Environmental research in Russia’s Far East has discovered that the extraction of alluvial gold has caused pollution in more than 6,600km of rivers, over half of which are in the Amur Region on the Chinese border.
That’s according to research published by the Russian branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which conducted water testing between March 15 and October 15 in six regions, with financial support from the Presidential Grants Fund and the ‘People for Nature’ project.
The WWF discovered 205 individual cases of river pollution throughout the Far East, with the Amur Region alone having more than half of all detected cases.
Alluvial gold mining, also known as placer mining, is the process of searching for precious metals and gemstones in the bed of a stream. Gold deposits build up over time, when a river runs over ground rich in the metal. This form of mining is highly regulated. Following the research, the WWF informed both federal and regional environmental services about the violations. In turn, after inspections were conducted, more than 17 companies were fined a combined 3.6 million rubles ($46,500), with seven companies being told to pay an additional combined sum of 16.8 million rubles ($210,000) in damages.
According to Petr Osipov, head of the Amur WWF branch, the punishment is not severe enough, as the size of the fine is just a drop in the ocean for a precious metal company.
“The sanctions that are applied to violators, in accordance with the law, are clearly insufficient to improve the situation,” Osipov explained. “Fines which seem huge to ordinary citizens, are not so large for companies that extract gold.”
The WWF also called for the authorities to require the constant presence of inspectors, making it possible to quickly identify and stop violations, thereby preventing significant damage to the environment.
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