State of Conservation (SOC)
Virgin Komi Forests (Russian Federation)
Factors affecting the property in 2010*
- Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
a) Proposed gold mining;
b) Boundary issues.
International Assistance granted to the property until 2010
Requests Approved: 0
Total Amount Approved: 0USD
Missions to the property until 2010**
|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 2010
On 29 January 2010 the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, as requested in Decision 33 COM 7B.31 of the World Heritage Committee. The World Heritage Committee’s previous consideration of this property was related primarily to the excision of a portion of the property to create an enclave for gold mining. The State Party provided supplementary information on this proposal during the session of the World Heritage Committee. The World Heritage Committee decision expressed serious concerns about this proposal, requested the State Party to not proceed with any development that would impact on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, to comply with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and to state unequivocally that no commitment had been made on mining concessions within the boundaries of the inscribed property.
In addition to reporting on the main issues that were raised by the World Heritage Committee, the State Party report contains information regarding the general land protection regime for the property, the monitoring regime and planning and management arrangements. These provide useful background information regarding the property and have been noted by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN.
Creation of mining enclave
The State Party reports that in 2008 the Federal Real Estate Cadaste Agency marked out the boundaries of the national park, resulting in an increase in total area of the National Park. This exercise appears to be the same exercise that was mentioned in supplementary information submitted to the World Heritage Centre on 26June 2009, immediately before the discussion on state of conservation at the 33rd session of the Committee, stating that “as a result of land-marking […] the “Chudnoe” area was recognised as located out of the “Yugyd Va” National Park.”
The State Party report states that “the problem of mining operations carried out in the northern section of the park remains one of the most severe up to the present moment. It notes that “there were some plots that were under development long before the park opening” and refers to a quartzitic sand field named Zhelannoye, two granitic sand fields named Obeiz and Skyviu, the mine Chudnoye, a gas pipeline (SRTO-Torzhok), and a drinking water pipeline. The report notes that the environmental safety regulations had been toughened after the opening of the park, and that the mentioned activities are in operation “practically without any environmental damage”. Moreover, the State Party notes that these areas are outside of the Park, implying that the boundary exercise has also excised these other areas.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are deeply concerned by the report of the State Party, and that none of the requested actions in the previous decision of the World Heritage Committee have been undertaken. Since modifications to boundaries of World Heritage properties must be considered by the World Heritage Committee, the results of the national exercise to modify the national park and remove former mining areas from protected status appears to have result in legalizing mining activity within a World Heritage property. No information was received from the State Party regarding these developments, although this is requested in Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN understand that the changes to the boundaries of the Yugyd Va National Park, which lies within the World Heritage property, were legally adopted on 18 January 2010. On 30 of December 2009 Gold Minerals, CJSC a subsidiary of GV GOLD (Vysochaishy, OJSC) obtained a license for exploration and production of hard rock gold at the Chudnoye deposit (Komi Republic). The area of the license is 19.9 km2 and the license is valid until 2029. The Company’s website report of February 2010 (available at http://www.gvgold.ru/en/press/news/article.aspx?article=9c537f40-8ecd-4265-9cee-83b2b39215a5) notes that “at the moment the Company proceeded to designing of the exploration operations, preparation of permits, licenses and approvals and elaboration of the feasibility study for investments into the commercial development of the deposit. The first explored gold reserves of the deposit amount to 2.3 tons. The deposit has a significant exploration potential of 80.3 tons. It is characterized with high gold grades in ore (4-9 g/t) and may be developed using the open cast mining method. […] On the first stage, the Company plans to invest about US$ 71 million into development of the Komi project, including: US$ 12.2 million - into the exploration operations, and US$ 58.8 million - into construction.”
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that it has been determined that the Chudnoye area lies well within the boundaries of the National Park and would result in direct and indirect impacts on the property if reactivated for mining. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also recall that in the previous report on the state of conservation of the property it was noted that these issues had been previously considered at the 21st session of the World Heritage Committee, and that at the 22nd session (Kyoto, 1998), the Observer Delegation of the Russian Federation had confirmed that all gold mining activities had been halted and that the areas concerned were under rehabilitation. IUCN understands that in 1998 a plan to exclude lands associated within industrial activities from the territory of the national park was assessed by a Russian expert commission as a threat to the park, including the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage property. A negative decision was passed by the State Environmental Committee (Order 408 of 3 July 1998). No details of the other developments referred to are provided by the State Party, and whilst the presence of a pre-existing water supply may not pose a large ongoing threat, the impacts of a gas pipeline and three other quarried areas could be more significant.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that permitting mining the property is also directly contrary to the clearly stated policy that mining is incompatible with World Heritage status, as recognised by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and other industry lead bodies, and endorsed by the World Heritage Committee. Proceeding with a 20 km2 open cast gold mining development within the World Heritage property would have significant potential to lead to impacts on its Outstanding Universal Value. Considering the past advice of the World Heritage Committee, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the de facto licensing of mining within the Virgin Komi Forests World Heritage property could potentially present a basis for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2010
Draft Decision: 34 COM 7B.25
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add,
2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.31, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),
3. Strongly regrets that the State Party appears to have licensed a significant open cast gold mining operation within the World Heritage property, and has also excised other areas from protected status, and also regrets that the State Party did not take into account the previous requests of the World Heritage Committee in taking these actions;
4. Notes that the boundaries of the World Heritage property as inscribed by the Committee have not been amended, and therefore requests the State Party to reconsider its recent boundary demarcation exercises in order to restore the protected status of all areas within the World Heritage property, including all areas that have recently been excluded from the Yugyd Va National Park;
5. Strongly urges the State Party of the Russian Federation to take all necessary steps, with provincial and local government as appropriate, to immediately halt mining activities within the property;
6. Calls on all companies holding licenses for mining in the World Heritage property, with the support of their investors, to not proceed with mining activities, in line with the international policy statement of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) of not undertaking these activities in World Heritage properties, as also endorsed by the World Heritage Committee;
7. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property, in order to review the mining threats to the property, to confirm the integrity of its boundaries, and to advise on the effectiveness of the protection and management of the property;
8. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property, focusing specifically on the halting of mining and the restoration of all areas of the property to protected area status, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session in 2011, with a view to considering, in the absence of substantial progress, the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
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”).