Russian Citizens for a Better Environment!

Kuznetsky Yuzhny Open-Pit Mine: Disaster Area Grows

The Kuznetsky Yuzhny open-pit mine is very close to Myski town, Bezrukovo and Cheremza villages in Kemerovo Oblast (a.k.a. Kuzbass), Siberia. Mining operations began in June 2020. The coal reserves are more than 240 million tons of coal. The designed production capacity is five million tons. 1.6 and 3.0 million tons are to be extracted in 2021 and 2022, respectively. The mined coal of the “T” (lean) and “TS” (lean sintering) grades is used in the energy sector. All the coal mined at the deposit is to be exported.


The ownership structure of the Kuznetsky Yuzhny coal mine is not transparent because the nominal owners are constantly changing. The initial owner was the Kuznetsky Yuzhny Open-Pit Mine company, whose founders were the Nagorny Open-Pit company controlled by the Cyprus-based Balachico Ltd. and Trading Ltd. offshore companies, the Alfa company controlled by billionaire Timur Frank, former Kemerovo Deputy Governor Dmitry Chirakadze and the associated with him Moscow-based Pozharsky & Partners company.

During 2021, the founders of the company completely changed. As of today, Timur Frank owns 44 percent in the Kuznetsky Yuzhny Open-Pit Mine company, while 37 percent belongs to the Karbotekh company, registered in Russia’s Chechen Republic, and the Romena company controlled by the Cypriot Eselarsi Investments Ltd.

As for the Kuznetsky Yuzhny Open-Pit Mine company, it is managed by Karbo-UK whose CEO, Ivan Povoroznyuk, is close to Timur Frank. A former arbitration manager, Povoroznyuk is facing charges of fraudulent schemes in his companies. 

Thus, Timur Frank is the main beneficiary of the Kuznetsky Yuzhny open-pit mine operations. At the same time, there are reasons to believe that he only serves as a front man, while the real owner of the mine is Dmitry Chirakadze


In the fall of 2019, residents of Cheremza and neighboring communities opposed the construction of the coal mine at public hearings. According to environmentalists, mine operations of the company will not only dramatically deteriorate the quality of air, soil, and water in and nearby Cheremza village, but will also negatively affect the indigenous people of Kuzbass, the Shorians, who grow food, hunt, and fish there. 

Although Governor of Kemerovo Oblast Sergey Tsivilyov promised that no open-pit mines would be built without the consent of the locals, in May of 2020 the works began. According to the local residents, the company—without any proper authorization—began land stripping and covered the local road, which is located in the water protection zone of the river, with blast furnace slag for the passage of construction vehicles. This also created a threat of a local bridge collapsing. 

In July 2020, several environmental activists were poisoned by blast furnace slag which the company had dumped into the Kalandas River. Local residents complain that the vehicles operating in the open-pit mine cause dust pollution and damage public roads. The Cheremza, Kalandas, and Tom rivers are polluted with wastewater from the company’s dumps.

Stripping works are carried out with gross violations of environmental requirements, which causes the loss of the fertile layer. Local residents accuse the Kuznetsky Yuzhny Open-Pit Mine company of selling the fertile layer. The company denies such allegations.

PUBLIC PROTESTS. The protests of Cheremza village and Myski town residents against the construction of a coal loading station were the biggest in the history of resistance to coal companies in Kuzbass. That activists, for the first time, set up a camp at the site of the prospective facility and were successful in their demands makes the case worthy of our attention.

On June 13, a dozen activists blocked the road in Cheremza to stop vehicles of the contractor company, Sibgeoproekt, that were moving to the site of the prospective coal loading station near the Kalandas River. The company was contracted by the Kuznetsky Yuzhny Open-Pit Mine. Dozens of protesters organized a night watch.

On June 15, environmental activists succeeded in stopping construction vehicles for a second time. More importantly, the police yielded to the appeals of the residents and demanded that the vehicles be moved away. The activists set up a tent camp. 

On June 16, ground works at the construction site began. The head of the Novokuznetsk district met with the activists and threatened to cut the municipal budgets of Cheremza and Myski if the activists continued protesting.

On June 17, the coal company stopped the works at the site. On the regional TV channel Vesti-Kuzbass, the company CEO Timur Frank announced a halt in construction. However, all the equipment remained at the site.

