Nornickel operates heavy polluting industry in the far northern Taymyr tundra. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Arctic polluter transfers 146 billion to the state treasury

Nornickel has cashed out an unprecedented fine for its spill of 21,000 tons of diesel oil into wetlands and rivers of far northern peninsula Taymyr.
March 11, 2021

The company now confirms that it has completed the payment of 146.2 billion rubles (€1.66 billion), as decided by the Krasnoyarsk Court of Arbitration.

An overwhelming share of the sum, 145.49 billion rubles, is transferred to the state treasury. The remaining part of the sum is transferred to the city of Norilsk.

The unprecedented fine is to cover environmental damage caused by the spill of more than 21,000 tons of diesel oil from a reservoir near Norilsk.

 

More than 21,000 tons of diesel oil spilled int vulnerable Arctic nature when a reservoir collapsed. Photo: Rosprirodnadzor

 

The reservoir belonged to the Norilsko-Taymyrsky Energy Company, a local subsidiary of mining and metallurgy giant Nornickel.

It was Russia’s environmental protection agency Rosprirodnadzor that sued the company after more than 21,000 tons of diesel fuel in late May 2020 leaked from a ruptured oil reservoir near the city of Norilsk.

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Rosprirodnadzor and its leader Svetlana Radionova originally demanded almost 148 billion rubles. Nornickel and its subsidiary, however, disputed the claim and argued that damage was worth only 21,4 billion rubles (€238 million).

 

Big pollution of rivers and waters near Norilsk. Photo: krskstate.ru

 

The court case started in early October last year.

The fine is unprecedented in Russia and must be seen as a strong signal to the powerful producer of nickel, copper, palladium and platinum and its leader Vladimir Potanin.

It was long believed that climate change was the reason for the oil spill. According to Nornickel and a number of environmental experts, the ground under the oil reservoir collapsed following the melting of permafrost. However, federal inspectors have later rebuffed that theory.

The oil reservoir ruptured because of construction errors and mismanagement by the company, experts from the state technical control authority Rostekhnadzor conclude.

The environmental situation around Norilsk has sparked outcry not only from locals and environmentalists, but also from top federal politicians. In October 2020, leader of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko expresses shock and outrage about company mismanagement and the massive pollution in the area.

In a press conference, Matvienko said that company town of Norilsk used to be a “garden town”, but now looks more like a “slum” with worn-out infrastructure, and power grids, water canalization, roads and housing in disarray.

 

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