhny” open pit mine should be deprived of its license for extraction of mineral resources.

Construction and opening of a coal loading station may not only cause deterioration in the quality of air, soil and water in Cheremza and nearby settlements, but will also affect the interests of the Shors, local indigenous people of Kuzbass, who are engaged in traditional agriculture, hunting and fishing in this area.

Back in the fall of 2019, residents of Cheremza and other neighboring settlements opposed the plans for construction of an open pit coal mine and a coal loading site near their village during the public hearings, which were held. According to environmental activists, operations of an open pit mine will cause significant harm to the environment and will have a detrimental effect not only on air, but also on the nearby Kalandas river, which has already been damaged by the movement of large trucks along it. Later the governor of Kemerovo region Sergey Tsivilev stated that no open pit mines would be built in this district without consent of the local residents, but in May 2020 construction began nevertheless. According to the local residents, the coal company illegally carried out land stripping and the local road, which is located in the water protection zone of the river, was covered with blast furnace slag without proper authorization in order for the passage of construction machinery. This also created a threat of a local bridge collapsing. Due to the hazardous substances contained in the slag used for road construction, several local residents were seriously poisoned.

Russia occupies a leading position in the world in extraction and exports of coal. The coal mining industry in Russia has been steadily growing over the last decade. Despite the fact that every year more and more countries are introducing long-term programs aimed at reducing production and use of coal and are switching to alternative energy sources, the Russian authorities are adopting strategic measures aimed at comprehensive support and growth of the coal industry. At the same time, the operations of Russian coal companies, as a rule, lead to large-scale violations of human rights, irreversible damage to the environment and extensive use of natural resources. Regions with a developed coal industry literally die out because of coal dust and harmful emissions. However, the opinions of local residents and environmental activists, who oppose barbaric methods of coal mining, are not taken into account, while actions aimed at preventing violations of the law by coal mining companies often lead to open confrontation with government agencies and the coal mining companies.