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Copper-nickel mining in Voronezh, Russia


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.  

Basic Data

Name of conflict: Copper-nickel mining in Voronezh, Russia
Country:Russian Federation
State or province:Voronezh region, Chernozem region
(municipality or city/town)Voronezh (Novokhopersk)
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Mineral processing
Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Nickel

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

The Khoper Nature Reserve is an important bird sanctuary and home to the almost extinct Russian desman, a small mammal from the mole family. Threatened by large copper-nickel mine. According to the company (2), "Ural Mining and Metallurgical Co plans to start construction of a copper-nickel mine in the Voronezh region of Russia in 2018. Ural Mining and Metallurgical Co plans to start construction of a copper-nickel mine in the Voronezh region of Russia in 2018, after winning rights to the resource from the Russian State Committee on Mineral Resources. Ural’s Mednogorsky Copper-Sulphuric Plant (MCSP) will be permitted to mine and process nickel ore at the Elkinsky deposit in the Novokhopersky district of Voronezh as soon as it completes a geological evaluation.

“We are planning to commence exploration and evaluation at the beginning of 2013. Geological exploration will be finished by 2016-2017. If the reserves are confirmed, it will be possible to start construction of an underground mine (presumably with four shafts) and a concentrator in 2018,” the company said in a statement.

Reserves at the deposit are forecast to last up to 45 years.

The deposit could produce 300,000 tonnes of concentrate and 3.5 million tonnes of ore as early as 2027, the company said. The company will initially invest 13-15 million roubles per year in the project. "(2)

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:10,000
Start of the conflict:26/12/2011
Company names or state enterprises:LLC Mednogorsky Copper and Sulfur Plant (MMSK) from Russian Federation - The bid-winning firm
Glencore (GLEN) from Switzerland - Potential trading partner
Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UMMC) from Russian Federation
Relevant government actors:The Russian President and the Governor of Voronezh, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Anti-Corruption Department
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:“Save Khoper!” ( WWF. Greenpeace. Bellona. Moscow State University. The Russian Academy of Sciences. The Autonomous Cossacks of Novokhopersk

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
The activities erected the ‘protective cross’ at a proposed mine location.

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Food insecurity (crop damage), Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other Environmental impactsSalinization of soils and surface waters with brine of bromine and iodine salts coming from deeper soil layers if disturbed.
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:The activists demanded from the federal and reginal authorities to cancel the project, as well as to ban extraction of coloured metals in the entire Chernozem Region. In their opinion, the region should be oriented toward tourism and agriculture. The activists also required liberation of their arrested colleagues.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The extraction of nickel near Voronezh was considered useful and the construction of mining enterprise is planned to begin in 2021.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict


Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Eco-activist Konstantin Rubakhin - about the fight against nickel for Kopper (in russian) Radio Svoboda (18 May 2013)

The ecology of sanctions, Open Democracy, KONSTANTIN RUBAKHIN (8 September 2014).

Blog: Nickel mining - a threat to the Black Earth and Prihoperye

On the run in Russia, Open Democracy, KONSTANTIN RUBAKHIN (3 July 2014).

Where there’s muck, there’s brass, The Ecologist, KONSTANTIN RUBAKHIN (02 January 2014)

The extraction of nickel near Voronezh was considered expedient. MOE (15 Octubre 2017)

Nickel Mining will Destroy Home of Russian Desman (in russian), Ekoreporter (15 May 2012)

«Save Khoper» Movement on the Problem of Copper-Nickel Mining

Nickel, Hopper and Desman (in russian) Chasni Korespondent, Maksim Sherbakov (28 January 2013)

Copper-Nickel deposits: irreparable damage to the Voronezh region (in russian), Bellona (June 21, 2012)

Cossacks on the run to protect nature, Politicopro (5 May 2015)

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Blog on Khoper mine opposition activites (2013-2016)

(2)Ural Mining plans to start copper-nickel extraction at Voronezh in 2018

(1) Hundreds Protest Nickel Mining in Russia's Voronezh Region Russia. 10.03.2013

Nickel mining is a threat to the Black Earth region! (in russian) Valery Vasilyevich Davydov, association for protection of Khoper (12 April 2016)

Other documents

Protestor against the mine in the Black Earth region The sign reads "Khoper is ours"

Poster used in the campaign against the mine in the Chernozem Region It reads "Prevent ecological catastrophe" and Chernozem life - Norilsk death

Other comments:The "Safe Khoper" activists were accuse with the “preparation of the extremist activities” in order to make them quit their fights, same as have already happened to other Russian environmental activist involved in other conflicts such as Khimki forest.

Meta information

Contributor:Jovanka Spiric, Centro de Investigaciones en Geografía Ambiental (CIGA) - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), vankajo(at)
Last update20/06/2018



Protestor against the mine in the Black Earth region

The sign reads "Khoper is ours"

Poster used in the campaign against the mine in the Chernozem Region

It reads "Prevent ecological catastrophe" and Chernozem life - Norilsk death