25 Nov 2021 12:21

WWF calls for limiting licensing for alluvial gold mining to prevent river pollution

MOSCOW. Nov 25 (Interfax) - The problem of river pollution by gold miners can be solved only by restricting the issue of licenses for prospecting, exploration and mining of alluvial gold, WWF Russia said.

The organization called primarily for restricting the issue of prospecting licenses on a declarative basis.

"A huge number of small companies are illegally mining alluvial gold under the cover of [prospecting] licenses. And such companies are not subject to environmental oversight, since technically they are not engaged in activity that harms the environment, do not pay taxes on extraction of mineral resources and fees for using bodies of water, and do not build infrastructure needed to prevent river pollution," the organization said in a statement.

WWF experts estimated that about 80% of all cases of river contamination could be linked to the activities of such companies.

"When there are about 1,500 licenses in a region, of which almost a thousand are for prospecting, it is impossible to achieve a reduction of river pollution by control and oversight methods. The existing corps of inspectors is simply physically insufficient to carry out full-fledged oversight," the director of the Amur branch of WWF Russia, Pyotr Osipov was quoted as saying.

This year the WWF, using satellite monitoring, identified 320 cases of river contamination in Siberia and the Russian Far East downriver from alluvial gold mining, stretching 11,500 km, up from 276 km and 9,300 km in 2020.

"The undisputed leader in contamination is Amur Region, where experts identified 45% of the total number of contaminations. If one adds up the 'contribution' of Amur Region, and Transbaikal, Krasnoyarsk and Khabarovsk territories, one gets 85% of cases and 91% of the extent of contaminated sections out of the total number of contaminations in monitored regions," the WWF said, citing data from monitoring of bodies of water conducted with the environmental coalition Rivers Without Borders and the Center for Civilian Oversight and Satellite Monitoring.