State of Conservation (SOC)
Virgin Komi Forests
Factors affecting the property in 2011*
- Management systems/ management plan
International Assistance granted to the property until 2011
Requests Approved: 0
Total Amount Ap proved: 0USD
Missions to the property until 2011**
a) Changes to the boundaries of Yugyd Va National Park;
b) Proposed gold mining.
|2010||Reactive Monitoring Mission to the Virgin Komi Forests, Russian Federation, 3 to 11 October 2010|
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011
On January 31 2011, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property. A joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission visited the Virgin Komi Forests, from 3-11 October 2010, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010). The mission focused on the questions of boundary changes and mining in Yugyd Va National Park (YVNP), the northern component of the property. The full mission report is available online at the following web address: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/35COM/.
While the mission team considered that the forest ecosystem for which the Virgin Komi Forests was inscribed on the World Heritage List is overall in good condition, it noted a number of important conservation issues:
a) Boundary changes to Yugyd Va National Park (YVNP)
The mission found that four areas have been excised from YVNP: a 19.9 square km proposed gold mining site at Chudnoe, existing quarries at Zhelannoe (quartz) and Obeiz (granite), and the existing SRTO-Torzhok gas pipeline. As noted by the State Party in its report, these excisions followed a land registration exercise carried out by the Russian Cadastre Agency in 2008. However, no request for a boundary modification of the World Heritage property was submitted to the Committee before the changes to the boundaries of YVNP were made. The mission concludes that the boundary changes are in clear contravention with Paragraphs 163 – 165 of the Operational Guidelines which clearly require that any boundary change be approved by the Committee. As no boundary change was approved by the World Heritage Committee, the areas excised from YVNP are still to be considered part of the inscribed property. The mission noted that the excisions remove the legal protection status of these parts of the property, therefore jeopardising the protection status of the property, which is a key requirement of its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) in accordance with Paragraph 78 of the Operational Guidelines. The mission also noted that the boundary changes are the subject of a legal challenge at the national level.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that that Paragraph 180(b) (i) of the Operational Guidelines clearly states that the modification of the legal protection status of a property constitutes a potential threat to its OUV and integrity and therefore consider the criteria for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger are fulfilled. They also consider that the boundary change to YVNP should be immediately reversed and that no boundary change to YVNP should be implemented prior to approval by the Committee.
In its report the State Party expresses its intention to submit a minor boundary modification request to the Committee. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that this boundary modification is motivated by a proposed mining operation at Chudnoe (see below). IUCN considers that the boundaries of World Heritage properties should not be modified with the primary objective of facilitating mining, as this would not be in line with the policy not to mine within World Heritage properties. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN further consider that given the potential impact of the proposed mining operation on the OUV of the property, as described below, such a request for boundary modification should be considered as a ‘major boundary modification’ and therefore would require a re-nomination of the property, in line with Paragraph 165 of the Operational Guidelines.
b) Mining within YVNP
The mission noted two active quarries within the property at Zhelannoe (quartz) and at Obeiz (granite). The mission acknowledged that both operations predate the property’s inscription on the World Heritage List and appear to have limited impact on the property’s OUV. The mission recommends that these activities are phased out and the areas affected restored and that in the interim an environmental management plan is developed and implemented to minimize the environmental impacts of these activities.
In addition, the mission was informed that the State Party has given a licence to the Russian company Gold Minerals, for a proposed gold mine at Chudnoe, one of the areas excised from YVNP but part of the property. The mission noted that this proposed mine is not comparable in scale and impacts with the existing quarries and that it is likely to have significant negative impacts on the property’s OUV and integrity, including contamination of the Kozhym River, construction of substantial infrastructure within the property and increased heavy traffic. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that allowing mining within the property is contradictory to the case law established under the Convention that mineral exploration and exploitation are not acceptable within World Heritage properties.The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the fact that a licence for these extraction activities within the property was already given by the State Partyshould also be considered as a case of potential danger to the OUV of the property in line with Paragraph 180(b) (ii) of the Operational Guidelines, fulfilling the conditions for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. They consider that unless a boundary modification is requested by the State Party and approved by the Committee, and until it is demonstrated that the impacts of the Chudnoe mining project will not affect the OUV of the property, all mining activities (including preparatory activities) should immediately be halted and the licence revoked or frozen.
