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Court rejects prosecutors' suit against Baikal pulp mill

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IRKUTSK, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - A court in the Irkutsk Region turned down on Thursday prosecutors' lawsuit against the Baikal pulp mill near Lake Baikal, accused of violating fish protection laws, local prosecutors said Thursday.

The mill is also involved in a much larger lawsuit with the national environmental watchdog, which accuses it of dumping vast amounts of waste into Baikal, the world's largest freshwater body.

"The court turned down prosecutors' lawsuit to the sum of 595,000 rubles [$25,250]. We disagree with the Slyudyansky District Court's ruling, and will appeal it at the Irkutsk Region Court," a spokesman for the prosecutors said.

The West Baikal inter-district environmental prosecutor's office conducted a check late last year into whether the pulp mill was observing environmental laws. The investigation found that the mill lacked special fish protection devices, and prosecutors filed two lawsuits. On the first suit, considered in February, the court ruled in favor of prosecutors.

Russia's environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor said in late January that contamination of Lake Baikal by the Baikal pulp mill would cost Russia 2 billion rubles ($83.9 million) per month.

Rosprirodnadzor imposed in early December 2007 a five-day ban on the dumping of waste into Lake Baikal from the mill, and filed a lawsuit against the company for damages of over 475 million rubles ($19.9 million). The watchdog eventually increased the size of the legal claim to 4.2 billion rubles ($176 million).

The Baikal Pulp and Paper 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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