Rosprirodnadzor Holds Gold Miner to Account

Rosprirodnadzor Holds Gold Miner to Account

Photo: https://biznes-gazeta.ru/

A large gold mining company, based in the Krasnoyarsk territory, is accused of underpaying almost 2 billion rubles ($27.72 mln) in compensation to the budget for negative impact on the environment for the last three years.

Sovrudnik, which operates in the North-Yenisei District of the territory, is the second-largest company in the industry. The largest gold producer in Russia is Polus which is in the top 10 gold mining companies globally by output.

In 2020, Sovrudnik produced 4.6 tonnes of gold reducing the output year-on-year. This is a town-forming enterprise for the village of Severo-Yeniseisky and the entire district. The supervisory body has recently raised serious claims to it which became a surprise for many. They were expressed on social media by Svetlana Radionova, head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor.) According to her, Sovrudnik has been underpaying for a negative impact on the environment for quite a long time. Moreover, the company's appetite is only growing. It withheld 242 million rubles ($3.35 mln) in 2018, 271 million rubles ($3.8 mln) in 2019, and as much as 1.3 billion rubles ($18.01 mln) in 2020!

“All this time they ignore the requirements of Rosprirodnadzor. The irresponsibility of gold mining companies is higher than in almost any industry. Let us remember that gold mining in 2021 is a standard procedure with its regulations and legal requirements. They must be complied with. If not, a violator must pay,” said Radionova.

Rosprirodnadzor does not explain how the gold miners managed to save on NEI payments in this way while the company refuses to comment on the situation.

“Sovrudnik is a very interesting enterprise. It is over a hundred years old. It was launched in the early Soviet era as the local mine was nationalised. During the Soviet period, Sovrudnik was part of the Yeniseizoloto mega association which collapsed in the 1990s. Sovrudnik went through a bankruptcy procedure and was on the verge of collapse. The district administration revived the company in 1998. It became a municipal property, gradually paid its debts, and restarted operation. For many years, it was very nontypical for the industry to have a large gold mining company controlled by a district administration.

Many holdings were interested in the mine. Rumors had it even Polyus Gold was planning to buy it but the municipality was in no hurry to part with its golden goose.

“We cannot rely on any other industry. Historically, the district is only a gold mining territory. There is not much else to do in the Far North. Small business requires huge investments. Gold mining is the main source of revenue to the district budget making it possible to provide everything the population needs for living,” Ishmurat Gaynutdinov, the long-time head of the local administration, told wek.ru. By the way, his son Rafail Gaynutdinov was Sovrudnik’s CEO.

In 2015, it turned out to be impossible to resist the realities of the market. So, the Chelyabinsk-based Yuzuralzoloto group of companies, which also owns assets in Khakassia, got 100% control over Sovrudnik. It also owned the notorious Darasun mine in Transbaikalia.

Incidentally, an interesting pattern can be observed in connection with Radionova's accusations. Rafail Gaynutdinov remained Sovrudnik’s CEO until 2018, after which he left the company apparently as a result of some kind of agreement with Yuzuralzoloto. After that, according to Rosprirodnadzor, the company started doing weird things with environmental payments. Moreover, Yuzhuralzoloto did not react to Svetlana Radionova's accusations either.

The public and supervisory authorities have been increasingly interested in gold mining in the Krasnoyarsk territory this year. First of all, because of the environmental issues. The number of complaints made by the residents against the miners' attitude towards nature has reached critical levels. According to WWF, the miners have polluted about 3,000 km of rivers in southern Siberia this season. The affected area includes the Krasnoyarsk Territory, Tuva, Khakassia, the Altai Territory, and Kemerovo Region.

“It is necessary to create conditions under which it will be unprofitable for a gold mining company to pollute the environment. This season we introduced the practice of suspending the activities of violators for 90 days. The loss of money is a motivation to work without violations. Eighteen companies were caught red-handed repeatedly. We’re preparing documents on them to the Federal Agency for Mineral Resources (Rosnedra) to withdraw the license,” said Yulia Gumenyuk, Deputy Minister of Ecology and Environmental Management of the Krasnoyarsk Territory.

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