c) Protection status of the property and adjacent areas
The mission noted the lack of buffer zone on the eastern boundary of the property and recommended that this buffer zone be created. The mission also recommended providing a protection status to the Upper Illych Basin forest, situated between YVNP and the second component of the property, the Pechoro-Illychsky Strict Nature Reserve (PISNR), given the importance of this forest block for the long-term integrity of the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that in its report the State Party acknowledges the importance of upgrading the protection status of the Upper Illych Basin, and states that work is under progress to include the area in YVNP. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider this as a very positive development.
d) Geological prospecting
The mission was informed about ongoing geological prospection on the eastern boundary of the property, hence the importance of instating the eastern buffer zone. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN further received reports in early 2011 that the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources approved geological prospecting within PISNR. They recall the Committee’s position that mineral exploration is incompatible with World Heritage status.
e) Other issues
The mission also considered a number of other issues including hunting and poaching, logging, the SRTO-Torzhok pipeline, the Pdocherie-Vuktyl drinking water pipeline, forest fires, the potential for tourism development, as well as management planning, staffing and budgets. The mission made detailed recommendations on a number of these issues which are included in the mission report.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Center and the Advisory Bodies in 2011
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the removal of the protection status of part of the Virgin Komi Forests World Heritage property and the approval of the Chudnoe gold mine inside the property are to be considered as potential threats to the OUV and integrity of the property. They consider that the conditions for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger are fulfilled in line with Paragraph 180(b) (i) and (ii) of the Operational Guidelines. They consider that the State Party should be urged to immediately reverse the boundary changes made to the property and to halt the gold mining project. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN further welcome the planned inclusion of Upper Illych Basin forest, situated between the two components of the property, but note their concern about reports that the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources approved geological prospecting within the southern portion of the property.
Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2011
Draft Decision: 35 COM 7B.25
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B,
2. Recalling Decision 34 COM 7B.25, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),
3. Expresses its utmost concern about the boundary changes made to the northern component of the property, Yugyd Va National Park (YVNP), which removes the protection status of these areas, and about the approval of a gold mine within the property at Chudnoe;
4. Considers that the excisions made to the property and the approved gold mine at Chudnoe represent a clear potential threat to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value and integrity, as defined in Paragraphs 180(b) (i) and (ii) of the Operational Guidelines;
5. Decides to inscribe the Virgin Komi Forests (Russian Federation) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
6. Urges the State Party to immediately implement the following corrective measures proposed by the 2010 mission to remove the potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value:
a) Reverse the boundary change to Yugyd Va National Park,
b) Immediately halt the gold mining project at Chudnoe, including all preparatory activities, and revoke or freeze the exploration and exploitation license already granted;
7. Requests the State Party to implement the other recommendations of the 2010 World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission, in particular:
a) Develop a strategy to phase out the Zhelanoe and Obeiz quarries and develop environmental management plans for the quarries and the SRTO-Torzhok pipeline to minimise their environmental impacts,
b) Establish a buffer zone with adequate protection status along the entire eastern boundary of the World Heritage property, in consultation with neighbouring regions,
c) Upgrade the protection status of the Upper Illych Basin by including it either within the Yugyd Va National Park or the Pechoro-Illychsky Strict Nature Reserve, and of the PL 350 enclave by designating it as a regional protected area, and
d) Strengthen the financial resources and staffing of the two components of the property in order to ensure that management can effectively conserve the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;
8. Commends the State Party for undertaking an upgrade of the protection status of the Upper Illych Basin, located between the northern and southern components of the property, by integrating it within Yugyd Va National Park;
9. Notes the State Party’s intention to submit a minor boundary modification request to the World Heritage Committee, and also considers that since this boundary modification is motivated by a proposed mining operation it should be considered as a ‘major boundary modification’ and, if proposed, will require a new nomination, in line with Paragraph 165 of the Operational Guidelines, and further considers the boundaries of World Heritage properties should not be modified with the primary objective of facilitating mining;
10. Also notes reports that the Russian Ministry for Natural Resources has approved mineral exploration within the southern component of the property, the Pechoro-Illychsky Strict Nature Reserve (PISNR), and recalls its position that mineral exploration and mining is incompatible with World Heritage status, in line with the international policy statement of the International Council of Minerals and Metals (ICMM) of not undertaking these activities in World Heritage properties;
11. Also requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, to develop a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value and to provide a draft proposal for the Desired State of Conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger on the basis of the above corrective measures, for examination by the World Heritage Committee;
12. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property, describing the implementation of the corrective measures, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.
The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).