A thick dusting of toxic, black snow has coated several towns in Siberia, transforming them into “post-apocalyptic” landscapes, according to Russian media.
The inky snowfall is the result of open coal pits in the Kuzbass Basin, which is home to 2.6 million people and sits on one of the world’s largest coal reserves spanning 10,000 square miles.
Residents in the towns of Prokopyevsk, Kiselyovsk, and Leninsk-Kuznetsky have been posting surreal footage of grayscale snowdrifts, trees, and icicles to social media.
#Russia is a country of outstanding natural beauty and diversity. But the sheer lack of environmental regulations is a devastating effect for residents in #Kuzbass, where last night there was BLACK SNOW. pic.twitter.com/zMiEWBJbnh
— Khodorkovsky Center (@mbk_center) February 14, 2019
“No cleansing systems, all the waste, dust and dirt, coal lay in the area,” one resident remarked, according to the Siberian Times on Friday. “Our children and us are breathing it. It’s just a nightmare.”
“The future of our children is terrifying,” another reportedly said.
Anatoly Volkov, director general of the Prokopyevskaya coal factory, told local TV that “a shield” (possibly a covering used to contain the dust) had malfunctioned. Prosecutors in the region are allegedly investigating the cause.
The open-air coal pits of Kuzbass are a known health risk, CBS News reported on Monday, and the region was called “the coal heart of Russia” in a 2015 report by the Russian environmental advocacy group Ecodefense. According to Ecodefense, Kuzbass supported 120 mining facilities and 52 enrichment plants at the time. Ninety percent of the coal exported to Britain in 2017 originated in Kuzbass, The Guardian stated on Friday.
By: Sarah Emerson