Elena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil
The construction of a new pulp and paper mill in Russia haunts neither the authorities nor the business. 20% of the world's forests and a quarter of the world's timber are in our country. Their value is estimated higher than all Russian oil reserves. However, there is no deep wood processing at the modern level in the country. The fact is that the last pulp and paper mill was built in the Soviet Union in 1974 in Ust-Ilimsk. In post-Soviet Russia, such production was not launched anywhere else.
Pulp production is a necessary business, but ecologically dirty. It requires a lot of water and energy. The production of 1 kg of cellulose requires 99 liters of water. If the pulp and paper mill uses cheaper, outdated technologies, environmental damage is programmed. For example, residents of Svetlogorsk, where the country's largest pulp and paper mill is located, cannot breathe freely in their own city if the wind blows from the mill. “A pungent smell, like fog, covers the city, the stench is sharp, like behind a country toilet, which no one has cleaned for decades. But the locals are used to it and do not pay attention. ”, Writes blogger Ilya Varlamov.
It cannot be said that the authorities do not understand the threats associated with this production. In March of this year, State Duma deputy Valentina Tereshkovaappealed to Prime Minister Mishustin to stop plans to build a pulp and paper mill on the Volga near the Rybinsk reservoir and the Moscow water intake. Tereshkova was supported by the Secretary of the General Council of "United Russia" Andrei Turchak . This time the prime minister sided with the Muscovites. Everyone wants to breathe fresh air and drink clean water, Mishustin said, and the plant will worsen the ecology. The company "Segezha" of billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov did not provide documents confirming the environmental friendliness of the project, therefore "we will close the issue on this," the prime minister said. The issue was closed only for Moscow, but it was opened for the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Two months later, at a meeting of the VEB Supervisory Board, the conditions were adopted under which a new PPM for 1 million tons of pulp will be built in Boguchany in the Lower Angara region. The partner of the state bank was another billionaire - the "crab king" Gleb Frank, who has no experience in the timber industry, and his Rockwell Capital Foundation. The dream, or rather, the obsession of the Krasnoyarsk governor Uss, to get the pulp and paper mill with which he has been worn since 2016, began to take on real shape.
Krasnoyarsk Territory and its dreams of a giant pulp and paper mill
There is a lot of things in the Krasnoyarsk Territory: Norilsk Nickel, aluminum production, electricity, gold mining, taiga. We can say that the region has everything - except for the pulp and paper mill. In 2008, Angara-Paper announced plans to build the largest pulp and paper mill in Russia. They believed her, and the Ministry of Industry included the project in the list of priorities in the field of forest development. But the curse of Matera lies with those who are going to destroy this amazingly beautiful land. In 2015, Angara-Paper declared its bankruptcy, and new applicants entered the scene. OOO Sibirskiy Les, a company that was part of AFK Sistema of billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov, entered into an agreement with the regional government at the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum. Sibles promised to attract money from Chinese investors and in 2018, having invested 130 billion rubles, to launch an enterprise for 2,000 jobs in the vicinity of Lesosibirsk on the Yenisei. The volume of products produced was to amount to 900 thousand tons of cellulose per year. According to the official version, the construction was prevented by local residents who stood up as a wall against the construction. According to the unofficial, Chinese investors did not want to invest in the project with a low resource base.
With enviable consistency, the governors signed agreements with regular investors. The third visit to the pulp and paper mill was made last year, when another structure of Yevtushenkov “Segezha”, at a meeting with Governor Uss, told about its project for the same million tons of products per year and about one and a half billion dollar investments. For the past and current years, the state and environmental expertise of the project was planned, construction was to begin in 2021, and after 3 years - in 2023, the facility was to be commissioned. 2020 is coming to an end, nothing has been heard about the expertise.
For Governor Alexander Uss, the forest has long become the second oil. His family is associated with the region's largest logging company. Uss once ensured that Kraslesinvest, a company affiliated with VEB, received, without an auction, 4 million hectares of forest on lease for 50 years at half price. The executor of the decision of the regional authorities was Rosleskhoz, a department that was then headed by Ivan Valentik . Alexander Uss and his "forest team" have been working for several years to obtain a project for a pulp and paper mill, the best efforts were thrown to achieve this goal. First, in 2019, an agreement was signed with Segezha, and at the beginning of this year - a new mega-project.
