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Complex co-existence for indigenous peoples
Written by Barents Observer   
Monday, 29 March 2010 13:34
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In the Norwegian Barents Secretariat’s new report, Barents Review 2010, secretariat adviser Christina Henriksen writes about the complex challenges connected with co-existence of industry and indigenous peoples living in the Barents Region.

The natural resource potential of the north has contributed to an increased industrial focus on the region. North Russian and multinational companies have established activities in the region to exploit the rich deposits of oil, gas and minerals. In Nenets Autonomous Okrug as much as 90 percent of all the regions income is related to the oil and gas industry.

Over the latest years power has been continually transferred from local and regional authorities to the federal authorities, especially when it comes to management of natural resources.

– This has indirect impact on indigenous peoples, as discussions and negotiations regarding regional issues more often are carried out with representatives in Moscow, rather than in the respective regions, says Henriksen.
Many times reindeer herders are not invited to give their view on new industrial projects in the area, since it is not mandatory to sign contracts with regional government bodies on production conditions for new industrial projects.
Polluted pasture land

In Murmansk Oblast the reindeer herding industry was collectivized in the Soviet era. Today many Indigenous Peoples families try to re-establish the old tradition of reindeer herding. However, it is a huge problem to achieve access to pasture land for these families. Increased industrial activity on the Kola Peninsula will potentially have serious consequences for the winter grazing land of the reindeer herds, as the animals graze in the inland in the winter.

Valentina Sovkina is head of the Council of Authorized Representatives of the Saami in Murmansk Oblast. According to her, both the new mining projects in the region and the Shtokman Field infrastructure will inevitably affect the traditional industry.

The Shtokman field installations will be located at sea, but the Saami communities will still be affected by the project, and first of all by the constructions of pipelines crossing reindeer pasture land, says Sovkina. However, the largest threat to the Saami people of the Kola Peninsula is the mining activities planned developed by the company ZAO Fedorovo Group, of which 50 percent is owned by the Candian Company, Barrick Gold Corporation.

– Large deposits of platinum and palladium were found in the Fedorovo Tundra area, which currently serves as vital grazing land for the reindeer herds, Henriksen explains in her chapter.
Barents Cooperation

Direct impact on indigenous peoples’ livelihood due to industrial expansion has mad indigenous peoples in the Barents Region to join forces. Jointly, the different organizations and institutions work for the fulfillment of national and international obligations towards the indigenous peoples.

Project funding from the Norwegian Barents Secretariat has been a catalyst for increased cooperation between indigenous peoples of the Barents Region. Focusing of people-to-people cooperation is important, and a considerable part of project grants are spent on establishing arenas for interaction between the indigenous peoples in the region.

Posted: 2010-02-03 12:24:01

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