The All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) in conjunction with the London Mining Network, held this meeting to discuss the negative impacts of opencast coal mines, as well as broader human rights issues, in Russia. Vladimir Sliviak is co-Chair of Ecodefense, a Russian environmental and human rights organisation.
The main points raised during the meeting were:
- Coal Action Network’s ‘Ditch Coal’ report examines, inter alia, the global impacts of the UK’s demand for coal. The UK is the largest consumer of coal from Russia in Europe, and the second biggest consumer of Russian coal in the world after China.
- Ecodefense started working on coal issues three years ago. Their latest research into the Kuzbass area of central Siberia found that 93% of all drinking water sources in the area were polluted.
- One company, which is a subsidiary of London-listed company Evraz, attempted to mine in an area home to the indigenous Shors peoples, but some of the community members opposed the move. Shortly after, a Shors village was set on fire and completely destroyed. Later, the coal company began mining in the area.
- Mining has devastated these communities’ way of life. In the 1990s there were 15-16,000 Shors people in the area; now there are 5,000 at most.
- Local authorities in the region are closely linked to the coal companies and corruption has had a huge impact on the environment. For example, coal companies are legally obliged to rehabilitate land covered by waste produced from coal mining. In reality, this law is not enforced and only a tiny percentage has been rehabilitated.
- The UK Government should scrutinise the coal mining supply chain carefully, to ensure it is not complicit in human rights abuses or environmental destruction in Russia.
- Ecodefense has been affected by the Russian Government’s Foreign Agents Law, and was the first environmental group to be included on the list of foreign agents.
- This law and the use of the legal system more generally to underpin repression has done huge damage to the civil rights movements in Russia.
- Many activists do not feel safe carrying out their work. As well as facing legal action, it is common for them to face regular threats and harassment.
The PHRG highlights the human rights impacts of mining around the world, and raises its concerns whenever possible in the UK Parliament and with relevant authorities. The PHRG also continues to campaign about the repression of civil society in Russia, and urges the UK Government to do more to support Russian activists and NGOs.