Illegal mining on the territory of the specially protected natural areas, which is conducted for construction purposes in preparation to Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, is a serious violation of Russian environmental and criminal law.
Dmitry Medvedev was revolted by the high costs of construction materials for the Olympics. In Spring 2011, Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Russian Government to define and fix reasonable price for construction materials for the Olympic objects. Apparently, the problem was solved by illegal mining on the territory of the Sochi National Park.
Unique cliffs are destroyed by mining activities in the eastern area of Dzykhrisky karst. It is the home of protected species enlisted in the Red Book of Russia (the endangered and threatened species protection law).
The other quarry caused landslip activities, which, in its terms caused the river Psou’s estuary was half-blocked. This quarry is connected to the Shakhginsky canyon which is the home for unique species enlisted in the Red Book of Russia. Locals also say that turbidity of water have raised since the start of mining activities.
Cars with stones crossed the frontier post. The border protection service did not have any questions to this activities.
The presidential order of June 21, 2011 to cease all mining activities on the territory of the Sochi National Park, as it is absolutely illegal to mine there, was ignored. By that order, all quarries should have been closed by August 1, 2011. Although, it did not happen. One of the evidence of this is the quarry next to the Shakhginsky canyon described above which was revealed in September, 2011.
Consequently, Environmental Watch on North Caucasus submitted the complaint to the Prosecutor’s General Office of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The Prosecutor’s General Office admitted that mining is conducted in serious violations of the Russian law. In particular, it noted that mining organized in the most protected areas of the Sochi National Park was conducted without obligatory permits and environmental impact assessment. The employees of one of the organizing illegal mining company (LLC Business – 21 century) were later fined (approx. $11) for illegal mining. Unfortunately, it was not the end.
It is difficult to legalize illegal mining on the territory of the Sochi National Park as the Federal law on specially protected natural areas prohibits such activities (Art. 15). However, in order to continue mining, areas of the Sochi National Park were excluded (13 hectares) from the Park territory. The excluded areas are under the lease agreement until 2015 signed by Public Corporation “RZDstoy” and is for the purpose of mining. The federal law on environmental protection prohibits exclusion of the lands of the natural preserve areas of the national parks. Therefore, the official reason for the land exclusion was ‘the correction of previously made mistake’. The real reason for that seems to be the anxiety to get construction materials cheaper.
By Yulia Genin based on materials by Suren Gazaryan, Environmental Watch on North Caucasus.