Sakhalin Langeri Watershed Sakhalin Gold Mine Russia© Sakhalin Environment Watch

Sakhalin Polluters Halted

Sakhalin Polluters Halted

Russian partners halt polluting gold mine on the Langeri River.

In a victory for the rule of law, fishermen and salmon on Russia’s Sakhalin Island, a provincial court has stopped operations at a polluting gold mine on the Langeri River. The court was ruling on a lawsuit by our longtime partner Sakhalin Environment Watch. The group was seeking to protect the highly productive Langeri, which is home to native and endangered Sakhalin taimen of 6-foot-long, 100-pound fame, and also home to a rich commercial salmon fishery run by some of our close collaborators. Sakhalin Island contributes one-fifth of the Pacific’s wild salmon.

Bypass channel adjacent to mine area on Langeri River
Bypass channel adjacent to mine area on Langeri River | © Sakhalin Environment Watch

The court case brought by Sakhalin Environment Watch built on a rapid environmental assessment last summer by a team of scientists and Wild Salmon Center partners. The group found gold miners from a local company, Vostok-2, openly flouting the law by logging streamside forests, creating diversion channels, and discharging mining tailings into the Langeri River. The activities at the Langeri’s headwaters left spawning grounds heavily silted.

Under the new court order, Vostok-2 will halt operations and restore disturbed lands by October 2016.

The court win validates Sakhalin Environment Watch’s methodical work to hold industry to legal standards and to protect local livelihoods. “Throughout the legal process, we have constantly felt the support of the Sakhalin people,” said Natalia Lisitsyna, the organization’s lawyer.  Vostok-2 had appealed a lower court’s ruling against it earlier this year, bringing the case to the provincial level.

The final court decision also supports Wild Salmon Center collaborator Vladimir Smirnov and his fishermen’s association on the Langeri. In 2012, WSC helped the fishermen earn Marine Stewardship Council certification for the Langeri pink salmon fishery.

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