- Jul 13, 2011
- Reaction score
- Hobbs End
Black Snow in Siberia
Residents of a coalmining region in Siberia have been posting videos online showing entire streets and districts covered in toxic black snow that critics say highlight a manmade ecological catastrophe.
“It’s harder to find white snow than black snow during the winter,” Vladimir Slivyak, a member of the Ecodefense environmental group, said. “There is a lot of coal dust in the air all the time. When snow falls, it just becomes visible. You can’t see it the rest of the year, but it is still there.”
The coal dust that turns the snow black in the Kuzbass comes from numerous open pit mines that environmental activists say have had disastrous consequences for the health of the region’s 2.6 million people, with life expectancy three to four years lower than Russia’s national average of 66 for men and 77 for women.
The dust contains a variety of dangerous heavy metals, including arsenic and mercury, environmental activists say. Environmental problems are exacerbated by the practice of loading coal on to open train cars for export, with wind and rain depositing dust on towns and rivers along the rail tracks.
Critics say Russian authorities turn a blind eye to routine violations of safety norms and regulations, with open pit mines often located dangerously close to towns and villages.
Officials in Mysky, a town in the region, were mocked recently for painting black snow white in an apparent attempt to improve the appearance of a children’s snow-slide.
Despite political tensions between Moscow and London, Russia is the leading supplier of British coal imports. Russian mines supplied around half of the 8.5m tons of coal shipped into Britain in 2017, with up to 90% of it coming from the Kuzbass region.
Some Russian environmental activists are calling on Britain to boycott Russian coal. “The best way to put pressure on them is to stop buying coal until they improve the situation,” said Slivyak.