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Raspadskaya Coal Mine in Kemerovo oblast, Russia


Description:

Raspadskaya Coal Mines are situated near Mezhdurechensk town in Kemerovo Oblast in the southern part of the West Siberia. The Oblast is well-known coal mining regions with an extremely degraded environment [1] [2] [7]. The Raspadskaya mines are owned by Evraz company that also manages OAO Yuzhnaya in Mezhdurechensk [3].

Shors are indigenous people who continue to live in small villages in the region according to their traditional livelihoods, which includes hunting and fishing. For many years Shor activists and their supporters have been fighting against coal mining [1]. 

The activists are known for their campaign against coal-mining [5]. However, the house of a Shor leader activist was attacked twice, in 2013 and 2014. The activist believes that the attack was part of the pressure plan of the coal mining company as it controls armed check-point on the road to the village. In a similar way, a campaign was organized against Shor activists on regional and federal levels [1]. The neighboring villages are in the same situation, as the mining activities destroy the surrounding environment of the villages [1]. 

After several public street protests against mining in the region  [1] [5] [6], the leader of the Shor community was officially informed by the police about the criminal responsibility for organizing and participating in protests. The leader was also fired from the school where she worked as a teacher and received multiple threats connected to her protest activity from representatives of the police and coal business. After several years of such pressure, the leader and her family escaped from Russia and applied for political asylum in Europe [1] [5]. Those who stayed are now displaced, and some are reported homeless [6]. 

Besides targeting Shor activists, the coal business also implies a highly low working and health conditions for employees of the mines [7]. A methane gas explosions took place at the Raspadskaya mine resulting in the death of 91 miners and rescuers in May 2010 [1] [3] [7]. "All they care about is that we produce more and more coal. And what do we get? Just 7-8 kopeks for every ruble [of profit]. They take the rest. We demand a raise of our salaries and reduction of the production quotas", a miner stated [3]. 

A week after the explosion, miners in the town of Mezhdurechensk took to the streets to protest the fact that they must routinely risk their lives. In the protest, some 28 people were arrested as demonstrators blocked a railway line and clashed with police [3]. Then, protests were held in a number of Russian cities to mourn the victims of Raspadskaya and demand better conditions for miners and the dismissals of Interior Minister and Kemerovo Governor [3]. 

Some of the authorities however are claiming that "unidentified enemies are trying to use the tragedy at Raspadskaya to bring down Russia's current governors, saying the protests in Mezhdurechensk were not organized by miners but by young people and bandits"[3]. 

The Russian government stated how new technologies could further improve the safety and working conditions of the miners, as the gas company Gazprom has developed technology to extract methane from coal beds in working mines and provide a safe and explosions free working environment [4]. 

Finally, the head of Raspadskaya mine quit his position shortly after the 2010 accident and protests, when Russian Prime Minister assailed him regarding the occurred explosions [4].  

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Raspadskaya Coal Mine in Kemerovo oblast, Russia
Country:Russian Federation
State or province:Kemerovo
Location of conflict:Mezhdurechensk
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Coal extraction and processing
Specific commodities:Coal

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In 2018, Raspadskaya Coal Company produced 23 million tonnes of coal and sold over 13.8 million tonnes [2].

Level of Investment:N/A
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:N/A
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Evraz ZSMK
UK Yuzhnaya OAO from Russian Federation
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Shor activists: Civic organisation “Revival of Kazas and the Shor
people”
- IWGIA, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs
- ECOSOC, based in Copenhagen, Denmark
- Institute for Ecology and Action Anthropology, Cologne, Germany

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
International ejos
Women
Local scientists/professionals
Shor people, miners
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires
Potential: Global warming, Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Land dispossession, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Migration/displacement
Repression
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Violent targeting of activists
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:For miners, the government negotiated a reparation of the mines and to improve safety and working conditions. For the indigenous community however, no alternative was developed at all.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Both Shor indigenous resistance against the coal extraction on one hand, and mine explosions and the death of 67 miners on the other hand have not resulted in social-environmentally justice. Instead, the accident is tried to be "resolved" with "new technology", whereas Shor indigenous people are either displaced in exile or criminalized by officials.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) 2015 Report: Discrimination against Shor communities in Myski municipal district, Kemerovo Oblast, Russian Federation
https://www.infoe.de/images/Pdf/Early_Warning_submission_Russia_Indigenous_Peoples_Kazas.pdf

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[7] The Guardian: Russian coal mine blast death toll rises
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/may/10/russia-coal-mine-death-toll-rises

[5] Siberian Indigenous Activists Flee Russia Fearing For Safety
https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-siberian-indigenous-activists-flee-fearing-for-safety/29176692.html

[4] Reuters 2010: Russia's Putin unleashes coal mine safety shakeup
https://ejatlas.org/conflicts/edit/4925#_materials

[2] NS Energy News: Raspadskaya Coal Mines, Kemerovo Oblast
https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/projects/raspadskaya-coal-mines-kemerovo-oblast/

[5] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 2018: Siberian Indigenous Activists Flee Russia Fearing For Safety
https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-siberian-indigenous-activists-flee-fearing-for-safety/29176692.html

[6] Bussines and Human Rights Resource Centre 2016: Russia: Mining companies, including OAO Yuzhnaya, violate indigenous Shor peoples' rights, say activists; includes company comments
https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/russia-mining-companies-including-oao-yuzhnaya-violate-indigenous-shor-peoples-rights-say-activists-includes-company-comments

[1] Acts of intimidation, criminalization and other types of activities

with the aim to prevent human rights work of indigenous activists in Russia. By: Dmitry Berezhkov (Arctic Consult, director) and Pavel Sulyandziga (International fund “Batani”, chair of board)
https://www.culturalsurvival.org/sites/default/files/2019.05-Berezhkov-D.-and-Sulyandziga-P.-Criminalization-of-indigenous-activists-in-Russia%20%281%29%20%281%29.pdf

[1] culturalsurvival.org - Acts of intimidation, criminalization and other types of activities

with the aim to prevent human rights work of indigenous activists in Russia.
https://www.culturalsurvival.org/sites/default/files/2019.05-Berezhkov-D.-and-Sulyandziga-P.-Criminalization-of-indigenous-activists-in-Russia%20%281%29%20%281%29.pdf

Meta information

Contributor:JMA and KH
Last update31/07/2020

Images

 

Activist at the checkpoint in the village of Kasas

Source: https://adcmemorial.org/

Shor woman protesting against coal mines

Source: https://arctic-consult.com/

Police attack on miners during the protest

World Socialist Website https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2010/05/kuzb-m18.html