Capitalist restoration in Russia: A balance sheet
Part 4: The Kuzbass today
4 May 2018
Coal production in Russia has seen a resurgence in recent years with Russia ranking as the world’s sixth largest producer. The coal industry employs around 151,000 people, with another 500,000 working in related industries. Coal is the fifth most important export product for Russia.
In 2016, Russia produced 385.7 million tons of coal, of which 171.4 million tons were exported. The Kuzbass has produced between 54 and 60 percent of all coal that is mined in Russia, and up to 76 percent of Russia’s coal exports. Coal companies account for well over half of the region’s budget.
With a record low of only 70 mines as of 2016, this increase in output has been achieved above all by a massive increase in productivity—that is, a ruthless intensification of the exploitation of the working class.
The profits of the coal companies have risen even more significantly than the output. In 2017, when output rose by 13 million tons to 270 million tons a year, the profits of coal companies rose by 2.8 times, according to official statistics.
Coal extraction in Russia, like all extraction of raw materials, has proceeded in the most reckless and environmentally destructive manner. While this was always an issue in the Soviet period, and the subject of one of the demands raised by striking miners in late 1980s, it has gone from bad to worse since 1991 as the ruling oligarchy has been pursuing the exploitation of the working class and the raw material resources in total disregard of the consequences for the lives of ordinary people.
According to a report by the NGO Ecodefense, the average life…