On April 13, 2018, a court in the Belovo district of Russia’s Kuzbass region nullified the authorization of a new open-pit coal mine that allowed for the expropriation of private agricultural lands in order to conduct the coal mining activities. Ecodefense brought the case with four landowners and the legal support of Team 29, a group of Russian human rights lawyers. The district court of Belovo rejected the defendants’ arguments about the importance of coal mining in comparison with agriculture and decided the government failed to adequately show a governmental need to expropriate the agricultural lands at issue for the purpose of coal mining activities to be carried out by a private company ("Stroypozhservice").
The court explained:
It has not been confirmed by the materials of the case that the use of the land plots necessary for subsoil use would be economically advantageous in comparison to their existing use for agricultural production.
The administrative defendant “Sibnedra” did not unconditionally establish the necessity for the seizure of the land plots from some private owners and the transfer of the seized land for the activities of a commercial organization, nor did it establish the exceptional circumstances that would be grounds for the compulsory seizure of the land.
Page 16, paras. 4-5 (unofficial translation of Russian to English by Igor Volobuiev, edited by Michael Goldstein).
The court shared the following conclusion:
The court did not establish the existence of legal grounds for the seizure of land plots that were the private property of the administrative plaintiffs for government or municipal needs, the public interest is not established, nor does it establish the need for the interference of government agencies in private interests for the achievement of public goals.
Page 17, para. 2 (unofficial translation of Russian to English by Igor Volobuiev, edited by Michael Goldstein).
The Belovo district court decision may be appealed.
For more information, see the English-language press release by Ecodefense, “Coal mining is not a «governmental need», court rules in Russian Kuzbass” (available at: https://ecodefense.ru/2018/04/13/coal-mining-is-not-a-governmental-need-court-rules-in-russian-kuzbass/) or the following Russian-language news reports:
Radio Liberty https://www.svoboda.org/a/29168721.html
Russian public TV https://otr-online.ru/news/v-kemerovskoi-oblasti-102110.html