In December 2011 the Russian government approved the LLC Mednogorsky Copper and Sulfur Plant’s copper-nickel mine project in Voronezh region. This project includes building several ore mines, a mineral processing plant, mining waste storage facilities, reservoirs, warehouses, and a railroad terminal. In 2012 the company started search and evaluation work at the location. The project development details were occulted from the public, the same as the results of ecological expertise. Local residents, scientists, national and international environmental NGOs, political and human-rights organisations were of the opinion that the project would have negative effect on local ecosystems of the Khoper River (the cleanest and most crucial tributary of the Don River) and the Chernozem (Black Earth) Region (the key agricultural area), as well as on health and livelihoods of the local population. The opponents of the project organised a series of protests during 2012 and formed the ecological movement “Save Khoper!” demanding the cancellation of the project.
On March 10, 2013, Sputnik News reported that, "Hundreds of people rallied in a village of Russia’s Voronezh region Sunday protesting against the projected launch of nickel and copper mining ventures. The demonstration gathered at Novokhopersk, a village of some 10,000 people, to protest against the plan to start a copper-nickel mine. The police put the number of demonstrators at 1,400, while the event organizers said at least 5,000 people from several regions showed up. Last year, the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UMMC) won rights to the two region’s nickel deposits, opened between 1970 and 1980. But local residents, backed by Cossacks and environmentalists, have been protesting the project since last spring citing fears that it would threaten the region’s unique environment and contaminate its agricultural land" (1). In 2013 the LLC Mednogorsky Copper and Sulfur Plant initiated a criminal case against the movement leader, and police has interrogated and inspected members. The opponents attempted to organise a local referendum on the issue but did not manage to get permission. Despite the fact that the Russian Federation's Constitution states local people rights to decide on matters concerning underground natural resources, the local population was never consulted in respect.
According to the latest decisions from 2017, the extraction of nickel near Voronezh was considered useful and although some additional permissions will be needed, the mining enterprise construction is planned to begin in 2021. The activists continue fighting against the project.