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Coal mining is not a «governmental need», court rules in Russian Kuzbass

Activists for the first time in Russian history succeeded to cancel the permission for new coal mining.

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 complain 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 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.

For more info call:

+7 903 2997584 (Vladimir Slivyak of Ecodefense), e-mail: ecodefense@gmail.com
+7 931 3039178 (Anna Fomina of «Team 29»)

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