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24 Sep 2023

Krym Realii

Russia: Indigenous communities concerned about environmental risks associated with development of lithium deposits, compain about lack of consultation

See all tags Allegations

[Summary translation prepared by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre]

“Either cargo 200 will come from Ukraine, or they will slaughter their own people.” A small group of indigenous people is disappearing in Russia, 24 September 2023

Even before the war started, the Ministry of Industry and Trade developed a plan of import substitution for Russian enterprises and included the development of lithium deposits. The main focus is accelerated (until 2030) production at five fields: two in Murmansk region, one in Zabaikalsky Krai, two gas condensate fields in Irkutsk region, Kovyktinskoye (Gazprom) and Yaraktinskoye (Irkutsk Oil Company, INK).
The first licences were issued for deposits in the Lovozero District of the Murmansk Region. These are Kolmozerskoye (which contains 19% of Russia's reserves of this metal) and Polmostundrovskoye deposits. The deposits were discovered back in the middle of the last century, but until now they have not been developed due to the complexity of mining in the region and lack of demand.
Competitions for the sale of licences for both deposits were held in February 2023. Polar Lithium, a subsidiary of Nornickel and Rosatom registered in summer 2022, was awarded the right to develop the largest Kolmozerskoye deposit.
A second company with a similar name, Arctic Lithium, has been awarded the right to develop the Polmostundrovskoye deposit. "Arctic Lithium", which came into existence in September 2022, does not disclose its owners ...
Discussing the environmental prospects of projects in Lovozero, an expert of the Coalition for Sustainable Development of the Country (CSDC) Vasily Yablokov says the biggest problem with lithium mining worldwide is the use of gigantic amounts of water.
- Shareholders of companies that hold licences for deposits have, to put it mildly, not the best reputation for environmental responsibility - recallat least the environmental disaster, caused by Nornickel three years ago," reminds Vasily Yablokov. - And concentration of industrial projects in the Arctic inevitably entails infringement of the interests of indigenous peoples living there...

Local residents express dissatisfaction with the upcoming projects in public pages on social networks: for example, they say that about 50 representatives of the Sami people took part in the survey of ethnologists, although about 2.5 thousand people live in the proposed development site. They are also talking about possible problems for the environment: rare plants listed in the Red Book will be destroyed. The Tundra reindeer breeding enterprise, which has about 20 thousand reindeer, may suffer. Valentina Sovkina says that people are simply afraid to ask questions at the hearings...