The investment company Rockwell Capital of Gleb Frank announced the construction of not one, but two whole pulp and paper mills in Lesosibirsk and in Boguchany in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Each pulp and paper mill will produce 1 million tons of pulp per year. The preparation of documents went on all summer. The state-owned VEB became a partner of Rockwell Capital in the construction of a pulp and paper mill in Boguchany, which will invest the assets of Kraslesinvest and receive a third of the shares. They are still looking for a partner for the second project. The project in Boguchany was approved by the Russian government. $ 2 billion is being invested in construction. In 2026, the plant is to be commissioned. The second plant in Lesosibirsk is to be launched in 2027. And, although a partner has not yet been found for him, the authorities have already allocated a forest fund of 4.4 million cubic meters of annual timber harvesting. The company is headed by the former head of Rosleskhoz Ivan Valentik .
Dreamer and beginner
Rockwell Capital owner Gleb Frank has not been previously seen in the forestry industry. But he became famous in the oil industry and fishing. Frank entered the business early, when he was 29 years old. In 2011, he created the Russian Fishery Company. The most powerful fishing company in Russia was created by a man who had no experience other than studying abroad, and no funds he himself received. The fact is that a year before that, Gleb Frank had married Ksenia Timchenko, the daughter of a famous entrepreneur and dollar billionaire Gennady Timchenko. Apparently, this is the secret of success, as well as money, connections and opportunities.
Since 2016, Frank has become the “crab king”. With the help of high-ranking lobbyists, he managed to push through the Duma a law providing for the introduction of "investment quotas." Under the new law, quotas were received by those companies that invested in the construction of new ships. Their RRPT ordered at home in a shipbuilding company owned by Gleb's father, former Transport Minister Sergei Frank. The quota market practically collapsed, and Gleb Frank began to aggressively crush other fishing companies under him. One owner found Ukrainian citizenship, and under powerful pressure from the security forces, he had to sell it to Frank for virtually nothing. Two years ago, his main competitor in the Far East, the Korean Oleg Kan, started having trouble, so he had to flee to Korea. But the RRPK could not carry out the investment program on its own. This led to the fact that her debt to Sberbank amounted to one and a half billion dollars. In the consolidated report of SPARK, among the negative factors for the company, the increase in total debt by 289% was indicated, while equity capital increased by only 105%.
The spring "black swan" in the form of a fall in oil prices and a pandemic, when the demand for delicacies inevitably falls, hit the crab empire of Gleb Frank. Frank began selling off part of the assets. In April, the Ministry of Industry and Trade did not include the RRPK in the list of strategic enterprises, thus, Frank did not receive state support. The Ministry of Agriculture also did not come to the company's rescue. The new leadership of the department announced that it does not support the reform of the fishing industry proposed by the Russian Fishery Company, which in fact means state subsidies only for large business, in general, and Frank's company, in particular.
Therefore, the new billion-dollar project with state participation in the forestry industry came in handy. After all, they will not build on their own or borrowed money, but on a Web credit, which in practice is not given.
And who will head the new company to build two pulp and paper mills? All the same former head of Rosleskhoz Ivan Valentik. In December 2018, President Putin admitted that "the state cannot bring order to the timber industry, where corruption and crime are widespread." A month earlier, the Office of the President of the Russian Federation on Anti-Corruption Issues began an unscheduled audit of the activities of officials of the Federal Forestry Agency. Most of the questions were for Ivan Valentyk. Later, neither Valentik's loud calls to stop illegal logging by Chinese entrepreneurs ("Woke up!" - said the industry), nor his calls to change the 2006 Forest Code ("Who prevented him from doing this when he was the head of the industry for 8 years") helped. Valentik was dismissed, and a year later he sailed in company with Gleb Frank for the development of 200 billion state rubles. 8 years at the head of the industry left deep traces: forests were cut down, burned, and only Valentik did not drown. Now, in those places that Ivan Valentik so successfully “guarded”, two enterprises will be built, the environmental danger from which has been publicly confirmed. Defending the interests of citizens in the Vologda region, United Russia member Turchak said that "the risks significantly exceed the economic benefits from the construction of the plant, since they threaten the health of our citizens living in the Volga regions." But in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, these dangers are becoming no less.
Presumption of environmental guilt
The construction of the pulp and paper mill is included in the list of facilities that are subject to the State Environmental Expertise. So far, no one has heard about it, although the start of work in Boguchany is scheduled for 2021, and in Lesosibirsk - in 2022.
But in Lesosibirsk in social networks a group “Lesosibirsk AGAINST the construction of the pulp and paper mill” has already been created. On VKontakte alone, 604 people signed up for the group - this is with a population of 60 thousand people, including the elderly and children.
