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Baikal pulp mill using blackmail - watchdog

MOSCOW, December 11 (RIA Novosti) - The pulp mill, accused by Russia's environmental watchdog of polluting Lake Baikal, is using blackmail in saying its closure will leave 16,000 without heating, the regulator's deputy head said Tuesday.

"This is the only enterprise in the Russian Federation which, while failing to fulfill the norms of environmental laws, is using heating as a cover," Oleg Mitvol, Rosprirodnadzor's deputy head said.

On Monday, Mitvol imposed a five-day ban on the dumping of waste into Siberia's Lake Baikal from the Baikal Pulp and Paper Plant, but the company managing the plant said the shutdown could lead to the town of Baikalsk being left without heating due to peculiarities in the technological cycle.

The Natural Resources Ministry said December 4 that the environmental watchdog would sue the pulp mill for over 475 million rubles ($19 million) in damages for dumping waste into Baikal.

The watchdog applied last week to the Irkutsk arbitration court with a petition to suspend the plant's activities over charges that it was polluting Unesco-protected Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake and largest fresh water body.

In early November, Mitvol said the Baikal Pulp and Paper Plant, which had earlier failed to extend its water use license, should suspend its operations, adding that wastewater discharges by pulp and paper enterprises were among the worst in the industry.

The Baikal pulp mill, which produces 200,000 metric tons of pulp and 12,000 metric tons of paper per year, is located in east Siberia. The mill is owned by the timber industrial company Continental Management (51%) and the State Property Committee of Russia (49%).

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