On June 21, residents of the Novokuznetsk district recorded a video message. They demanded that the construction machinery be removed from the site and that the district head, Andrey Sharnin, resign. They accused Sharnin of serving the interests of coal companies which act to the detriment of the local residents and cause ecological damage. They promised to go on a hunger strike. Since their demand was ignored, the protesters began an indefinite hunger strike.

On June 24, war veterans living in Cheremza, Myski, and Bezrukovo posted an appeal to Governor of Kemerovo Oblast demanding to stop the construction of the Kuznetsky Yuzhny facility.

On June 28, Executive Director of the Kuznetsky Yuzhny Open-Pit Mine company, Pyotr Frolov, agreed to temporarily stop the construction in order to verify that the documents permitting the construction comply with the existing rules and regulations. On the same day, residents of Talzhino village supported the activists by recording a video message at the tent camp in Cheremza.

On June 30, artist Vasily Yelesin and member of the Zagorsk village council Mikhail Laskin arrived at the camp to support the activists.

On July 8, several environmental activists were poisoned by blast furnace slag which the company had dumped into the Kalandas River.

On July 9, protesters dumped several sacks of slag at the entrance to the office of the Kuznetsky Yuzhny company and demanded to speak to a company representative. The company ignored the demand.

On July 12, residents of Cheremza, Myski, and Bezrukovo repaired the road damaged by the company’s technological transport.

On July 26, protesters and residents of Cheremza recorded a video message, accusing the Kuznetsky Yuzhny company of spreading false information about the alleged environmental safety of their coal mining operations.

On July 28, activists posted a video, demanding to stop harassment of those who are telling the truth about the events in Cheremza. 

On August 1, about 30 residents of Tetenza and Borodino villages of the Myski district blocked the road leading through Tetenza to the coal loading station of the Kiyzassky open-pit mine, located not far from the place of confrontation between the activists and the Kuznetsky Yuzhny company.


On August 9, Indigenous Peoples Day, the Shor community posted a video message calling for solidarity and support in the fight against the coal mining companies that were destroying their native habitat.

On August 13, the Kuznetsky Yuzhny and the SGP companies began to erect a fence on the territory of the tent camp. Police and riot police squads, as well as a private security company, arrived to “provide secure environment.” The protesters had to move the tent camp. A provocateur from another region, Irkutsk-based blogger Artyom Pavlechko, stirred people into action. As a result, the police detained three elderly people. Among them was a disabled woman. The attack on the camp was widely discussed in social networks and the blogosphere.

On August 18, the Cheremza protesters demanded that the incumbent Kemerovo Oblast governor, Sergey Tsivilyov, resign and that the CEO the Kuznetsky Yuzhny company, Timur Frank, get out of the region.

On August 20, environmental activists measured the radiation level of blast furnace slag placed by coal miners in the bed of the Kalandas River and found out that radiation was twice higher than the maximum permissible level.

On August 21, the protesters called on all those who were subject to any type of pressure to contact their operational headquarters in Cheremza. 

On August 30, Governor of Kemerovo Oblast announced that the construction of a coal loading station for the Kuznetsky Yuzhny company would not take place. The protesters and environmental activists dismantled the tent camp and celebrated their victory in the outskirts of Cheremza. 


In the early morning of August 13, 2020, members of the Kuzbass Hand-to-hand Combat Federation and riot police dispersed protesters against the construction of a coal loading station near Cheremza village. As a result of the violent action, many protesters were injured and some required emergency medical treatment. Three people were detained, including one disabled person. The protesters had to move their camp.

Earlier, in May 2020, Cossacks wearing uniforms prevented journalists from attending an Environmental Council event, during which activists shared their concerns about the construction of a coal loading station with the representatives of the Kuznetsky Yuzhny company and the regional government. The report of the meeting was published on behalf of Timur Frank, who was one of the main speakers at the event.

The cameraman of the local Kiselyovsk News media, Vyacheslav Krechetov, was arrested by the police on August 24. He was charged with organizing an illegal rally—a rally where he actually worked as a journalist. Despite the absurdity of the charges, he was sentenced to time in jail.

Civil activists Vladimir Gorenkov and Sergey Sheremetyev were also arrested and charged with cussing in public and insubordination to police officers, and using drugs, respectively. The actions of the police were later acknowledged as unlawful.

For a couple of years, editor of the Kiselyovsk News media Natalya Zubkova was harassed and hounded by the authorities and goons presumably employed by Timur Frank. One person who surveilled and harassed her was identified as Vladimir Gorbunov, previously sentenced for a terrorist attack. In February 2021, Natalya and her daughter had to leave Russia.

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