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Yamal Mega natural gas project, Arctic Russia


Nenets are an indigenous group that inhabits Yama peninsula, known as the Yamal-Nenets autonomous region in Russian Siberia [1] [4]. Being a nomad group, the Nenets migrate between forests or taiga to their grazing lands way up to Russia's northern fringe [6].

In the 1990s, however, as  90% of Russian gas can be found on the Yamal peninsula, Gazprom company under the Yamal LNG (Liquefied natural gas) initiated preparations for one of its biggest gas projects, the Yamal Megaproject gas exploitation project [1] [6].  

Due to this mega project, Nentes' traditional lands have been transformed and environmental degradation started to take place [1].  “For them it is fortune, for us terror,” said 20-year-old herder. “The fact they’ve found deposits here is catastrophic”, another member of Nenets community stated [2]. Due to this project, some Nentes members left their traditional lands on the peninsula, as they refused a life in permanent settlements [1]. 

For those who stayed, the main problems are biophysical land degradation and the disappearance of cultural tradition. Their nomadic lifestyle and migration routes have been disrupted by gas infrastructure, pollution, and the effects of climate change [1]. 

But Nenets depend on reindeer-herding for their cultures and livelihoods. For example, warmer climate in the Arctic lead to a denser shrub growth across the tundra, making it more difficult for Nenets to gather and move reindeer herds. Extreme temperatures can cause freezing rain and ice that the reindeer herds can not graze or pass across easily [1]. In addition, the new pipelines and other industrial infrastructure are creating further obstacles to traditional migration routes [1].

Many activists from the Nenets community, especially the Forest Nenets, involved in Indigenous rights group alliances of Siberia, have publicly raised their concerns about the environmental challenges facing their community in order to raise awareness about the environmental and cultural issues of gas and oil industries on their traditional territories [1]. The activists have been holding seminars and training sessions, including legal issues, economic development, pollution and climate change [5].

In 2019, a Moscow court ordered the closing down of the Indigenous rights group, saying that the organization has not provided the correct documentation which is needed to be recognized by the Russian law [5]. But the group argued how the Russian Government accuses the community of trying to thwart Russian economic development [5].  

The group’s allies say "this is a nonsense" and continue: "the alleged sentence is nothing but a pretext to silence the organization" [5]. “It’s not a legal issue. It’s a political one,” said the director of the Center for Support of Indigenous People of the North/Russian Indigenous Training Center. “There’s a big conflict of interest between corporations and indigenous people” [5]. The aim is “to frighten the society” [5]. 

"The organization also argued how the government built the gas plant ignoring climate change and crisis issues. The organization also argues how the development of such huge gas fields has other issues with permafrost holes, that can explode very easily, bringing a danger of large scale accidents to the community as well [5]. 

Gazprom, on the other hand, argues how they provide the Yamal province with $665 million a year, but did not comment on how exactly the money is distributed and to whom [2]. Herders and administration officials argue that compensations for pasture degradation and land are meant for local government but they do not reach Nenets people [2]. The community still argues how they do not want their cultural landscapes change: “I want my grandchildren to see our land as it is: beautiful, fresh, full of berries and deer” [2]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Yamal Mega natural gas project, Arctic Russia
Country:Russian Federation
State or province:Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug
Location of conflict:Bovanenkovo
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Yamal project aims to exploit natural gas reserves totaling more than 4 billion barrels of oil equivalent. To do so, more than 200 wells have been drilled and three liquefaction trains built, each with a capacity of 5.5 million metric tons. Every year, nearly 16.5 million metric tons of LNG are transit through the port of Sabetta, with all LNG production sold in Europe and Asia under 15- to 20-year contracts [3]. Yamal will produce uo to 360 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

In order to have access to the gas resources of Yamal, the Gazprom company uses a new shipping route, known as the Northern Sea Route. the route reaches Asia in only 15 days, compared with 30 days using the conventional route through the Suez Canal, which includes an ice-breaking process and at the same time accelerates the ice melting in the Russian Arctic [3].

The production at the new Yamal plant also increases the traffic on Russia's Northern Sea Route—which runs 2,800 miles from the Kara Sea east to the Bering Strait with 18 million tons of cargo. The Russian Government has ordered 80 million tons of cargo per route [5]. This would take an additional $163-billion investment in Arctic resources extraction—including development of coal deposits on the Taymyr Peninsula east of Yamal, of the Payakha oil field in the Yenisey River delta, and of a northbound oil pipeline from the Vankor oil field [5].

Level of Investment for the conflictive project27,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:60,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Gazprom (Gazprom) from Russian Federation
Yamal LNG Russia from Russian Federation
Relevant government actors:Russian Government
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Forest Nenets.
- Center for Support of Indigenous People of the North/Russian
Indigenous Training Center

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Nenets indigenous peoples
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Seminars on climate change


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow
Potential: Oil spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession
Potential: Violations of human rights


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Violent targeting of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:No alternative has been proposed in this case. The Nenets and their activists oppose the project completely.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Nenets efforts in resisting the northernmost industrial facility on their lands -- the Yamal LNG -- has been impressive. However, their resistance continues as the government silences the activists through administrative obstacles accusing them not to have fulfil the "correct paperwork" needed for their indigenous and environmental organization to be recognized officially. In that way, the government wants to keep the indigenous communities under control while the Arctic continues to warm and melt.

Sources & Materials

[2] Reuters: Russian Arctic tribe at risk from Yamal gas projects

[3] YAMAL LNG official website[PRO]-[ANN]---[RU]--

[6] The Guardian: Russia's rush for gas widens gap between growing wealth and vanishing tradition

YAMAL LNG official website[PRO]-[ANN]---[RU]--

[] The Guardian: Russia's rush for gas widens gap between growing wealth and vanishing tradition

Meta information

Last update24/01/2020
Conflict ID:4856



A Nenets woman herding reindeers in the Western Siberian Yamal Peninsula

Source: Minority Rights

Yamal Gas project

Source: Total Group Yamal

Gas burns on the Yamal Peninsula.

Source: National Geographics 2019

Yamal export routes