Round table talks between numerically small indigenous peoples of Sakhalin and oil industry

Press Centre of the Sakhalin Branch of the Russian Environmental Party "The Greens", 16 December 2004

Yesterday in the Sakhalin regional Duma a meeting was held between representatives of the Sakhalin Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North and the oil companies operating oil extraction projects on the continental shelf of Sakhalin . The parties discussed principles of their future relationship before the backdrop of the recent decision by the Association to conduct an open-ended blockade action against the oil development on the shelf of Sakhalin .

The project operators where represented at the meeting by the General Director of OAO NK “Rosneft-Sakhalinmorneftegaz”, Ramil Valitov, as well as representatives of “Exxon Neftegaz ltd.” (operator of Sakhalin 1) and “Sakhalin Energy” (operator of Sakhalin II) and others. The indigenous peoples were represented by Aleksey Limanzo, president of the Sakhalin Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North. Furthermore Pavel Sulyandziga, first vice-president of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), came from Moscow to attend the meeting. The meeting was also attended by the Green Party as well as by the members of the regional administration and the regional Duma.

Representatives of indigenous peoples asked the attendants to consider and eventually sign a joint memorandum. It re-emphasises the direct harmful effect of the oil industry’s activities on the environment as well as on the indigenous peoples of the area.

In order to achieve a full assessment of the scale of the impact and to develop a strategy for future activities they proposed to undertake an ethnological assessment, which would be financed by a special fund to be set up by the oil companies.

Representatives of oil companies recognised that their activity has a negative impact on the environment – just as any other industrial production. But they declared that they were acting in accordance with current Russian legislation. Furthermore all companies were lending direct assistance to the indigenous peoples. Special emphasis was put on the fact that all project operators were using loans by the World Bank, which strictly controls compliance with indigenous peoples’ rights.

No concrete decisions were taken. Oil company representatives said that they were ready for further talks and would consider the proposed document. Possibly there will be formed a special working group to formulate the memorandum. A follow-up meeting was proposed, but no specific date fixed.

After the meeting, Pavel Sulyandziga said that he was not satisfied with its outcome. “I have the impression that company representatives fail to understand how serious our concerns are. Furthermore, we insist that only an ethnological assessment will be able to identify the damage, for which oil companies will have to make compensations. We have the experience in conducting such assessments. Last year a similar approach has been tested in Salekhard. Our Association will lend all necessary assistance to the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin and we will press for concrete steps to be taken”, said Sulyandziga. Furthermore he announced that starting from 1 January 2005 he will be representing indigenous peoples’ interests within the United Nations[1]. The first session will be held in February in Geneva . One of the issues under discussion will be relationships between indigenous peoples and industrial companies.


[1] i.e., the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues – The Editor.