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Administration of Zverinogolovsky District in Kurgan Region Held Public Hearings in Trud i Znaniye Village
They covered discussions of the terms of reference (TOR) for drafting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the first facility to be built during the development of the Dobrovolnoye uranium deposit, including the so-called ‘mud pit’ used for the disposal of spent drilling muds.
Pursuant to Cabinet Order No. 1131-r and based on the subsoil use license issued by the Federal Agency for Mineral Resources, the Dobrovolnoye deposit is planned to be developed by Dalur, JSC, an enterprise within the Mining Division of the Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation (ARMZ Uranium Holding Co.). Dalur is currently engaged in the region in extracting uranium at two deposits of Dalmatovskoye, the Dalmatovsky district, and Khokhlovskoye, the Shumikhinsky district, using the most environmentally safe method of in-situ leaching (ISL).
The stage-by-stage commissioning of the Dobrovolnoye deposit will enable the enterprise to keep the production of the metal required for the Russian nuclear power sector and industry. In compliance with the requirements of the Russian laws and in order to dispel the concerns of the local population regarding uranium mining, Dalur is involving residents of the Zverinogolovsky district to every event and the negotiations held that cover all the steps to prepare for the deposit development. Indeed, any resident of the district could choose a sampling point and be present at the time of the sample selection, during the environmental monitoring. The activities of the enterprise were supported by the participants in the March public hearings regarding the business proposal and the draft TOR to develop the EIA for the Experimental and Industrial ISL Uranium Site at the Dobrovolnoye Deposit.
"Unconditional fulfillment of the legal requirements, public participation at all stages of our operations, opportunities given for everyone to submit their proposals, supplements and comments to the documents being drafted and, undoubtedly, bringing these people's proposals to practice are prioritized," Dinis Ezhurov, the Production Director of Dalur, JSC, said when beginning his report at the public hearings.
He gave a detailed account of the first facility scheduled for Q4 2019: "First, we should finally determine the amounts of the strategic metal reserved in the underground store of the Zverinogolovsky district and develop the methods that will make the extraction of uranium as environmentally safe as possible and we, therefore, are going to start with the geological exploration. A drilling process involves the use of a drilling fluid also known as drilling mud in order to strengthen the well bore and cool the drilling equipment. It is made by mixing bentonite clay and water. This solution is, of course, a waste after use and we are required to build the so-called ‘mud pit’, a separate facility for its disposal. It is a bowl-shaped pit of 70 to 100 thousand cubic meters with a clay lock device and an additional layer of insulation and arrangements will be made to ensure its structural strength and prevent drilling mud filtration. The project includes the construction of a protective fence to avoid extraneous people and animals at the site."
The speaker highlighted that, following the toxicology and radiology laboratory testing conducted by the Rostekhnadzor Central Analytical Laboratory, the drilling muds were classified as Class 4 hazard based on the degree of the environment impact and they consisted of 10% of the soil and 90% of water. Simply put, it was a low-risk substance similar to, for example, construction or wood wastes.
The draft TOR had received several significant proposals from the people living in the village of Trud i Znaniye. They, in particular, required the non-stop monitoring and peremptory location of the facility in an area that was safe from exposure to the highest flood stage of the Tobol River.
Andrey Ozharovsky from the Russian Social and Ecological Union, who was present at the hearing, said that "he was pleasantly surprised by such detailed and substantial talks with the locals regarding every step of the project's implementation." And Sergey Eremin, one of those who opposed the development of the Dobrovolnoye deposit, said that they had "no complaints against Dalur. They are good guys and they are working properly." The opinion of the majority of the local residents who supported the deposit development was expressed by Anatoly Kandalov, a deputy of the Zverinogolovsky Parliament: "I vote that the enterprise comes and runs its operations in the district. This implies both new jobs and an infrastructure. People really care about the environment here, but I have no doubts that the operations at the Dobrovolnoye deposit will do no harm."