Zinc mine threatens Lake Baikal

The discovery of a large zinc deposit on the watershed of Lake Baikal in Russia may threaten the world's largest freshwater lake, Reuters reports. The find has led to conflict between environmentalists and mining proponents in the region.

Experts say the Kholodninskoye deposit, in southern Siberia, contains an estimated 13.3 million tonnes of zinc and 2 million tonnes of lead. Zinc is widely used in a variety of industrial processes, including in galvanised steel and the automotive industry.

In July, Russia’s natural resources ministry proposed a ban on developing half of the Kholodninskoye deposit, saying mining would damage the lake, which has already been showing the effects of increased tourism and industry in the area.

Mine proponents in Buryatia, the Russian province bordering the lake, argue that the project will bring much-needed jobs and economic investment to the province, which is currently one of the poorest in the country.

Lake Baikal is 1,637 metres at its deepest and is some 25 million years old. The lake is home to some of the world’s rarest fish and plant species.

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