Vasily Nikolaevich Trofimuk , honorary citizen of the city of Lesosibirsk, professor, former director of the Lesosibirsk branch of Siberian State University, says :
- The pulp and paper mill in the center of Lesosibirsk is by no means acceptable, because pulp and paper production will greatly worsen the ecological situation, and the economic situation of the city will not improve. In any case, it will be a very dangerous and harmful enterprise for the residents of the city. The impact on nature from the functioning pulp and paper mills is carried out in all directions: emissions of harmful substances into the atmosphere, the release of a significant amount of wastewater into the river, the formation of production waste.
Group admins write:
- Knowing how everything is being built in Russia, we are sure that half of the money will be stolen and the so-called "economy option" will be built. And they will save on our health. They will give the paw of the selection committee, so that it turns a blind eye to flaws, and we will not even know about it. And the news will include a report on the latest equipment and innovative technologies. And after 5 - 10 years there will be an outbreak of oncological diseases, but nothing can be done.
Alexandra Cohen believes:
- We found a secluded corner in Siberia, where not a single foot of the tsar walked and will not step, where there is scope for criminal negligence. What to talk about! What a Yenisei, when the seas are polluted here, and then they say through federal channels that it seemed to people!
Mikhail Zyryanov , Candidate of Technical Sciences, Associate Professor of the Siberian State University branch in Lesosibirsk, recalls that the production of one gram of cellulose requires 100 liters of water. There is no need to talk about the ecological aspect, given the load on the ecosystem of the Yenisei River:
- It is also difficult to talk about the emergence of a large number of jobs, given the fact that today a fairly large percentage of workers at the enterprises of the timber industry complex in the city of Lesosibirsk are foreign citizens. At the same time, many Lesosibirsk residents prefer to work on a rotational basis outside the Angara-Yenisei region. In addition, assessing objectively the current level of automation of this type of production, one should not expect the appearance of a large number of jobs.
People do not believe that a company that does not even have a legal address in the Krasnoyarsk Territory will compensate for environmental damage through contributions to the city budget.
Sergey Glebov says:
- If now 90% of the profit settles in the offshore, then during the construction and 90% of the profit will settle in the offshore. 10%, oncology, poisoned water and everything else we will consume. Who are we if we let this happen?
We need to shout about this, says Tatiana Kashkovskaya - Nikitishina .
Environmentalist Alexander Kolotov recalls that there is a presumption of environmental guilt. The customer will need to prove that the impact will be minimal and will not cause tangible harm to nature and the local population:
- Of course, the examination will be carried out. An environmental impact assessment must be carried out and public hearings must be held. Only according to their results, the State Expertise can accept the entire package of documents for consideration. Without the results of public hearings, such documentation will be considered incomplete and will not be accepted. Whether activists will participate will largely depend on the project owner and the organizer of the hearings - the local administration.
Judging by the mood of the townspeople of Lesosibirsk, they won't give up just like that.
Ecologist Andrei Laletin is pessimistic. It is clear that those who pay will receive an environmental impact assessment permitting construction. His hope that it will not come to construction:
- It seems to me that this plant is planned to be able to receive loans for the approved project. In recent years, not a single new pulp and paper mill has been built in Russia. It is, of course, for the best. They steal, but the forests do not suffer. And if they start construction, will they start cutting?
And if they really start?
Since the year 2000, there has been a constant weakening of environmental legislation in the country in order to quickly take everything - gold, oil, wood and make a profit. When there is a clearcut, that is, everything under the pulp and paper mill is cut down with a chessboard, no one remembers animals, insects, birds, or people. They cut the taiga - the mezlota thaws. Permafrost thaws - methane comes to the surface, the gas is 30 times more aggressive than carbon dioxide. If in the tropics the temperature has risen by a tenth of a degree, then in our North - by 2-3 degrees over the past 100 years. As a result, there are forest fires that no one extinguishes.
Artem Rechitsky, head of the Green Druzhina public organization, a representative of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, believes that local protests should be supported from Moscow:
- Lesosibirsk and Boguchany are located at a great distance from large centers where protests can be secured. Boguchany is a regional center, Lesosibirsk is a city. But in any case, both of them are far from Moscow. I consider it necessary to draw the attention of federal control bodies to the planned construction projects, first of all - Rosprirodnadzor.
There is no forest behind the trees
In the Krasnoyarsk Territory there is not a single enterprise for deep processing of timber. Environmentalists say that it may be necessary to build a pulp and paper mill for processing cellulose. But why are they so big at once? Alexander Kolotov , director of the public environmental organization "Plotina" in the capital of the region, believes that all the projects of the pulp and paper mill, which are proposed in the Yenisei region, and in Lesosibirsk, and in the Boguchansky region, suffer from gigantism:
- Investors do not want to build a small or medium pulp and paper mill. They want a very large one. Raw material issues immediately arise. It is obvious to me that if we are talking about a pulp and paper mill in Lesosibirsk, then the question should be this: either build a pulp and paper mill in the Yenisei region, or in Lesosibirsk. Two pulp and paper mills in such proximity to each other are not efficient. But even if only one project is selected, I doubt that the volume of raw materials in the surrounding areas will be sufficient to load at full design capacity.
