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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

The Pearl of Tuva – for Grinding

Big business came to Tuva: how does big money mix with unique nature? The combination of the words “industrial Todzha”, will very likely grate on the ears of the citizens of the Republic for a long time, because we grew up with the deep understanding that Todzha is the Pearl of Tuva. This axiom recently collided with another concept, one that passed with flying colors in the December elections for the Government Council - an economic breakthrough is coming to Tuva, on the basis of utilization of mineral and metal resources. The collision of these two contradictory concepts in our minds caused confusion, and in others – hysterics and tears. The special injustice for many rests in the fact that specifically in Todzha, the Pearl, were discovered the richest deposits of minerals and ores. The sale of license for the utilization of the Kyzyl – Tashtyg deposits of polymetallic ores to the Chinese company “Lunsin” caused a shock in the Republic. While we were recovering from the initial shock, we hardly even noticed that the industrial utilization has already begun. Isn’t it time to wipe our tears and evaluate the situation with clear eyes?
Let us start with global processes. Vladimir Putin, on February 8, at a meeting of the government council spoke about the odors of the world: the entire planet reeks of oil and gas. These smells passed us by, but we encountered another fate - mineral deposits. In the article “Future leader of the coal market” published in the Journal “Financial news” (Dec.12, 2007): At the end of the 20th Century, many analysts predicted substantial decrease of the demand for metallurgic production. It was believed that the world steel market will inexorably shrink because of introduction of new materials, and of development of progressive types of business and methods of organization of production. However, these prognoses were not justified. And soon, hopes for an economic miracle based on utilization of new informational technologies (IT) in business also collapsed.
As was noted by experts, a crisis in the interactions between business and IT gradually ripened and ruptured after a milestone article “IT does not matter” ( Nicholas G. Carr, published in 2003 in May issue of Harvard Business Review), in which the author for the first time openly stated that at which others were only suspecting: informational technologies in the final analysis do not really deliver. In this way, the traditional approaches again became useful for business.”
 In this way, the metallurgic market caught a second breath, and new mineral and ore resources were needed, of which, at the same time, are not many left. Those of Tuva are practically untouched. Naturally, big business came to our republic; we so often bragged with great pleasure that the heart of our land holds the whole Mendeleyev table; ( table of elements). However, the concept “ heart of our land” is inaccurate; this heart actually belongs to Russia, and all the deposits of polymetallic ores represent the strategic reserves of Russia. For that reason, the signing of the investment agreement about utilization of Kyzyl-Tashtyg deposits of polymetallic ores on the territory of Todzha district took place on March 27, 2007, in the framework of celebratory activities, as The Year of China opened in Russia.
The event with “Lunsin” is not unique. In spite of the fact that this agreement was part of an entire package of decisions about economic cooperation between the countries, which has such geopolitical implications, that Tuva can hardly influence it in any way, and, in fact, as an inseparable part of Russia has to hold to it, a question comes to mind: why specifically in Tuva did Chinese capital get access to the” heart” of Russia? Somehow one does not want to think that they simply found a weak link, without enough resistance. The answer to this question remains behind the curtain of big business and big politics. Well, what happened, happened. All that remains to be done is to consistently observe, monitor closely, and insist on tenaciously keeping to the conditions of the license agreement.
We will note that today, big business has learned to be socially responsible. Industrial- financial corporations come to the location of utilization with a solid package of social propositions, starting with the building of schools, children’s day-care, hospitals, electricity power plants, roads, and communications. All these propositions are present in the packages of “Nornickel” and “Lunsin”.
Already, the “Lunsin” company is prepared to put 206 millions dollars into the Tuvan project; the tax income of the consolidated budget of the republic will be almost 1 billion of rubles. There is a probability that LEP will be built to the mine, and Todzha will finally receive a dependable supply of electric power. The road to the deposits is already being rebuilt. This and much else is reflected in the three-sided agreement between the government of the Republic of Tuva, administration of the Todzha kozhuun, and the company “Lunsin”, in the person of its general director Lin Zhuiten. The social package is quite large also with “Nornickel”, which is at this time carrying out final testing of the Ak-Sug deposits. The local population is all ready to get started. Just in one half of the year 2007, Systyg-Khem received 10% from NDFL, which, in rubles, amounts to almost half a million rubles, filling the plan at 200%. The Yyrban oil base has been rebuilt, and the inhabitants of the settlement started to develop personal home farming activities, aimed at supplying meat, fish and vegetables to the geologists.
