Oil Extraction at Numto Nature Preserve, Russia

The heavenly lake of Numto is threatened by an oil company Surgutneftegas. Oil operations would wreck local communities and spell disaster for its wildlife and ecosystems.


Declaration of transit to sustainable development pattern in the Russian Arctic zone mentioned in recently adopted Russian-Federal programs draws attention to several problems connected with further economic development. Possible emergence of different nature management/land use conflicts is among them, including conflicts at territories of traditional nature use (TTNU) of indigenous  population.

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Basic Data
NameOil Extraction at Numto Nature Preserve, Russia
CountryRussian Federation
ProvinceBorder of Yamal and Khanty-Mansy regions
SiteNumto Natural Preserve, Beloyarsky
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Land acquisition conflicts
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific CommoditiesLand
Crude oil
Ecosystem Services
Biological resources
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe park covers an area of 556,664 hectares. It occupies a special position in the geography, ecology and ethnography of North of Tyumen region. It is located on the border of Khanty-Mansi

and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Areas, at a critical watershed in the central part of the Siberian ridges. Numto is one of the largest lakes in the area, with a water surface area of 56 square kilometers; located in the centre of the swamplands, it performs important ecological functions, regulating the water regime for seven rivers flowing from this area into the Ob. This land is a habitat for specific flora and fauna. The uniqueness of the territory comes through where tundra, woodlands, northern and middle taiga meet; at a latitude of 63 degrees, here lies the most southern reach of the tundra in Russia. Riverbeds of the ancient Pur and Taz rivers lie near the Numto borders, which are paths for migratory birds. 30 percent of the territory is covered by forests, mainly pine.

With a vast area of almost 62 square Kilometers, Numto is one of the most sacred places in the region.

Lake of Numto is threatened by an oil company Surgutneftegas. Oil operations would wreck local communities and spell disaster for its wildlife and ecosystems. The oil company Surgutneftegas already extracts oil from the park but now they want access to one of its most vulnerable areas: the wetlands, where industrial development is currently prohibited.

KMAO-Yugra is one of the major oil provinces in the Russian Arctic and responsible for around half of the total Russian oil production. Many protected natural areas overlap with either proven or promising oil and gas fields, leading to tensions between nature protection and natural resources extraction priorities. In 1999, Surgutneftegas acquired a license for geological study and assessment of fossil fuel reserves in an area that overlapped with the Numto Nature Park. This assessment license was succeeded in 2004 by an exploration and production license at the Vatlorskoye oil field. The field crosses the Park's most valuable Wetlands Protection Zone (‘zakaznik’) which, according to the original zoning, prohibited intensive economic activities (e.g. oil extraction) and permitted only subsistence activities (e.g. reindeer herding) by the indigenous population (cf. Figure 4). Throughout the 2000s, Surgutneftegas has challenged the Park's original zoning. Up until the end of 2016 some 50 oil wells had been drilled outside of the Wetlands Protection Zone and more are expected to be established.
Project Area (in hectares)721 ha
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationsome 220 forest Nenets people + Khanty people (population unknown)
Start Date01/02/2016
Company Names or State EnterprisesSurgutneftegas from Russian Federation - Oil extraction, project company
Relevant government actorsUgra administration

the federal Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGreenpeace International

The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Two indigenous people: Khanty and Forest Nentsy
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Oil spills
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Land dispossession, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseUnder negotiation
Development of AlternativesAs reported by Greenpeace (1) in May 2019 more access to internet and more outside support are needed to stop oil extraction. " For the Khanty, oil extraction means wrecking the environment: heavy vehicles destroying land, which is difficult to recover in the Arctic, possible oil spills poisoning water and less and less places to eat for the reindeer which feed on plants or wild herbs. Many realise the threat oil drilling presents, but few dare to oppose. Nonetheless, courageous protest does take place.

Numto village is located in Numto natural Park in the south of the Russian tundra. Except from the oil industry, It is isolated from the rest of the world. Mobile phones barely get a signal, and the road built by Surgutneftegas is private and 200km to the nearest town. Earlier this year there was a “public” hearing. Finding out about it afterwards, locals called it a sham consultation. While the oil company Surgutneftegas claims it put documents on its website, the locals do not have internet.

Strangers are kept out by a guarded checkpoint. The press is especially not welcome. Two years ago a German journalist tried to visit to report on the tension between locals and oil industry. She was denied access both by car and helicopter. Recently a journalist managed to visit during the reindeer herders’ day festivities– the day Surgutneftegas announced they are installing three more oil drilling wells in Numto."
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly."There’s a lot of lofty talk about indigenous peoples rights to free, prior and informed consent. This means indigenous people have a right to say no to industrial development that may affect their way of life and the health of their lands. However, in reality, the oil industry often ignores this consent. The indigenous reindeer herders from Numto village by Western Siberia are familiar with this lack of responsibility. " (1)
Sources and Materials

Appraisal of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Re-Zoning of the Numto Nature Park by Greenpeace (2016)
[click to view]


Can zoning resolve nature use conflicts? The case of the Numto Nature Park in the Russian Arctic
[click to view]

Parallel Information: Discrimination against indigenous minority peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation; CERD 93rd Session (31 July to 15 August 2017); Reference: 23rd to 24th periodic reports of the Russian Federation, CERD/C/RUS/23-24
[click to view]

Revealing of Land Use Conflicts at Indigenous Population Territories in the Russian Arctic Using Atlas Information Systems Methodology
[click to view]


Greenpeace Blog Article: Hope floats at heavenly lake
[click to view]

Heavenly Lake Numto in Western Siberia is Under Threat from Big Oil
[click to view]

Greenpeace Blog Article: Reindeers in Moscow: Saving the sacred lake
[click to view]

Greenpeace Blog Article: The old man and the sea of oil
[click to view]

(1) Will people hear the story of the Numto reindeer herders? by Chihiro Geuzebroek 1 May 2019
[click to view]

Media Links

Collection: Protest of Indigenous People against Oil Industry in Moscow (Photos & Video)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Numto National Preserve Photo from the article "Hope floats at heavenly lake", by Greenpeace International
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorAyşe Ceren Sarı, Boğaziçi University, [email protected]
Last update22/06/2019