Conflict zone in East Ukraine – on the verge of ecological catastrophe and blue-collar brain drain
Source – RFE/RL
Coal mines and the metallurgical plants associated with them are the backbone of the economy in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, where the conflict between the central government and the Russian-backed separatists rages on. Closing them deprives the local population of their livelihoods and threatens these and the neighboring regions in Ukraine with ecological disaster.
Pumps cut off
In 2017, the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) developed a plan, according to which only 17 of the profitable mines in the region were kept in operation.
But reality decided to throw a wrench in the works, primarily because Russia did not invest in the Donetsk industry.
The mines were closed by a simple method: the pumps that pump out the water were turned off. The equipment was cut and handed over for scrap.
And it will inevitably affect the situation on the territory controlled by Ukraine – the mines on Ukrainian territory and the Donbass mines form a single water pumping system.
No radioactive contamination…yet
Of particular concern is the Yunkom mine, which in 1979 carried out an experimental nuclear explosion with a yield of 0.3 kilotons.
After the explosion, a glassy capsule with liquid radioactive waste was formed at a depth of 903 meters. It was flooded just after the pumps were turned off in April 2018.
None of the experts really know how the radioactive capsule will react with water, when it will naturally collapse, or where its contents will end up. Neither the authorities of the self-proclaimed republics nor the government of Ukraine are monitoring the radioactive contamination. Nor are they in the Rostov region, where the waters of the Seversky Donets River flow.
Luhansk left without water?
Experts say that the first environmental disaster will happen not in the “DPR,” known for its mercury mines, chemical waste storage facilities or the Yunkom radioactive mine, but in the Luhansk region.
The Luhansk region feeds on water from underground water intakes. If the aquifers are flooded with dirty mine water, finding fresh drinking water will become a problem for hundreds of thousands of people.
“The authorities are devouring themselves, devouring people who quit en masse because there are no prospects,” says an employee of one of the mines in the city of Antratsit, describing the mood of the miners. “While in 2014, people would come back because at least there are some apartments available, now, many don’t even want to sell their apartments, they’re ready to simply leave them behind!
Anyone who has an education and a profession mainly leaves for Russia, where they can find themselves work: our people are hardworking, and for them, the salaries in the Russian Federation are quite significant. Another five years of this regular burnout and there will be no sense in any peace negotiations with Ukraine, because there will be no one left on this land.”