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Coal mining in Arctic's natural reserve, Taymyr, Russia


Dikson town on the Taymyr peninsula in the Russian Arctic has the largest natural reserve in the country and one of the biggest in the world. The natural reserve is called Bolshoi Arkticheskiy (The Great Arctic State Nature Reserve) and covers 4.2 million hectares [1] with outstanding biodiversity, including sea lions and polar bears [5] [6]. 

Furthermore, 550 people inhabit the area [7]. Historically, the Dikson settlement was formed on the island in the Kara Sea but expanded to the Taymyr Peninsula later on. That’s why Dikson has two parts, the island, and the mainland [7]. 

Besides the biodiversity, the Taymyr peninsula is also rich in high-quality coal. In October 2016, Russia signed energy co-operation deals with India. Following that agreement, the Russian government developed a new mega open-cast anthracite coal mine project in Dikson (Western part of the Taimyr peninsula). The high-quality coking coal (anthracite) is suitable for steel making [2].

VostokCoal-Diskon is the project developer company, that plans to extract 30 million tons of anthracite (coal) per year [10]. An increased target of 80 million tonnes for the Indian market has been mentioned by the year 2024 [2]. "This is the richest area for anthracite in the world" [10], the company stated. It is worth mentioning that the company is also interested in oil reserves in Taymyr as another "ambitious" project [4].

India’s Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas said: “We are the second-largest coal importer in the world, ... so we need to increase coal supplies” [2]. The Russian government furthermore stated that "Thanks to the development of the coal project, the increase in shipments on the Northern Sea Route will be ensured" [4].

On the other hand, environmentalists stated how “Developing new mega coal projects in such an ecologically sensitive area is a "madness”. Given the fact that the project is expanding its boundaries to the Natural reserve area, environmentalists consider the project illegal [2] [8]. Moreover, for environmentalists, the project is a destructive activity with huge negative impacts on biodiversity [2]. For instance, "an international bird monitoring center is based only 2 km from the open-cast coal mine" [2]. Greenpeace Russia also opposes these plans, commenting that the mine is based only 1km from the nature reserve [2] [8].

Residents of the Dikson town raised their concerns as well. The residents stated that bears spend most of their time on floating sea ice but recently they have noticed the ice melts quicker than usual. Therefore bears spend the summer months on the mainland, close to their homes [8].

The International Barents Observer (IBS) environmentalists reported to the State Environmental Monitoring Agency -- Rosprirodnadzor the illegal mining operations on the Taimyr peninsula and sued the VostokCoal-Dikson company for environmental law violations. The court ruled that the company has to pay 7.4 million dollars for mining violations [2]. Since the government supports the coal project, environmentalists fear how the mining will not be stopped [9]. On the contrary, they argue how priorities are given to the highly controversial coal project and not the environmental preservation of the Taymyr Peninsula in the Russian Arctic [9] [11].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Coal mining in Arctic's natural reserve, Taymyr, Russia
Country:Russian Federation
State or province:Krasnoyarsk Krai, Siberia
Location of conflict:Dikson, Taymyr peninsula
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Coal extraction and processing
Coal extraction and processing
Specific commodities:Coal
Titanium ores

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Arctic coal trade for India threats wildlife, increasing pollution risks.

Russia’s Arctic is facing a conflict between valuable minerals and preserving the wildlife. The decline in Arctic sea ice provides a new economic opportunity for Russia to increase the country’s trade relations with others.[12].

Exploration and exploitation by VostokCoal are taking place since 2016. Two fields have been discovered and production licenses have been obtained. The launch of the extended production is scheduled for 2019. Coal will be exported through the coal terminals. During the winter, however, icebreakers will be used [3].

A source [10] states that "First Deputy Minister Sergey Tyrtsev confirmed that Russia by year 2025 will be able to increase its exports to India by 700 percent. «I believe that we will able to boost the volumes of our deliveries to India six-fold, to 28 million tons by 2025,». The outlined volumes are equivalent to the combined production targets of Vostok Coal and Severnaya Zvezda. Russia in 2018 exported a total of 4,5 million tons of coal to India".

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:550
Start of the conflict:2016
Company names or state enterprises:Vostok Coal from Russian Federation
Coal India Limited (CIL) from India
Relevant government actors:Government of Russia
State Environmental Monitoring Agency
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Barents Observer

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Boycotts of companies-products


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Genetic contamination, Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow
Potential: Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:The court ruled the environmental violation of the mining activities and made the company pay a several millions of fee. The project, however, was not stopped by the court.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Although the environmentalist reported to the environmental authorities the illegal mining activities, and the court ruled the violation due to its expansion on the natural reserve area --- the project still continues.

Sources & Materials

[1] BBC News (2019): Russia's Taymyr plan: Arctic coal for India risks pollution

[2] Conserve Energy Future: The Ambitious Open-Cast Coal Mining Project in Taymyr Could Cost Russia Heavily in Terms of Pollution

[3] VostocCoal, official site

[4] The Moscow Times: Small Northern Russian Town Lands Key Role in Big Arctic Plan

[6] Wikipedia: Great Arctic State Nature Reserve

[3] Vostok Coal, official site

[8] The Telegraph: Russian town besieged by polar bears forced off melting Arctic ice

[10] The Barents Observer: Big blow to Arctic environment as Russian coal company advances into protected tundra

[] The Barents Observer: Big blow to Arctic environment as Russian coal company advances into protected tundra

[11] Eye on the Arctic: Moscow supports Vostok Coal’s expansion into protected Arctic tundra

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[10] The Barents Observer, 1 November 2019. By Atle Staatlesen.


[12] Safety4Sea, 29 Nov 2019. Arctic coal trade for India threats wildlife, increasing pollution risks. Russia’s Arctic North is facing two conflicts; valuable minerals and preserving the wildlife. The latter faces many challenges, as the decline in Arctic sea ice provides a new economic opportunity for Russia in that area, concerning the country’s trade relations with others.

Meta information

Contributor:ENVJUST PROJECT Arctic sub-project ICTA-UAB
Last update19/01/2020



The arctic coal, Taymyr peninsula in the Russian far North

Source: VostokCoal

Arctic Coal mining

Source: Arctic today

Great Arctic State Nature Reserve

Source: Travel Russia

A polar bear at the Great Arctic State Nature Reserve

Source: The Arctic

A sea lion at the Great Arctic State Nature Reserve

Source: The Arctic