AMUR-HEILONG RIVER BASIN

 

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Ecosystems and ecoregions

Species diversity and use of biological resources

Nature conservation: econet and protected areas

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International policy

Land use
Mining in Russia
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Mines in the Russian Far East produce rare and lucrative metals and precious stones, as well as more common commodities such as antimony, tin, iron, boron, lead, and zinc. Platinum and palladium deposits in Khabarovsk Province produce a significant portion of two of Russia's most lucrative exports. Primorsky Province produces 100 percent of Russia's boric products, 80 percent of its fluorite, 40 percent of its zinc, lead, and tungsten, 20 percent of its tin, and 10 percent of its coal. Amurskaya Province has vast gold and coal mining operations. Chitinskaya and ABAR have the oldest mining operations in the region in iron ore, coal, non-ferrous metals, gold, and the most important uranium mines in Russia . For over 150 years, Evreiskaya Autonomous Region, despite its tiny size, has exploited globally important deposits of brushite (magnesium extraction), tin, coal, iron and many small placer deposits of gold.

Uranium produced at Krasnokamensk (Chita Region) has probably been the most important export commodity from the Russian part of the basin. The mine at this site relied on foreign investments from Swedish companies in the 1990s. After a steady decline in production in the late 20 th century, Russia wants to double uranium production from the current 2,200-2,500 tones to 4,000-4,500 tones by 2010. This direction coincides with new plans for nuclear power plant construction and other nuclear-related cooperation with neighboring countries, including China.

Mining regulation in the RFE has always been weak with respect to environmental and public health concerns. Mining operations have left waste rock and toxic tailings throughout the region. Restoration of topography and/or vegetation at mined areas is, at best rare and disturbed areas are left damaged after exploitation. Damage is particularly evident in the north where the extreme cold slows recovery of fragile northern ecosystems.

Placer mining (hydraulic washing or dredging of gravel or sand) accounts for two-thirds of the mining in the RFE and it causes many environmental problems, including increasing suspended particle loads in rivers, altering riverbeds, and blocking migrating salmon from reaching spawning grounds. Mining contaminants pollute rivers and streams for long distances (extending environmental damage beyond the mine area by distances of seven to 20 times). During extraction, water temperature rises in settling basins and dissolved oxygen levels decline, further impacting fish productivity. In addition to reducing fish populations and polluting rivers, Russian ecologists have documented areas where mining has caused decreased forest cover and erosion, impacted a wide variety of fauna, altered hydrological regimes of rivers and underground streams, and changed microclimates.

Most gold mines release large quantities of tailings relative to the amount of gold produced. Each year in the southern RFE alone, mining operations produce more than 30 million m 3 of tailings. Heavy and toxic metals pollute soil, water, and air. The continued used of mercury to separate gold is of grave concern despite regulations passed in 1988 outlawing its use. Mercury-contaminated waste piles line the banks of mined riverbeds. Preliminary studies in Amur Oblast have documented mercury groundwater contamination near mined areas. Placer mining has thus far destroyed some 150 small rivers (up to 200 km in length) with a total watershed area of approximately 12,000 square km. In Evreiskaya Autonomous Region the total amount of gold extracted since mining began in the 19 th century is approximately 20 tons. Placer mining has dumped more than 40,000,000 tons of tailings into the Sutara River basin, destroying the original landscape. (See case study on Small Hinggan)

Government agencies lack funds to clean up abandoned mines. Forcing companies to reclaim abandoned mines is virtually impossible since many have gone bankrupt or changed ownership, and joint ventures are unwilling to accept responsibility for cleanup at existing sites. Some propose a special tax on mineral production to clean up abandoned mines.

Map collection: Oil & gas

Maps:

Map collection: Transportation

Maps:

Gold mining on Berezovaya River in Hinggan Gorge

Also look:

Land-use trends:

General trends in land-use

Recent changes in land-use in three countries

 

Agriculture:

Amur Agriculture

Agricultural development in Northeast China

Agricultural development in Eastern Mongolia

Russian agriculture

Russian agricultural land and production in RFE-tables

Northeast Asia cooperation in agriculture

Environmental impacts of argiculture

Land degradation and desertification

Conversion of wildlands to farmland

 

Forestry:

Timber harvest in the Russian Far East

Salmon vs forestry

Major human-induced impacts on forest ecosystems of RFE (table)

Timber trade

 

Other land-use issues:

Fire

Nature tourism in the Amur/Heilong River Basin

Transport infrastructure impacts

Oil & gas Basin

Oil & gas impacts

Mongolian mining

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