Thematic Focus 2/2006: Arctic oil and gas development

In 2006 and 2007 IWGIA is drawing particular attention to the oil and gas extraction on Sakhalin Island in the far Eastern Russia. This year, IWGIA is fundraising to support local indigenous organizations' campaign to get a fair compensation for the use of their land.

Oil and gas development on Sakhalin

Oil and gas production in the Northern part of Sakhalin Island started in the 1920s, but it has been greatly intensified over the past decade. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian government opened up for foreign companies to sign Production Sharing Agreements, which allowed them to establish production in certain specified projects areas. In 1999, the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd./ Shell thus produced its first oil. In 2005 followed Exxon Neftegaz Ltd., and other companies such as British Petroleum are currently in the process of developing projects of their own.

Get an introduction to Sakhalin's oil and gas production on the Pacific Environment website by clicking here.

The indigenous response

For Sakhalin's indigenous peoples, oil and gas production has immense consequences. 800 km of pipelines are being constructed. They will cross 1,103 rivers and brooks and thus affect salmon spawning areas, and in other areas they will split the migration routes of both wild animals and domestic reindeer. This is a direct threat to the traditional livelihood and cultural practice of the Nivkh, Uilta, Evenk and Nanai people. Apart from that, they fear what long-term cumulative effects the infrastructure development and the transport of oil and gas will cause on their land.

Indigenous organisations in Sakhalin, in cooperation with RAIPON, have organized a series of protest actions against the oil companies, demanding a fair compensation for the exploitation of their land.

Read more about the June 2005 Green Wave demonstration by clicking here.

Read more about the January 2005 protests by clicking here.

The current campaign

While Shell signed a compensation agreement with representatives of the indigenous peoples in March this year, the other major player Exxon has so far denied to go into real negotiations on how to compensate for the environmental and socio-economic damage their activities cause to the local peoples. In September this year a new series of protest actions started, this time aimed at Exxon, and demanding a thorough socio-economic impact assessment of the project as a basis for determining an appropriate compensation.

Corporate Social Responsibility – a marketing strategy or a real hope for indigenous communities?

At the heart of the Sakhalin peoples' struggle for proper compensation is the growing international awareness on the responsibility industrial companies have towards not only the environment, but also the people living in the areas they exploit. The so-called corporate social responsibility policies open up new avenues for negotiation between indigenous communities and companies. But with negotiation partners that are as unequal as a small, isolated indigenous community and a large, multinational company with thousands of employees and technical experts, the practice of getting real results for the peoples concerned is a complicated process in itself.

Read more about Human Rights, International Law and Corporate Social Responsibility in the context of oil and gas exploitation on Arctic indigenous peoples territories in Gáldu Cála by clicking here.

More information

IWGIA's journal Indigenous Affairs focuses in the 2-3/2006 issue on Arctic Oil and Gas Development. Below you can find the table of content:

Editorial - by Mark Nuttall and Kathrin Wessendorf

Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Debate, by Mark Nuttall

Yukon First Nations and the Alaska Highway Gas Pipeline, by David Roddick

The Mackenzie Gas Project: Aboriginal Interests, the Environment and Northern Canada's Energy Frontier, by Mark Nuttall

Assessing the Impacts of Oilsands Development on Indigenous Peoples in Alberta, by Clint Westman

Oil Exploration in Greenland, by Rasmus Ole Rasmussen

Oil and Gas Development in Western Siberia and Timan-Pechora, by Florian Stammler and Bruce C. Forbes

Oil Pipeline Development and Indigenous Rights in Eastern Siberia, by Gail Fondahl and Anna Sirina

Evenks of Chitinskaya Province: Society and Economy (Still) in Transition, by Olga Povoroznyuk - Download an updated version of the article (updates are marked in blue) by clicking here.

Download the whole issue as a PDF file

World Rainforest Movement has published a number of articles on oil and gas in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Click here to access the articles.

EarthRights International is working on the issues of oil and gas and mining in Burma. Click here to read more.

Read more about oil and gas exploration in the Peruvian Amazon by clicking here.


IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. The Indigenous World 2019.

Contact IWGIA

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DK 1422 Copenhagen
Phone: (+45) 53 73 28 30
CVR: 81294410

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