Even very recently, the situation was quite hopeless. What did we have in Todzha? Let’s look at some excerpts from the “Analysis of the basic condition of the mining area of Kyzyl-Tashtyg polymetallic deposits”, the chapter “Evaluation of the impact of development of the Kyzyl-Tashtyg combinate on socio-economic conditions in the Todzha district”, prepared by The Tuvan Institute of Complex Utilization of Natural Resources (TIKOPR): “Large-scale impact of the activities of the Kyzyl-Tashtyg mining combinate on the ecologic situation in the Todzha district ( the area of the district is 44.8 thousand square kilometers) is not expected. The pollution related to the activities of the combinate will be contained. There is a zone of direct impact on the surrounding natural environment, which includes the entire basin of upper Ak-Khem, up to the watershed at the surrounding mountain ridges ( 50 square km or 5,000 hectares), and a zone of indirect impact, with the area of 100 square km (10,000 hectares). The concentration of pollutants will sharply decrease as the distance from the center of activities increases. The area of reindeer pastures of Todzha is 2.7 million hectares, and the reindeer-holding capacity of this area is 30-40 thousand heads. The process of dramatic shrinking of the numbers of reindeer and reindeer herders started long before the sale of the Kyzyl-Tashtyg deposits.
In 1980, the population of reindeer was 12,694 heads. At the beginning of the1990’s after the disintegration of the sovkhozes, only three reindeer herding communities remained. The numbers of the reindeer population drastically decreased: the reindeer herders, who did not get any pay for years, were forced to barter their reindeer for goods, fuel, or money.
Currently, the population of reindeer counts only 1,339 heads. The crucial factor in the extinction of reindeer-herding as a source of subsistence of the root ethnic population of Tuvans-Todzhans is the low level of socio-economic development of the district, and consequent low living standard of the local population.” The main conclusion, that the scientists-ecologists made about the mining combinate (GOK) on the Kyzyl-Tashtyg deposits, looks like this: “ Closing of this object will not solve the problem of ecologic condition of Todzha district, because this territory has no other potential for economic development, which can, and should, be preserved for securing the future “eco-subsistence” development. Consequently, the route of “preservationism’ will not contribute to the improvement in economic situation.”
The dry sentences of scientific conclusions, despite their obviousness, cannot influence our feelings – in a way it is all true, but the soul is still uneasy. This is why a live interview with one of the scientific workers, who personally participates in the ecologic analysis of the environmental impact of the utilization of the Kyzyl-Tashtyg deposit on the nature of Todzha. We decided to talk to scientific worker of the geo-ecologic laboratory of TIKOPR CO RAH, Olga Kalnaya.
-Olga Ivanovna, what exactly did you analyze: the current ecologic condition, or what can happen as a result of building the mining combinate (GOK)?
 - We conducted an analysis of the basic condition of the mining area of the Kyzyl-Tashtyg metallic deposits. That is, our first task was to analyze the condition of the territory before the start of utilization of the deposits. Our second task was dedicated to evaluation of the impact of the projected mining project on the surrounding natural environment.
- And what were the results?
- I would like to point out that the process of pollution with harmful substances in the area of the deposits has already begun. The soils are contaminated with heavy metals, but in tolerable concentrations. But the water in the Ak-Khem river is contaminated with these heavy metals very strongly to a distance of 11 km from the deposits.
- Where did the heavy metals come from? Nothing has been started yet.
- Intensive pollution was started as a result of the geological exploration and testing. - After opening the deposits with various underground drilling and sounding, the ores begin to oxidize. As a result of this process, heavy metals get into the water.
- Pollution is going on even now? And what will happen once the GOK is built?
- There will be purification devices. I think that it is better to build a combinate with all the newest, most advanced purification technologies, than to simply abandon the explored site, which is already causing harm to the nature. The rivers away from the deposits are clean. Kharius ( a species of fish) is found at levels downstream from the deposits, but does not go any further upstream, because that area already is a dead river zone. Somebody wrote that there is nothing left alive in this area. It is nothing like that. There is impact of undesirable elements, but it does not hinder the normal processes of nature. The flora and fauna are preserved. As a matter of fact, the animals who left as a result of the noise of the preliminary testing work, are coming back. We saw tracks of bears, of hoofed animals.
