Russia’s economic activity in Crimea results in the exhaustion of natural resources on the peninsula and the destruction of quarries and landscapes as evidenced by the study of the NGO Crimea SOS entitled “Environment of Crimea: changes and losses during the occupation.” Ukrainian geologists note that Crimea is very rich in natural resources. About 50% of fluxed limestone, 30% of iron ore, and 25% of soda out of the total reserves of Ukraine are contained in this territory. The peninsula also has many deposits of bromine and potassium salt.
Until 2014, the Crimean mountain range was part of the nature reserve fund of Ukraine. When Russia invaded, reserves and sanctuaries became a resource of building materials – rubble and sand extracted with dynamite and excavators.
According to the UNCG environmental group, about 260 quarries are functioning on the peninsula. The real career boom began with the construction of the Kerch Bridge, followed by the Tavrida highway.
The National Centre for Space Management and Testing of Ukraine has recorded a number of environmental violations and newly formed quarries. In particular, sand started to be extracted in the middle of a field in the Artezian tract, located near the localities of Belinske and Zolote, back in 2018.
In the village of Kholodivka, Russia has been extracting rubble in the mountains since 2017. More than 20 hectares have already been developed.
According to environmentalists, the Russian occupation of Crimea had a disastrous impact on the Bakalska Spit. An entire geographic feature disappeared.
“Even Russian-controlled journalists and officials admit that the destruction of the Bakalska Spit was human-made. In May 2017, four vessels simultaneously drained sand from the spit,” environmentalists said.
Outside Kerch, environmentalists noticed that special equipment was extracting sand from an industrial waste storage facility that was then used to build the Tavrida highway and access roads to the Kerch Bridge.
According to experts, Kremlin-controlled Crimean officials have viewed Crimea as a raw material base since 2015, so such violations have actually no response from local authorities.
“About a million cubic metres of toxic sand was removed from the former chemical cemetery. And although it seems that the digging of sludge was stopped due to the public outcry, the production is still ongoing with a changed technology. They started drawing poisonous sand from the water, instead of digging from the shaft as before,” experts say.
By 2014, Ukraine controlled 137,000 square kilometres of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov waters. This area is called the exclusive economic zone. Ukraine has the right to explore and mine valuable minerals within these limits. This area decreased threefold because of annexation and Russian control.
“The area of the territorial sea is up to 12 nautical miles, and state sovereignty covers the territorial sea. The exclusive maritime economic zone stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles from the coast,” explained Bohdan Ustymenko, Director of the Ukrainian Institute for Security and Law of the Sea.
The subsoil of Ukrainian waters was explored by 4-5%. According to these data, about two trillion cubic metres of gas are already contained in the exclusive economic zone of Ukraine. Ukraine will use about that much in just 50 years.
“The reserves and promising resources that the shelf of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov can bring us 100% satisfy our needs. Ukraine can become a net exporter of natural gas and give up being a net importer,” said Roman Saramaha, Deputy Head of the State Service for Geology and Subsoil of Ukraine.
In 2013, Ukraine issued a permit for foreign companies to produce oil in the Black Sea. The agreement provided for works until 2063 and investments of $4 billion.
“If we talk about the Subotina field, an agreement was signed on the distribution of products with ENI Italian company. There were also other participants. The agreement provided for the development of the first oil field on the Black Sea shelf. But due to known reasons, the annexation of Crimea, this project stopped,” Saramaha noted.
In 2013, the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and OMV Petrom signed an agreement to conclude a contract for hydrocarbon distribution in the Skyfska section. Due to the annexation, investments were also frozen.
Saramaha stressed that, according to general figures and official data, the damages from subsoil losses in Crimea and on the Black Sea shelf total about $50 billion, but these figures are understated.
Currently, Ukraine does not control the pumping of gas from the wells of Chornomornaftogazm which were seized by Russia. This is about two billion cubic metres of gas per year. According to experts, these deposits may no longer be subject to further exploitation in five to 10 years.
In July this year, the Government of Ukraine and the EU signed the Memorandum on Strategic Partnership in the Raw Materials Sector. In particular, one of the provisions stipulates that Ukraine should introduce space monitoring of subsoil use via the Copernicus system. The system is planned to be used for monitoring the situation in Crimea as well to know exactly what production is being done and what damage is being inflicted by Russia on the peninsula. The project should be implemented in two to three years.
Source: Ukrainian sociological portal