Inhabitants of the Kemerovo region in Siberia have recently woken up to an unwelcome surprise. They started to see black snow fall from the sky. This might sound unusual but it is something that has already happened in the past.
Worrying snowy blanket
According to an article published on 15th February 2019 in The Siberian Times, three villages from the Kemerovo (or Kuzbass) region were covered with a cloak of black ashy snow instead of a white blanket. The region of Siberia has the biggest coal mines in Russia and is one of the most significant in the world. In fact this region has several hundreds of billions of tonnes of coal under a surface area of 26, 000 kilometers squared.
Therefore the Kemerovo region which is home to 2.5 million people has numerous open-air mines and treatment factories. Authorities have confirmed that the snow turned colour as a result of coal powder coming from these plants. However the boss of a local factory in Prokopyevskaya admitted partial responsibility from his plant as one of the filters wasn’t operational. However, the coal industry as a whole is to blame as well as the use of massive boilers which operate with this polluting fuel.
Situation that is far from unusual
Although the Attorney General Office in the Kemerovo region declared to be looking for witnesses about the episode of black snow fall, it appears that this recent situation is not an isolated case. In an interview with The Guardian, Vladimir Slivyak who is a member of the Russia environmental group Ecodefense, stated that in winter it was more difficult to find white snow in the Kemerovo region than black snow.
The environmentalist also explained that the coal powder, which contains arsenic and mercury, has been an invisible presence over the whole year except when there is snow fall. It seems that security standards and regulations have not been taken seriously. This can be seen by the fact that some of the coal mines are dangerously close to where people live.
A cautionary report
In 2015 the Ecodefense group published a report that stated that life expectancy in this region was 3 or 4 years less than the average life expectancy in Russia which was 71.59 year in 2016. What is more, the population is affected by many illnesses more frequently than the rest of the country such as cancer, tuberculosis, mental problems and even infantile cerebral palsy.
However measures have never been taken to try and clean the area. Ecodefense also highlights that although 59% of Russian coal comes from Kemerovo, the region on it’s own accounts for 76% of Russian coal exportation of which half goes to Europe. The group have already called a boycott so that they can pressurize the government. However the boycott was clearly unsuccessfully.