In the Komi Republic near the town of Usinsk in Northern Russia, one of the most serious environmental disasters of the 1990s happened, when oil leaked from a pipeline that had been contained within a dike collapsed on 1 October 1994. Between 100,000 and 120,000 tons of oil spilled out and polluted the area. The clean up was going on for about a year after the disaster happened, but even years later complaints were still filed by local residents.
Today, the Russian oil industry is producing oil spills that amount to more than 30 million barrels on land each year. A large amount of these oil spill happen within the Komi region. The region is located in a belt of taiga – a zone of coniferous forests – and inhabited by the indigenous Komi people, which are mainly fishermen, hunters and reindeer herders.
Since the disaster of 1994, due to failure in maintenance of infrastructure and other problems, oil continues to be spilled in the region around Usinsk on a regular basis. Greenpeace has identified 14 oil spill sites in Komi region alone during an investigative mission in just over a three-day period. The exact number of spills produced is hard to determine, as many of the oil spills are never reported in the media.
In January 2014, one of the companies operating in the area has now lost a legal battle against the Indigenous Peoples of Komi Republic. LUKoil, one of the companies which is believed to account for most of the spills in the region, has been ordered to pay a 20 million USD fine to Indigenous Peoples of Komi for the destruction and pollution that their spills have caused. This was due to a successful legal campaign by Greenpeace Russia, together with local communities.
The international EJO also stated that this appears to be the biggest such fine ordered in Russia's history. The verdict fined LUKoil for nine oil spills that occurred after 2011 in Komi, where they covered an area estimated around 21 hectares of land. The company had reportedly already spent less than 300,000 USD on re-cultivating the polluted land but the court had ruled the activities to be an insufficient measure.
On 5 June 2014, a demonstration was held in Ust-Usa village in Usinsk district, Komi Republic, Russia, protesting the environmental destruction caused by LUKoil Komi and other oil companies. The protests, which started two months earlier in Izhma district have now spread to Usinsk district (See text of the People's resolution in the Section Links ). Komi people stated that "We demand from the administration of the Usinsk municipal district, to ensure that the fines and payments for damages received into the budget of the municipal district, are fully used for the rehabilitation of the contaminated environment and the local population affected by the oil spills, that is, the residents of the villages of the municipal district.”
On April 11th 2014 the municipal council of Izhma district of Komi region in the North-East of Russia supported claims of local community and voted to stop oil company Lukoil operations in the area. Izhma district is located on the bank of Pechora River running into the Arctic Ocean. Lukoil enjoys a monopoly in these subarctic areas. Most of its population is indigenous Komi people – an ethnic group uniting some 200,000 people in north-east of European Russia, belonging to Shamanic and Christian .