1.         Virgin Komi Forests (Russian Federation) (N 719)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1995

Criteria  (vii)(ix)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/719/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/719/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

2010: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/719/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

The State Party did not submit a report on the state of conservation of the property, as requested by the Committee in Decision 38 COM 7B.78. 

In January 2015, the State Party re-submitted a nomination for a significant boundary modification for the property, after its submission in 2014 had been considered incomplete.

The World Heritage Centre received detailed third party information on 6 March 2015 on the state of conservation of the property, and in particular on the court decisions on the issue of the change in the boundaries to Yugyd Va National Park (YVNP). This information was sent to the State Party for verification on 15 March 2015, but at the time of preparation of this report, no reply was received.

It is noted, in the third party information, that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation confirmed in October 2014 its decision of August 2013 that the original boundaries of YVNP remain unchanged, and that the area of the Chudnoe deposit is included in YVNP. An appeal against this decision by the Ministry of Natural Resources was rejected in January 2015 by the Board of Appeal of the Supreme Court.     

The third party information further notes that in the southern component of the property, the Pechoro-Ilychskiy Strict Nature Reserve, a geological survey was conducted in 2011 and that tourism pressure has been increasing significantly on the Manpupunur plateau, where spectacular rock formations are found, resulting in trampling by visitors and off-road vehicle tracks causing severe damage to the vegetation.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The question of the boundary of the northern component of the property, the YVNP, has been a serious reason for concern of the Committee for several years now. The 2010 Reactive Monitoring mission to the property found that different areas were excised from YVNP in 2008, including a 19.9 square km proposed gold mining concession at Chudnoe. However, as no boundary modification had been submitted to or approved by the Committee, these areas continued to be part of the World Heritage property and the boundary change to YVNP effectively took away the protection status of this part of the property. The mission further found that the State Party had already given a license to the Russian company Gold Minerals for mining the Chudnoe deposit. Works on the mine started in 2011 and continued in 2012. As a result, active mining was on-going inside the property, in contradiction with the position of the Committee that mining is incompatible with World Heritage status. The Committee, in different decisions, urged the State Party to reverse the boundary changes and immediately halt all activities associated with gold mining in the property. However, the State Party informed that it would submit a proposal for a boundary modification to confirm the changes made to the boundary of YVNP and to add other valuable forest land. The proposal for a significant boundary modification was submitted in January 2015 and is currently being evaluated by IUCN, for consideration by the Committee at its 40th session in 2016.

Since the 2008 change of the boundary of YVNP, several stakeholders have contested its lawfulness under national law and the question has been subject to several court decisions. The latest decisions of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and its Board of Appeal have clarified this legal issue and supported the fact that the boundary changes made to YVNP were effectively not in conformity with the law. Given that the Supreme Court invalidated the change in the boundary, it can therefore be concluded that the boundary changes have effectively been reversed as was requested by the Committee. It is recommended that the Committee welcome this decision and reiterate its previous requests to revoke the exploration and exploitation licenses already granted inside YVNP and restore the areas damaged by the mining activities, which were undertaken in 2011 and 2012. It is further recommended that the Committee request the State Party to consider making the necessary changes to the submitted proposal for a significant boundary modification in order to take into account the decision of the Supreme Court. It is also recommended that the Committee recall its position on the incompatibility of mining with World Heritage status, and request the State Party to ensure that no mining exploration or exploitation will be permitted inside the property.

It is further recommended that the Committee request the State Party to implement the other recommendations of the 2010 Reactive Monitoring mission and to ensure that tourism activities in the property do not impact on its Outstanding Universal Value.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7B.23

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.78, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Regrets that the State Party did not submit the state of conservation report, as requested by its Decision 38 COM 7B.78;
  4. Welcomes the latest decisions of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and its Board of Appeal which invalidated the boundary changes made to Yugyd Va National Park and confirmed that the Chudnoe deposit area forms part of the national park and therefore effectively reversed the boundary changes, as was repeatedly requested by the Committee;
  5. Reiterates its requests to the State Party to revoke the mining exploration and exploitation licenses granted for the Chudnoe gold mine and urges the State Party to restore the areas damaged by the mining activities, which were undertaken in 2011 and 2012;
  6. Reiterates its position that mining exploration or exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status, and requests the State Party to ensure that no mining exploration or exploitation will be permitted inside the property;
  7. Notes that the State Party has submitted a proposal for a significant boundary modification of the property for examination by the Committee at its 40th session and also requests the State Party to consider making the necessary changes to the submitted proposal in order to take into account the decision of the Supreme Court;
  8. Further requests the State Party to implement all the recommendations of the 2010 Reactive Monitoring mission and to take measures to ensure that tourism activities in the property do not impact on its Outstanding Universal Value;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.