-What type of damage, concretely, will happen as a result of building the GOK?
- Any technological interference brings harm to nature. In the area of the GOK, certain species of plants will die off, small areas of species of spruce, cedar. I will not quote numbers, there are too many. In general outline, there will be utilization and then purification of water, which will be taken out of the natural system, and thus will decrease the amount of water available in the natural system. These losses will be amply paid for. Taxes will be levied for use of land for industrial goals, for disruption of natural growth cover and of tree cover. In the summary, we tried to calculate all the possible losses on the given territory: water, land, plant life, animals, fish. But this is really only a small part of the area we are used to calling Todzha.
- What do you mean – a small part?
- The area of what we call Todzha consists of about 50,000 square kilometers. There is the zone of direct impact on the environment, which includes the entire basin of upper Ak-Khem, up to the watershed at the surrounding mountain ridges. This area is no bigger than 50 square kilometers. Then there is the zone of indirect impact, which is about 100 square kilometers in area. The concentration of pollutants will drop off sharply as the distance from the main center of activities increases.
- Olga Ivanovna, but what exactly will be the GOK, have you seen the actual plans?
- The minig combinate was designed by the SIBCVETMETNIIPROJEKT institute, (Siberian Colored Metals) which is extremely experienced in this type of activities. Currently the project is being reviewed by experts, and our report of evaluation of the environmental impact is included in this review. In the area of purification systems, the most advanced technology will be used. There will be an extremely powerful device, named “Impuls” which won gold medals at various exhibitions and trade fairs.
 It cleans water by use of electrical impulses. As the research workers say, the water will be cleaner than ever before. Let’s hope. All the level areas, where heavy technical equipment will be used, according to the project, will be covered with asphalt; all the equipment will be continually cleaned, and the polluted water used in the cleaning will go straight to the purification system. That means that also all the wastes from the workers living settlement, including human biological waste, will go through many levels of purification. Cleaned water will be used for rinsing the dust in the works, and other technical uses. But there is a problem in that simply working at the GOK is very harmful for human health. All the workers at the GOK will be considered a high-risk group for occupational diseases. This must be acknowledged, and appropriate measures have to be taken for health protection and social support system. The plans include for the GOK to have its own laboratory, which will be monitoring the condition of the water on a daily basis. If all the conditions of the project are strictly adhered to, there should not be any pollution. Or, in the worst case, only minimal.
- Consequently, the management of the GOK itself needs strict supervision?
- In compulsory order. In my opinion, there should be a supervisory monitoring committee, the members of which should thoroughly know and understand every detail of every aspect of the project, the technical conditions of the work, everything. It is very serious. I will give you an example – the building of the waste reservoir. This is a huge reservoir, to hold the wastes of the production. It will be built in the river basin, which is very worrisome. A dam 49 meters high and 9 meters wide at the top, made of a type of clay, is supposed to protect the environment from the wastes. This dam should be built exactly to technical specifications. If the plans say 49 meters, it should not be even 1 cm smaller. If it says 9 meters at the top, it should be 9 meters. Everything has to be very accurate. A canal network is planned, which is meant to bypass the waste reservoir, for clean, natural water from the watershed system to go into Ak-Khem. Everything has to be done as specified. We also cannot exclude the possibility of such a concept as “human factor”, which often appears to be the cause of technological catastrophes. One cannot completely rule out the danger of possibility of rupture of the dam, or leaching of substances from the reservoir. Sudden release of water can lead to washing off of road surfaces and breakage of bridges lower downstream, which lead along Ak-Khem to On-Khem and partially also Bii-Khem, and also flooding of low-lying areas. Unexpected release of the contents of the reservoir can lead to contamination of these rivers by heavy metals and chemicals used in extraction processes of the GOK.
All these risks have to be minimized, and for that we need very strict, constant control. We need to be confident that excellent specialists will be working at the GOK. I believe that monitoring over a foreign project will be more strict. We have to set up strict priorities – in the first place, ecological safety. Now, chasing after profits, people forget everything else. Ecological safety depends on everybody: the workers, head engineer, director of the project. Responsibility for nature should be in every human being. There is a remarkable phrase: “Tear off a blade of grass, and the whole universe shudders.” All of us have to work on improving ecological awareness. We are all responsible for the Earth, on which we live.
