Sunday, June 2, 2024

Russian Gold Mining Company Denounces Evenk Environmental Protesters as ‘Foreign Agents’ but Then Backs Down

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 30 – An Evenk community living in southern Sakha has won a partial victory: NordGold, the Russian mining company, which at first denounced those criticizing its practices as “foreign agents,” has taken down those words from its website after a Sakha parliamentarian sharply criticized such use of the term.

            The Evenks, who form less than three percent of the population of Sakha, have long complained about NordGold’s mining because they say it is destroying the environment and harming the survival of their people (

            Because the Evenks live in widely scattered communities, NordGold has felt confident that it could ignore such protests, including the latest in which 164 residents of one village complained about its activities. And the company concluded that it could win a final victory by denouncing opposition to it as the work of “foreign agents.”

            But that has now backfired. Elena Golomareva, a deputy in the Sakha parliament, has denounced such use of that term and called for the formation of a special parliamentary commission to look into what the company is doing and how justified the complaints of the Evenks are (

            In response, Nordgold has removed the offending language from its portal. Whether such a commission will be formed or whether the company will stop the actions that have sparked protest is far from clear. Most likely, Nordgold will continue its mining operations but avoid the use of such charges against its opponents.

            But this is an unusual example of a case where population opposition to the extent it attracts the support of regional deputies can have a welcome if not definitive effect on a term Vladimir Putin has deployed as something no one dare oppose its use; and thus this small and partial victory of good sense in Sakha may encourage others to resist as well. 

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