Roundtable in Kemerovo

Autumn 2001

N. M. Pechenina
Representative, Vice-President of the Committee on Agricultural and Economic Policy of Kemerovo Province (Phone: 8(3842) 23-56-59; 23-54-51)

The indigenous people living in Kemerovo Province are the Teleut and the Shor. The places which they populate densely are known for the intensive exploitation of coal and other useful minerals. There are no territories in our province which are set down for the traditional means of exploiting natural resources and the interests of indigenous peoples are not taken into account as far the exploitation of mineral wealth is concerned. In order to solve this problem, we lead open negotiations with the owners of the coal mining companies.

A roundtable discussion took place in July 2001 under the title: “Protecting the Interests of the Indigenous Minorities in the Areas Affected by Mining (realization and control of the Federal Law of 03.03.95, No. 27-F3 “On Mines” in the case of coal deposits).” This initiative was supported by the Committee on National and Environmental Policy of the Province Council of Peoples’ Representatives; specialists from the Departments of Fuel and Energy; Coordination Council for Natural Resources and Mineral Wealth; Kemerovo Committee for Natural Resources; the Procurator’s Office; the institutions of local autonomy; representatives of the Association of the Shor and Teleut Peoples, and the management of the mining companies. The preparations for the roundtable and the actual discussion took place under the supervision of Deputy Governor V. P. Mazikin.

At the roundtable discussion, representative N. M. Pechenina, Vice-President of the Committee on Agriculture and Economics of Kemerovo Province, spoke about the goals of this meeting. In her speech, she also noted some of the consequences of industrial activities, which included the shallowing of rivers, water drainage from wells and springs, shortage of fish, deforestation, a decrease in numbers of wild animals, as well as degradation of the land quality in agricultural areas and farmers’ personal lots. As a consequence of the above, it is impossible to engage in the traditional forms of economic production.

In his speech, E.A. Bekrenev, president of the Association of the Shor and Teleut Peoples, offered examples and proofs of the various ways in which the rights and legal interests of the Shor population have been infringed upon. Additionally, he noted that the areas set aside for industrial development were being distributed without any consideration for the interests of the indigenous peoples. The haying lands and sanctuaries are being destroyed; there is no compensation mechanism set in place, and no practice of attracting the indigenous population so that environmental studies could be conducted.

N. Porosenkov, president of the Teleut Association, noted that the proprietors of mining companies held their corporate interests above everything else, so they would not even spare the sanctuaries. He also pointed out that the international norms and federal laws concerning indigenous minorities were not respected.

A. Arbachakov, a representative of the indigenous minorities, expressed his concern about the state of the environment in the places inhabited by the Shor. He also mentioned that the areas of traditional economies were not set aside for the Shor people, and that the indigenous people themselves were not sufficiently active. He called upon the members of the Association to fulfill more fully the legally prescribed rights of the indigenous peoples.

V. Todyshev, director of the Teleut national enterprise “Bayat” pointed out that there was no constructive dialogue with the management of the “Batchatskiy” mine. The mine deprived the Bayat enterprise of some of its territories. The territories were replaced, yet 15 hectares were nonetheless left out of the exchange. Each year, the Teleut lands are being cut down. He suggested that the governing institutions appear as mediators between the management and representatives of indigenous minorities.

Those speeches were followed by the statements from the indigenous representatives of Mezhdurechensk, Myskov, Tashtagol as well as Belov and Gurev districts.

It was comforting to note that all the participants in the roundtable discussion were highly active and willing to hear each other’s opinions. The dialogue took place in a constructive manner. That was the first time that the government played the mediating role in partner dialgues. V.P. Degtyarev, president of the Kemerovo Committee for Natural Resources, suggested an environmental evaluation of the program for the economic development of the Kuznetsk Basin with the participation of the indigenous representatives. O.P. Andrahanova, deputy-director of the Office for the Affairs of National Minorities, suggested that the budget on all levels should incorporate the expenses geared towards solving the problems under discussion; that the mining companies and the associations of indigenous minorities should sign contracts regarding their cooperation; and that training seminars should be organised so that an environmental evaluation could be conducted.

The company managers, on the other hand, reported their timely tax payments, and feasible ways of helping the institutions of local autonomy regarding the fundamental provisions for the settlements. They agreed that the claims of the indigenous peoples were just, and that the compensation mechanisms should be established.

The management of the “Mezhdureche” Mines thus made a deposit of 200000 rubles to the account of the Shor Association at the end of 2001. It also provided the coal supplies for the inhabitants of one settlement.

As a practical conclusion of the roundtable, the Association of the Shor People and the Kemerovo Province Committee for Natural Resources signed a contract regarding their cooperation.

Represetnative N. M. Pechenina lead the talks with the representatives of the West Siberian Metallurgical Group (A.G. Smolianinov) regarding the cooperation agreement between the Group and the Shor Association. Consequently, the agreement was signed. At present, some of the program initiatives have already been realized: for instance, a computer course has been organised in the boarding school No. 3, in the city of Tashtagol. Additionally, funds have been transferred to the account of the Association of the Shor People to be used for purchasing sport equipment for the Tashtagol teams, for the renovation of the boarding school and scholarships for the students who need them, as well as for the publication of methodological literature and Shor language textbooks.