Aleksandr Kolotov participated several years ago in public hearings on the construction of a pulp and paper mill in the Yenisei region. Even then, many experts expressed doubts that the estimated cutting area of the design documentation was true.
Ecologists say that we have a misconception that there are a lot of forests, especially in the Angara region. But this is because there is no up-to-date information on forest resources on a national scale. The forest inventory base - a planning system in the forestry sector - provides information from 25 years ago. The base of high-quality forest management was updated 40 years ago, says Alexey Yaroshenko , director of the forestry department of Greenpeace. For the first 10-15 years, one plant may have enough resources, and then - that's it. Barbaric felling and fires led to the depletion of the forest.
Andrey Laletin , PhD in Biology, co-chairman of the Russian Socio-Ecological Union, says:
- I think that the pulp and paper mill is not needed. We do not have enough raw material base. There, in the region of Lesosibirsk, forests have already been very much cut down, and the pulp and paper mill needs to be built so that the raw material base would be for many, many years to come. In addition, it is planned to build a second pulp and paper mill at the Angara. They announced that there will be two plants in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. It's not good at all.
Andrey Laletin fears that if the plants are built, felling will begin in the primary forests, which should be declared protected. Primary forests are unique old growth forests that have never been cleared. There are no such forests left in Europe at all. In Russia, they survived in the north of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, in the north of the Irkutsk Region and in Yakutia. In place of the forests that were cut down, birches and aspens grow in the region. Secondary forests appeared after felling and fires. In Siberia, coniferous forests go through a change of species. In birch and aspen forests, coniferous undergrowth is gradually rising. Restorative plantings in coniferous forests do not work; they used to plant spruce and cedar. But they themselves do not survive, says Laletin :
- It is necessary constantly, every year to carry out weeding, thinning, cleaning. And we have no money for this, there is no culture of leaving either. Therefore, they are planted and abandoned. They are dying. Then, on the same squares, they are planted again and again. Follow the landing plan. Another "drink" of money.
Which production will be built
For such a project to take place, the state must find 200 billion rubles for irrecoverable losses, experts say. Ecologist Yaroshenko believes:
- I think that no private investor will take such risks and irrecoverable losses. It can only be government money, such a deliberate cut. Will they be found in the current conditions - I think not. Most likely, it will be a bureaucratic flickering under the promise that we will build something, but in reality I think that nothing will happen.
From the point of view of environmental safety, if we were talking about a pulp and paper mill with a modern level of treatment systems, using recycled water, it would be a safe project. But such modern projects cost two to two and a half times more than the financing of these two plants has now been announced. Most likely, with the amounts that we are talking about now, projects are planned at the level of the middle or last third of the last century. This means that an outdated, dirty, obviously harmful to the environment pulp and paper mill will be built. Alexander Kolotov says:
- I have not seen a detailed justification - will there be a closed gas circulation system, how it will be built. The previous project for the construction of a pulp and paper mill in the Yenisei region received the largest number of comments on the ratio of potential discharges, although they assumed a closed cycle. But there was planned a discharge upstream from the water intake of the city of Lesosibirsk. In the event of any emergency, it turned out that automatically all chemistry would go into the city's water supply system. It is unacceptable. You can talk as much as you like that this will not be allowed, but until it is clearly not clear what methods, what systems will be used to 100% exclude such a possibility, local residents have reason not to trust the words.
The question of whether Siberians will be able to defend their right to health, whether they will be able to protect the Yenisei and Angara, depends not only on themselves. The regional authorities, headed by the governor Uss, are not their assistants here. They and their new partners, Gleb Frank and Ivan Valentik, have opposite interests. Some want to live, while others want to live well. There are many benefits to being close to power. The rich experience of the son-in-law of the billionaire Timchenko in pacifying the disaffected and moving towards even greater power and more money proves that the inhabitants of Lesosibirsk and Boguchan have very influential enemies. But if they lose, "Farewell to Matera" will become not only a reality of the 70s, but also the future for the entire region.
Novye Izvestia will publish detailed interviews with environmentalists on the situation in the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the prospects for the construction of two pulp and paper mills on the Yenisei and Angara. We have requested Rockwell Capital and are awaiting an answer to our questions. We will also acquaint our readers with the position of the authorities of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, if we receive explanations from them. The editorial staff prepares reports from Lesosibirsk and Boguchan.