Almost 11,500 people from 76 states have signed an online petition in defense of Urup, an island of the Middle Kurils, and its unique fauna endangered by a gold mining project, the Sakhalin Ecological Watch regional public organization said on Thursday.

The collection of signatures in support of the petition, "Nature Reserve, not Gold Mine", is over now, he said. The petition was posted in the Avaaz international network community by hydro-biologist, member of the Primorsky branch of the Russian Green League Tatiana Belikova.

"The petition was sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sakhalin Region Governor Alexander Khoroshavin and the Russian Natural Resources and Ecology Ministry. People are concerned about plans to start gold mining with an extremely dangerous method - blasting and extensive use of cyanide poisons - in one of the most seismically unstable zones of the planet, a small deserted island populated with rare endangered species," it said.

Rookeries of endangered sea mammals - sea beavers, insular seals and sea lions - may be located close to the gold mine. Explosions will force the animals to leave and toxins will poison living organisms in the coastal waters if the integrity of waste storages is disturbed by an earthquake, the report said.

The signatories asked the authorities to prevent the gold mining project in Urup and to open a nature conservancy zone there instead.

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