We are glad, that even on high levels of government, ecology is remembered. After a visit to Chelyabinsk, both Medvedev and Putin expressed themselves, that ecology laws will be reviewed, and amended in the direction of greater strictness. They even remember the monitoring of nature protection processes. More than that, we began to understand why the TIKOPR is so important. Today, without an ecological expert analysis, it is impossible to realize any industrial project, and, thank God, there still are scientists – ecologists in the republic to conduct this kind of work. The name of the institute, - Tuvan Institute of Complex Utilization of Natural Resources- speaks for itself, and now it becomes clear, who should perform the serious governmental obligation of monitoring the ecological situation in Tuva.
Now everything that concerns ecology ( civic organizations, movements, actions, study groups, and such) should become a priority for those in power. By themselves, they cannot implement ecologic control. It also cannot hurt if the nature protection agencies existing in Tuva, would individualize into actual personalities with first and last names. Who is hiding behind the words “ Federal nature protection agencies”? Who, concretely, is responsible for the condition of water in the Yenisei basin? Who concretely will monitor the building of mining combinates? It is a case where it would not hurt to have our own Mitvol. We need high level support if we are to responsibly deal with industrial-financial groups, which are making their move onto Tuva. And it is a fact that they are coming. “Norilsk Nickel” is conducting final exploration of the Ak-Sug deposits; there is the task of working up the project of mining------------
Currently, nobody hears anything about ecological control over the works conducted by OOO “ Golevskaya Gornorudnaya Kompaniya”. Yenisei industrial company is getting ready to go mining for the Elegest coal. And again, we are talking about a large-scale project, which is unique in that it is a rare, if not the only, case, where government money in large amounts unite with private capital. We are now talking about the building of the Kuragino – Kyzyl railroad branch, which is already a part of the Strategy of development of railroad transport of Russia, and is an organic part of the “ Four I’s” of Medvedev. For Tuva, the Elegest coal is more or less a positive factor, even just as a means of competition on the coal market. Currently, under monopoly conditions, Kaa-Khem coal company raised the price of coal to 900 rubles per ton. The high price is set in the interest of exporting the coal beyond the Sayan mountain range, but as it is incorrect to have two different prices for coal – domestic and export, the local Tuvans are also forced to buy coal for export price.
 It is obvious that the aluminum magnate, Oleg Deripaska, has far-ranging plans to build a five-star hotel. There are rumors that a new GES is to be built to decrease the level of energy deficit. A new GES is exactly the last drop for Tuva! It is obvious that we cannot really deal with these large companies without the support of Federal government. This situation was very well discussed by Sergei Ten, the vice-premier of Tuvan government, in one of his interviews. One would like to hope that the words of Vladimir Putin, that the nature of Tuva is the riches of Russia, is not simply empty passing enthusiasm, but a signal to industrial-financial groups, that the leader of the nation, at the very least, likes the nature of Tuva, or at the very best, it is under his protection.
But even support at the highest places will not help, if Tuvans do not help themselves. It is necessary to stand up for our interests on all fronts – both economic and ecologic, which together will represent a complicated testing for the government agencies. Somebody needs metals, somebody else needs profit, but Tuva needs jobs, development of infrastructure ( roads, electricity, building base), and at the same time, we must preserve the unique nature, which has nourished the Tuvan nation for centuries.
The bottom line is, that ecologic awareness is necessary to preserve ourselves. One needs to remember ecological culture and stay aware all the time. It would not also hurt to find some common ground with the Chinese in Buddhist treasures : Tear up a flower, squash a mosquito – and several generations of your descendants will suffer negative karma. We so readily talk about Chinese expansionism, about their ability to “sweep up” all the frogs, horns, hooves, but at the same time we are forgetting that one cannot go for a swim in our own lake Khadyn anymore. And the Chinese, walking along the banks of Yenisei, cannot understand about what treasured ecology in the soul of the nation we are talking about. In the large picture, the problem does not lie in who came here and is destroying the Tuvan land, but that every inhabitant of this planet Earth is responsible for it in any little corner of it.

Marina Chanzan, translated by Heda Jindrak
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