Exxon Neftegas Limited (hereinafter, ENL), the Sakhalin 1 project operator company, from the Project inception has focused on good-neighborly relations with indigenous minorities and their non-government organizations in the northern part of Sakhalin and in the Ulchi District of the Khabarovsk Krai. The Sakhalin 1 project serves as an example of successful interaction between a responsible business and the indigenous residents of the project operation areas.
History of cooperation
The history of an open dialogue dates back to December 2001, when the first Declaration of Mutual Assistance and Cooperation between the Sakhalin Association of Indigenous Minority Peoples of the North (hereinafter, IMPN) and Exxon Neftegas Limited (hereinafter, ENL) was signed. That was also when the first Advisory Board started its work as a liaison between the Association and the Company.
In March 2005, special Sakhalin IMPN Congress established the new Regional Council of Authorized Representatives of the Indigenous Minorities of the Sakhalin Oblast and appointed council members resulting in a new Declaration of Mutual Assistance and Cooperation between the Regional Council and the Company in 2006.
On September 4, 2012, a tri-partite cooperation agreement was executed between ENL, Regional Council, and the Sakhalin Oblast Government (Cooperation Agreement). In accordance with the agreement, an Advisory Committee with equal representation from all three parties was formed to discuss matters of mutual interests.
In December 2003, ENL signed a Declaration of Mutual Assistance and Cooperation with the Ulchsky District non-government Organization of IMPN and Priamurye. At the same time, an Advisory Board was formed and has been productively functioning to the present day.
The approved Statute of the Advisory Committee and Statute of the Advisory Board regulate operations of both bodies. Conferences are held at least twice a year to share information about the Sakhalin 1 Project production operations, to discuss matters of traditional economic activities, natural resource use, the initiatives of IMPN organizations, as well as to review and evaluate charitable aid projects.
In addition to regular meetings held under the auspices of the Advisory Committee, and the Advisory Board conferences, ENL conducts periodic consultations with the representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities to inform them on the progress of project implementation, address concerns and respond to questions. ENL also arranges periodic fact-finding tours of the Sakhalin 1 project facilities.
Since 2008, based on the recommendations received during the consultation sessions, ENL has engaged about 30 environmental observers from the indigenous minority peoples of the North to participate in the project activities. Their knowledge and experience have provided the best input regarding climatic, geographic, and environmental characteristics of the region, as well as the traditional use of natural resources.
Two-way communication with the residents
Since 2003, the Company has employed a network of public relations coordinators, who reside and work in the city of Okha, Nekrasovka village, Val village, Community of Nogliki, Sakhalin Oblast, and in the village of De-Kastri, Ulchsky District, Khabarovsk Krai. On a daily basis these Coordinators liaison with local communities and maintain two-way communication with their fellow countrymen. Two of them are Sakhalin IMPN representatives; they have a deep understanding of the importance of preserving old traditions and cultures. The network of coordinators is an important communication tool between the Company and the local public. It is because of their work that local residents have an opportunity to receive real-time information about the Sakhalin 1 project and to ask questions, and the Company can better understand the aspirations and needs of the local communities, as well as respond to their concerns in a timely manner.
For example, in October 2014, local Val village residents contacted ENL through their coordinator requesting removal of logging debris from a local river of the same name. The river is especially valuable as a salmon spawning area but over time it became jammed with fallen tree trunks, branches and roots, making it practically impassable for fish and motor boats. During spring floods, the river logjam started to create flooding hazards for the village.
The Company responded to the plea and provided funds to purchase chain saws and other necessary cleaning tools. Planned operations were safe and environmentally sound; responders were provided with PPE. Volunteers of the Chayvo Onshore Processing Facility (OPF) provided direct labor assistance. As a result of combined efforts, over 150 cubic meters of wood was removed and the river logjam was eliminated completely.
Care of traditional natural resource use
Since day one of operations, Exxon Neftegas Limited (hereinafter, ENL) has been engaged in an active dialog with the reindeer herders of the Uilta indigenous tribal community. Prior to commencement of Chayvo OPF construction, ENL representatives had numerous meetings with the local public to jointly discuss construction plans. The meeting convinced the Uilta tribe representatives that construction activities will not damage traditional reindeer pastures. Additionally, in 2008, pipeline construction plans were adjusted based on the proposals and recommendations submitted by the reindeer herders.
Construction of a bridge over Chayvo Bay specifically for the needs of the Sakhalin 1 project may serve as a good example of mutually beneficial collaboration. Before the bridge was built, the herders had to cross the bay in boats, and deer had to swim across the bay, which was not safe. Nowadays, herders can use the bridge during annual herd drives, saving a lot of time and efforts. Oilmen are notified about the start of a herd drive and suspend all vehicular traffic for the safe passage of deer.
Support of the IMPN culture and language
Over the period from 2002 to 2015, Exxon Neftegas Limited (hereinafter, ENL), acting as Operator of the Sakhalin 1 Consortium and following the Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board recommendations, funded over 400 charitable projects aimed at preserving culture, traditions, and national languages of the indigenous minority peoples of the North, at a total cost of about 46 million rubles (about 2 million US dollars).
Additionally, about 300 social initiatives in education, health, arts, and children athletics worth approximately 90 million rubles (over 3 million US dollars) were funded in the areas of compact settlement of the island’s indigenous peoples in Okha, Nogliki, and Ulchi Districts.
One of the examples of ENL charitable initiatives is the annual general sponsor support of the ritual celebration event known as Feeding the Sea Master Spirit. During this picturesque event held in the city of Poronaisk, representatives of all island tribes (Nivkh, Evenks, Uilta, and Nanai) converge on the city to perform the ancient ceremony of Feeding the Sea Master Spirit, and to participate in traditional athletic competitions.
Today, events involving participation of indigenous peoples of Sakhalin and the Far East are expanding geographically and attracting more and more spectators. The Company also has an initiative to support the National reindeer herdsman’s day Kurei which is observed once every 2 years by Uilta, the smallest indigenous Sakhalin minority.
For a number of years, as a result of Sakhalin 1 support, performing groups and masters of folk arts and crafts from the Sakhalin Oblast and Ulchi District have participated in the Moscow-held international exhibition fair called Northern Treasures. In recent years, the ethnic art groups Pila Ken, Arila Mif, Mengume Igla, Kekh, and Diro have successfully participated in the festivals Kochevye Severa (Northern Nomads), scored high points and received highest awards. The artistry of the groups and individual masters from the Sakhalin Oblast and Ulchi District is widely presented at the international Live Thread of Time festival in Khabarovsk.