Polyus Magadan’s environmental team has been observing animals living in the forests near the Natalka mine for several years. Travelling on foot and by car, the team cover 1,000 hectares of the Intrigan and Khinike river valleys, located 15km from the mine. The latest observation period lasted from late-February to early-March, tracking animal prints in the snow in the forests before it melted.
Known as the Taiga of Europe and Siberia, the Okhotsk-Kolyma forest in the northern Far East and near the Natalka mine has severe weather conditions and few different species of wildlife, however many animals live in these forests. These include wood grouse, partridges, hazel grouse, squirrels, ermine, sable, white hares, foxes, brown bears, wolverine, reindeer, elk and even bobcat. While bobcats are rare in the Magadan region, their presence was recorded in the upper Intrigan creek between 1972-1973 and in the Khatynnakh creek valley between 1998-1999.
Nikolay Kiruyshin, Chief Environmental Engineer at Polyus Magadan, commented,
«According to the region’s wildlife regulator, there are currently 12 species of game animals living in the Tenkinsky district. Our objective is to maintain the conservation of this wildlife. Over a ten-year period starting before the launch of exploration and production at the Natalka mine, we have been conducting an environmental assessment including keeping records of different species in the local area. This forms part of our corporate program for the mine’s environmental impact assessment. Currently, the number of species present is in line with the wider district rate».
Our monitoring shows that the decline in wildlife peaked over the construction period at Natalka between 2015 and 2017. The environmental team noted that the construction noise caused animals to migrate to nearby areas. Once construction had been completed, the environment and the wildlife density recovered.
In addition to this, the Company monitors the passage of birds. Migrating birds are extremely vulnerable, so in 2011 Polyus Magadan began assessing the impact of its production on birds. The assessment found 86 bird species of eight orders flying over the operations during the migration period, including some rare and protected species. 2021 saw a record high for many years of 13,500 birds.
Nikolay Kiruyshin added,
«The results of our short observation period showed a certain pattern in migration numbers. In 2015, migration was not monitored as production levels were reduced. This year, a maximum of 13,500 birds passed over in one day, with this being while mining was ramping up. We also worked out that the depth of our existing data on seasonal migration in the region was very low in terms of the scope, observation periods and detail, with the last records being from 1997».
Validating Polyus’ data will require further observation and the team is already preparing to trace footprints in the district this winter.