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Date: Tue, 1 Jul 97 11:35:05 CDT
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Traditional Siberian People Reject Oil Exploration Scheme
/** headlines: 169.0 **/
** Topic: Traditional Siberian People Reject Oil Exploration Scheme **
** Written 5:02 PM Jun 30, 1997 by econet in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 5:20 PM Jun 26, 1997 by in env.siberia */
/* ---------- "Priobskoye oil development" ---------- */
From: Drillbits & Tailings: June 21, 1997

Khanty peoples deny permission to auction traditional lands for oil

Drillbits & Tailings, 21 June 1997

The Khanty peoples of the Khanty-Mansiysk region in North Priobskoye on the Ob River in Siberia have rejected a proposal made in March by the regional government to auction off their traditional lands for oil development. In an open letter written in April by V. S. Kogonchin of Ugut village in Khanty-Mansyisk, the community says that it "refuses consent to deliver for auction rights the use of underground resources'' because of the potential impact on their subsistence livelihoods.

"We ask you to support us in protecting our rights to use the lands of Rodovye Ugod'ya (traditional family hunting territories) and the right to pursue traditional kinds of activities," adds Kogonchin. This region represents the last, large contiguous and virtually unimpacted tract of middle Siberian taiga (river, swamp and forest) and associated fauna including more than 200 types of birds, seven of which are on Russia's Endangered Species List. It is home to moose, wolverine, bear, badger, lynx, sable, mink, fox, reindeer in the forests while the rivers remain rich in otter and muskrat as well as perch, pike, crucian and other types of fish.

Last year GOSKOMSEVER (the Russian State Committee for the North, which has overall responsibility for developing and coordinating programs for the Russian North and its indigenous peoples) accepted a proposal to turn the region into a biosphere reserve which would have protected it from exploitation. The area to the south of Khanty-Mansiysk has been exploited for the last 30 years, but geological experts estimate that the rest of the region holds additional oil and gas deposits worth up to US$1.5 trillion.

The existing explorations have brought a huge influx of people as well as logging companies to the area. Khanty-Mansiysk today has a population of one million, up from 150,000 in 1970. Now throughout the area, oil spills and ongoing pollution blacken the wetlands, raised roads trap water causing flooding and ruining the forests, fires caused by oilworker carelessness and petroleum soaked debris send columns of smoke into the air while acid rain blights huge areas of land.

And now, Chicago-based Amoco has begun preparing for oil exploration activities in the Khanty territory in a joint venture with Yuganskneftegaz, a subsidiary of Yukos, one of the five biggest oil companies in Russia. Yukos is controlled by Menatap, a Russian commercial bank.

Andrew Wiget and Olga Balalaeva, two activists who have been working with the local peoples, say that it appears that the proposed auction of oil licenses is a "deliberate strategy (that) has been implemented to delay approval of the proposed Yuganski Khanty Biosphere reserve until all the territories defined for petroleum development within the reserves proposed boundaries can be tendered for license."


"Amoco Oil Exploration Plans in Russia Assailed" Inter Press Service, September 11, 1996.

"WWF Criticizes U.S.-Russian Oil Project In Siberia," Associated Press, August 27, 1996.

Electronic mail alert from Andrew Wiget and Olga Balalaeva, May 10, 1997.