The British government has recently released its consultation document which proposes the phasing out of the last 8 coal fired power stations in 2025.The Coal Action Network are among the organisations campaigning for a faster, legally binding phase out.
One of the reasons why 2025 is too slow is because of the impacts of coal mining on the populations living next to the coal mines. The full impacts of mining on local people and environments is described in the Coal Action Network’s Ditch Coal Report. Below are two accounts of the impacts of coal mining in Russia, the main source of coal burnt in UK power stations. The UK is the second biggest consumer of Russian coal, much of which comes from the Kuzbass region, where the village of Kazas was before it was completely destroyed.
Alexandr Tokmogashev, a Shor resident of Kazas village where Yuzhnaya Coal Company started mining development in 100 meters from the settlement:
“…It all started when Yuzhnaya Coal Company first came in Kazas. They started visiting house by house and offering the owners to sell them.
Before that, when my parents were alive, there were representatives of Mezhuderechensky, Zagorsky and Sibirginsky coal mines coming to the village and organizing gatherings of all residents in a club (we used to have the club). They were offering to build a new village or buy housing for those who want to move to the city. My parents kept rejecting these offers; they didn’t want to move anywhere.
In December 2012, Yuzhnaya Coal Company carried out a village gathering to have the house owners voted on selling their households. But it was lacking a proper announcement among the residents, so many of the owners didn’t attend. There were 36 owners participating, and 28 voted for a forced relocation. It was specified on paper as a forced relocation, not as just an individual sale. I was among those eight who voted against it…
The mine started secretly operating. In the beginning, they made some improvements for Kazas. A bus connection with the village was established, and then street lighting and drinking water delivery were arranged. There was no clean water in the village before, because the Kazas river has been totally polluted by discharges from coal mines…
On November 26, 2013, the house No 15, of Jury Kostrakov, was set on fire. If police wanted to find those who did it, it was surely possible. There was a check point at the entrance to the village equipped with recording cameras. Later eight more houses were burnt down. In the spring, ruins of the first burnt house were dismantled and moved away without the owner’s knowledge and permission.
After they burned our houses, they started checking our documents and vehicles at the road check point which previously local residents could pass by unchecked. Why do I have to show them my stuff?…
They started threatening us. Once we had a conversation with Halimov, director of Yuzhnaya Coal Company. Again, we refused to sell our houses. He responded by threatening us with demolishing our burnt out houses, namely No 48 and 33. We called the police, and all nine of us, participating in the conversation, gave evidence concerning the threats…
They evaluated our properties. Halimov sent me a paper where he evaluated my three room house and 950 m3 plot was worth less than 90,000 rubles. This is, in his opinion, the value of my house. Previously, he offered me 2.500,000 rubles…
Eventually, almost all the residents sold their houses…
I don’t quite understand how they managed to falsify a forced relocation to a voluntary one and report to the governor that everybody happily sold their houses and moved away. Despite my house having been burnt down, I’m still its owner having all the documents…
Now I don’t live in Kazas, but keep visiting to see it. In the mass media it’s being presented as a deserted holiday area. But Kazas never was a holiday area, it was a residential village.
Now the mine workers are cutting down Siberian pine forest around the village destroying our habitat. We addressed the UN World Heritage Committee office in Moscow, and in February their inspection visited us…
I don’t know what is going to happen next. I’m completely exhausted. My health is broken. We do our best in this fight. We will try to set a new organization, the territorial public governance. It is not only us who fight. In Chuvashka, Valentina Boriskina and activists tried but failed to organize it. It appears that we, the indigenous people of Shor, don’t have our own land. Previously there was the national council of the village to defend our rights. I think the village councils were closed down in order to open up the mines here.
Lyudmila Sokolova, Beresovo village where Berezovsky open-pit mine is operated by Stroyservis company:
“When land is dug up, water accumulates in pits. It should be pumped out through a water treatment plant. But it is pumped out directly to the river while the mine is already operating. At the last public discussion I asked when the waste water plant will be installed. In 2018, they replied. The river already turned black due to coal dust.
Sure, when we address any instance with a complaint, an inspection comes and the mine stops polluting for a while. The river turns clear very fast, as dust gets deposited at the bottom. My father used to go for fishing in this river. But now it is just a dirty stream. They dried out the ponds. We moved here because of these ponds, and now there will be the mine instead of them.
I know for sure they are not going to provide anybody with other accommodation as I asked them directly about that at the last public discussion. The relocation of people is not included anywhere in the project documentation.
Due to our active protests last year, they divided the planned mine into two stages and developed only the first stage in 1 km from the village. I asked them what they are going to do with the second stage which was supposed to be closer to the village. They replied that they will decide when they get that close. When they get that close, we are not going to be here any more.
There are cracks in our walls and stoves and clouds of dust in the air due to explosions. They are very similar to earthquakes and frightening for the children. It is a shame that the government should be protecting us but instead, the government cooperates with those companies. I don’t want to stay here as I want to live. They have a license until 2029.
At the public hearing that took place 10 days ago, they presented a nice plan of planting 186,000 trees. When? In 2031. Have you ever seen here a mine which has been restored once it has been completed?
I said, stop telling us the tales! Withdraw your license.
There are pastures and meadows where you plan to mine. Last year there were 70 cows in the village, no only 50 remaining. In Soviet times, 800 cows were fed by this land. Not to mention vegetable gardens, we need them to survive as prices in our state are growing. We naturally make a living by keeping cattle and chicken and cultivating our plots.
I don’t consider jobs for youth as an argument in favour of the mine. They are killing our youth. Our population is 400 people; over 100 children live here constantly. Additionally, in summer 12 children come to spend their holidays on our street alone.
So where are we going to bring children when now we have clouds of dust coming from the mine? For the second summer running I can’t give berries to children as I simply can’t wash the dust out. Coal dust is unlike home dust, you can’t simply wash it out.
We, the local residents, are apparently have the diseases of professional miners.
We keep writing letter suggesting them to set up a 5 km sanitary zone and don’t get closer to the village. They may have their coal somewhere else, in Taiga, where it won’t be destroying people’s lives.
They arranged the medical post here entirely because of our protest activity. If we had been quiet last year, there would be no highly promoted children playground and medical post. But the social centre will not be constructed as people may be gathering there and saying that the mine is bad.”