In “The $15 Trillion Treasure at the End of the World” Josh Hammer chronicles the Russian effort to control the market for Arctic natural resources. Russia’s efforts center around the Yamal Peninsula, a finger of land extending north from Siberia into the Arctic Circle, where the Russian gas company Gazprom is drilling for natural gas. For years, a tribe called the Nenets has lived on the peninsula. What follows is a photographic chronicle of the battle between their historic existence and the encroaching presence of Gazprom.
On the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic reaches of Siberia, a battle is taking place between the ancient traditions of the Nenets, a tribe of reindeer herders whose existence is defined by annual migrations across the tundra.
The powerful Russian company Gazprom, which wants to drill for natural gas in oil fields throughout the area.
The massive Bovanenkovo fields will start producing in 2012. One-fifth of the world’s undiscovered but recoverable supplies may lie in the Arctic region.
The Nenets way of life goes back hundreds of years. While many children can now get educated in state-run schools, thanks to the infusion of Gazprom investments, many are still inculcated early into the herding life.
The Nenets in this photo portfolio are from a group known as Reindeer Brigade Number Five. The families sleep in chums, canvas skins thrown over frames of long wooden poles.
The Nenets’ sleds are designed to traverse the tundra quickly, but are not designed for modern roads.
This has become a serious problem as the peninsula has been developed. Gazprom has roads criss-crossing the tundra, often for trucks carrying supplies to build the oil fields.
The contrast between the business of Gazprom and the Nenets culture is seen most clearly at these road crossings. In past years, the roads have forced the Nenets been to go miles and miles out of their way, adding time and frustration to an already-difficult trek.
But the two sides are trying to work together. This year, Gazprom crews rolled out 10-foot-wide strips of insulation material across the roads.
The insulation material makes it easy for the sleds--pushed by man or beast--to cross the roads.
In the future, Gazprom may just give the insulation directly to the Nenets, making it even easier for them.
Gazprom has not always succeeded in the Yamal. Past expeditions have been shut down for lack of funding. But this time the Russian company is determined to learn from the past.
Gazprom’s probable success in the Yamal will pose a serious threat to the Nenets herding culture. This boy has more choices than his ancestors, and has the option of going to schools where he will learn about more things than they would have ever dreamt of. But his heritage and his environment may disappear in the process.

Read more about the Siberian Energy Rush

How the Siberian Energy Rush Is Affecting the Nenets Tribe

In “The $15 Trillion Treasure at the End of the World” Josh Hammer chronicles the Russian effort to control the market for Arctic natural resources. Russia’s efforts center around the Yamal Peninsula, a finger of land extending north from Siberia into the Arctic Circle, where the Russian gas company Gazprom is drilling for natural gas. For years, a tribe called the Nenets has lived on the peninsula. What follows is a photographic chronicle of the battle between their historic existence and the encroaching presence of Gazprom. (Photographs by Jeremy Nicholl)

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