Dolomite Quarry Plans Encroach on Caucasian Wilderness
Dolomite Quarry Plans Encroach on Caucasian Wilderness
August 11, 2004
Environmental News Service (ENS)
KRASNODAR, Russia - A dolomite quarry to supply the glass industry with raw material is about to be carved out of a unique wilderness area adjacent to the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Area, according to a Caucasus environmental watchdog organization.
Environmental Watch on North Caucasus says that the Resource-Trade Company from Krasnodar is soon to start digging the dolomite quarry six kilometers southeast of Mezmay village in the Apsheronsk District of Krasnodar Territory.
It is planned to place the quarry in the Mokry Zhelob Tract near a unique natural object - the Upper Kurdjips Gorge. The quarry border approaches the 100 meter (328 foot) high rocky precipice of this gorge.
The nesting sites of rare birds, including the white-headed vulture, Gyps fulvus, are situated near the planned mining area.
Teply Stream flowing through Mokry Zhelob Tract is a source of the cleanest underground waters. Karst caves located nearby are of scientific and recreational interest.
Lagonaki Plateau, a part of the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve, is only five kilometers (three miles) from the planned quarry site.
Part of the Lagonaki Plateau (Photo credit unknown)
Mokry Zhelob Tract is located amidst hiking and backpacking trails, it is of recreational importance. The well known mountain ski resort Lagonakiis is several kilometers away.
The initial area of the quarry is expected to be five hectares (12 acres). It located in the Mezmay dolomite deposit, a band one kilometer wide and four kilometers long stretching from Upper Kurdjips Gorge to Kamyshanova Glade.
"It is obvious that five hectares are only the beginning, and further dolomite development will take place on the much broader area," Environmental Watch says.
A road and a water collector pond will be constructed on Teply Stream to serve the quarry. Sewage disposal will be made into this stream. "Opencast dolomite mining with extensive use of explosives will become distress factor for animals," the organization warns.
Wildlife in this area have suffered from the mass tree felling, which took place in this area several decades ago. Less valuable secondary timber grows in separated parcels but still, a passage in the rocky wall of Upper Kurdjips Gorge plays important role in wild animal migration. It is located in the planned quarry area.
"According to unofficial information," Environmental Watch says, the quarry development "is connected to future construction of large glass factory in Adygeya Republic."
Cave in the Mezmay District (Photo courtesy Fishland)
At the same time the authorities of Apsheronsk District and Krasnodar Territory have decided to develop tourism and recreation in the Mezmay Rural District.
"It is a paradox" Environmental Watch says, "that such an ecologically destructive project has received the absolute support of MNR RF's Department of Natural Resources and Environment in Krasnodar Territory."
The Resource-Trade Company has received a license for "exploration with simultaneous mining of dolomite in Mezmay deposit for the glass industry," and has received a mining lease and a positive decision of the state environmental review.
Trees on the future quarry site have already been marked for cutting.
The UNESCO World Heritage Center says the Western Caucasus on the extreme western end of the Caucasus mountains 50 kilometers northeast of the Black Sea, is one of the few large mountain areas of Europe that has not experienced significant human impact.
Its subalpine and alpine pastures have only been grazed by wild animals, and its extensive tracts of undisturbed mountain forests, extending from the lowlands to the subalpine zone, are unique in Europe, UNESCO says. "The site has a great diversity of ecosystems, with important endemic plants and wildlife, and is the place of origin and reintroduction of the mountain subspecies of the European bison."
With these natural treasures in mind, biologists from Kuban State University are protesting against the quarry because the university's biological station, Kamyshanova Glade, is located within a few kilometers of the planned quarry.
The Caucasus Biosphere Reserve was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999. (Photo courtesy UNESCO)
The scientists have sent an official letter to the Chief of Apsheronsk Administration in which they note the great environmental and scientific value of the area "due to the wide expansion of karst forms, endemic and relic vegetation."
In their letter scientists emphasize, that "by the quarry development karst landscape and karst systems will be destroyed, hydro-geological conditions will be broken."
The new mining area "creates a serious pollution threat to underground and surface water," the scientists wrote.
They fear that "explosions will lead to destruction of karst cavities which are valuable in a paleontological, archeological and excursion sense."
In the scientists opinion, the stream flowing through the area the quarry has claimed "is the backup source of pure water which should be preserved."
Scientists of Kuban State University have asked the Head of the Apsheronsk Administration "to make the decision to deny opening the dolomite quarry."
At the moment, promotion of the quarry project is suspended due to what Environmental Watch calls "wide public resonance" of the environmental problems of the Mezmay area. But the quarry construction is on the agenda.
Most agreements concerning this project have already been made, Environmental Watch says. "If the core decision will not be made in the near future, putting a halt to it, shortly explosions will thunder next to the Caucasian Reserve."