Coal mining is not a “governmental need”, court rules in Kuzbass, Russia

Media Release

Moscow, April 13, 2018

Activists for the first time in Russian history succeeded to cancel
the permission for new coal mining in the court of Russia’s main coal
region.

Today the court of Belovo district in Russia’s Kuzbass, region
producing over 60% of Russian coal, cancelled the permission to start
a new open-pit mine. Permission was given to “Stroypozhservice” (SPS)
company in late 2016 by a local governmental agency belonging to the
Ministry of Natural Resources. As part of this permission, SPS was
allowed to forcibly take away agricultural lands to conduct the mining
of coal. Owners couldn’t refuse to give away their land as permission
was issued on the base of “governmental need” (Russian legal norm
allowing to take away land without owners consent).

In February Ecodefense initiated the court case along with four owners
of the land in Belovo district of Kuzbass. It was supported by “Team
29”, Russian group of human rights lawyers. Two hearings in the court
happened in March when SPS company was trying to block the process
saying owners had been properly informed long time ago and time for
complains is over. Local court decided the owners were not properly
informed and allowed to continue. Activists asked to cancel permission
for coal mining because it is obviously not a “governmental need”.

On April 13, Belovo district judge ruled to cancel the permission and
agreed it can not be “governmental need” when private company wants to
mine coal. All Russian coal companies are private, this is the only
part of energy industry where government is not involved (unlike gas,
oil and nukes).

“Court agreed to our demands and declared issued permission to take
land away as illegal. It was planned to conduct open-pit mining on
this land by a private company. Court confirmed that rights of our
clients were violated. On a limited scale, but we succeeded to stop
degradation of local environment”, said Ivan Pavlov, head of “Team 29”
defending the interests of land owners.

According to earlier statements by human rights and environmental
activists, the consequences of uncontrolled coal mining in the region
of Kuzbass are leading to further environmental degradation.

It already resulted in contamination of over 90% of drinking water and
excessive air contamination level. Kuzbass is among regions with
highest rate of several deadly deceases, including cancer. Ongoing
environmental disaster in the region caused dozens of protests in
2017. Another anti-coal demonstration planned by activists from
several villages affected by coal mining planned for April 21.

“Coal mining is not a governmental need – this is very important and
political decision by court. And we hope it can be used in other
places that have same problem with coal mining. There is no solid
reason to forcibly take away land for coal mining anymore. This will
greatly help to defend rights of local people against coal companies
turning beautiful nature into disastrous desert”, said Vladimir
Slivyak, co-chairman of Ecodefense, Russian environmental group
campaigning against coal mining.