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Paper mill 'polluting' Lake Baikal finally closes, but at a human cost

By 0 and 0 and 0
17 September 2013


'The plant now must figure out what to do with the decades' worth of toxic waste stored around it'. Picture: The SIberian Times

Most have no jobs to go to, though there are hopes in time that tourism on the shores of the world's deepest lake will create employment. The Soviet-era plant was built in the 1960s and has been a long-time target of environmental critics. The lake is internationally known as one of the planet's treasures.

Finally, after many false-stops, the plant now looks set to close though 700 workers will man the heating plant for the town of Baikalsk which is run  by the mill. The plant was shut five years ago only to be reprieved by premier Vladimir Putin, now president. 

Workers say they are being paid off as the harsh Siberian winter begins to grip. 

'Nobody is offering workers any other jobs. There are no other industries in the town, there are only 100 openings, all for low-paying jobs,' union boss Yury Nabokov told AFP. 

'Five years ago the government promised to retrain workers, but it never happened. Nobody proposed anything to the employees, we are hanging over the abyss of poverty and unemployment'.

Baikal paper mill shut

'Five years ago the government promised to retrain workers, but it never happened'. Picture: Baikal Paper Mill 

Halting the plant does not necessarily mean an immediate ecological bonanza. Local environmental NGO Baikal Environmental Wave said the plant now must figure out what to do with the decades' worth of toxic waste stored around it, which consists of about six million tonnes of sludge lacerated with chlorine, reported AFP.

'There are 14 tanks, each one of them the size of several football fields,'  said Maksim Vorontsov, an employee of the group based in Irkutsk.

The plant's shutdown was long expected since the plant had been loss-making for years, he added. 'Relaunching it wasn't worth it. For three years it was limping on both legs, and now it's firing people right before winter. It's not a socially responsible approach.'

Comments (4)

I think it should close but a different more economic safe business should open, maybe fishing, water treatment plants, something like that.
19/11/2013 01:11
The pollution from the mill put more than 1000 fishermen out of work. Where is the concern for them??
Joy Towles ezell, Perry, FLorida. USA
13/10/2013 15:31
One thing is sure: Siberia, and the rest of Russia, need new paper mills, and they have to be placed next to the Sea, so there will be new paper mills given the fact Russia´s vast reserves of timber. Russia needs to export manufactured goods, and different kinds of paper cover different needs.

One of the largest mines in Spain was placed in As Pontes (Galicia), and once it was closed, the company invested millions of €uros supporting the population creating new jobs in the Tourism sector, as the old mine was transformed into a lake.
03/10/2013 09:44
well that was always the price to pay, and I'm still sure the decision to shut the factory was right - you simply don't put the factory on the shores of the purest lake on earth, its madness. But for the families of those who now struggle to earn for living its very unfair and I wish they are not left without local business and government attention
Tania U, Germany
18/09/2013 16:56

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