Days of action to protect Khoper River
On March 3 -4 in many areas of European Russia south (Voronezh, Lipetsk, Volgograd regions, etc) citizens will be rallying and picketing to protest the government’s decision to go ahead
with large nickel-mining operation.
Government of the Russian Federation on 26.12.2011 approved plans to develop copper-nickel mining in Voronezh region. This venture threatens the whole Chernozem (Black Earth) Region — the key agricultural area in Russia, which also has crucial importance for the global food security agenda.
Apart from economic losses, the potential damage to the hydrological system of the region will undeniably affect the Azov basin. The Khoper River that flows in the immediate vicinity of the ore occurrences is the cleanest and most crucial tributary of the Don River. The deposits themselves are found right underneath Savala River – a tributary of
Khoper – covered by 6 layers of confined aquifers, the bottom aquifer representing an ancient sea – a layer of saturated brine of
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bromine and iodine salts that stretches over at least 50 km. If that brine from the bottom aquifer leaks to the surface, the salinization of soils and surface waters will be inevitable. The use of water from underground aquifers will lead to the shallowing of Khoper and partial devastation of the floodplain Khoper Nature Reserve. Water diversion for technological purposes is unavoidable: one part of concentrate “consumes” about 50 parts of water in the process of its production. Such plans of a un-sustainable economic development are also putting a threat to the Russian and global water security.
Khoper Nature Reserve is a nature reserve lying 15 km away from the outer edge of currently proved ore deposits. The nature reserve has the status of a key ornithological area of European significance, encompassing the habitats of the rare white-tailed eagle, the peregrine falcon, the golden eagle, and occasional breeding grounds of the great bustard and the little bustard. The nature reserve gained international publicity as the habitat of a relict animal – the Russian Desman. Last year its population has sharply dropped down and the role of Khoper Nature Reserve in its conservation has considerably increased.Local residents who live within the 70-kilometer radius from the mineral deposits express serious concerns about the problem of proposed mining for non-ferrous metals in the vicinity of their homes. A series of protests have been held in two district centers of the Voronezh region: Novokhopersk and Borisoglebsk, as well as in the town of Uryupinsk, which lies further downstream the Khoper River in the Volgograd region. The protests gathered between 3,000 and 10,000 people, which accounts for 2/3 of the population of one of the towns. Participants of a car ride against mining ventures drove from Uryupinsk and Novokhopersk to Borisoglebsk to join the 3 July 2012 rally; about 400 cars took part in the ride, which stretched over 10 km of the road. The Cossacks and organizations representing the whole political spectrum decided to join efforts and declared that they will stand up against any attempt to launch non-ferrous metal mining in the Voronezh region. By February 2013 the confrontations were taken out into the future mining territory. At the moment the LLC Mednogorsky Copper and Sulfur Plant tries to initiate a criminal case against Konstantin Rubakhin, the coordinator of the “Save Khoper!” (http://savekhoper.ru/) ecological movement; the ecological activists are being taken to the police to be interrogated for more than 12 hours a day; their residencies were inspected by police on February 16, 2013.
Scientists and human rights activists have also addressed the Russian President and the Governor of Voronezh region demanding that the bidding results are cancelled and the mining of these deposits is vetoed. For more information see the Movement’s web-site