The smelters for copper and nickel in Monchegorsk. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Nornickel gears up for green race, closure of old copper smelter in Monchegorsk will halve air pollution

Some 700 employees will be affected as the metallurgical workshop closes this spring.
February 12, 2021

Russia’s Nornickel has made a final decision to close the old copper smelter in Monchegorsk on the Kola Peninsula, arguing ineffective technology that does not meet environmental requirements.

The move follows the same path as the closure of the old nickel smelter last December in the town named after the metal it produced, Nikel.

“Today, our metallurgical production does not fully comply with modern standards, and the management of Nornickel decided to move towards a green economy, said Deputy General Director of Nornickel’s subsidiary on the Murmansk region, Dmitry Getman to the local news-online Kn51.

Dead forest due to pollution near Monchegorsk. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

“Production should be more efficient and environmental friendly. This became the main prerequisite for stopping the workshop,” he said.

Getman points to the fact that the copper smelter, one of several workshops in Monchegorsk, counts for 50 percent of the emissions from the company’s activities on the Kola Peninsula.

Monchegorsk has for decades been ranked as one of Russia’s most polluted cities. The factories are marked as hot spots on the Nordic Environmental Finance Corporation (NEFCO). The list was set up by the Nordic countries for providing support and financing technical assistance in the Russian part of the Barents region.

Last summer, the Barents Observer published several articles with images showing how the sulfur dioxide smog covered kilometers after kilometers of the half-dead taiga forest west of the factories.

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Additional to copper, the workshops in Monchegorsk produce nickel, palladium and platinum.

A new copper smelter will be built on the site with latest technology, more autonomous production and best available environmental standards. Meanwhile, the copper concentrate will be sent to Norilsk for melting.

Photo: Thomas Nilsen

A temporary shipment unit is built, sending the  concentrate to Murmansk and further by ship to Dudinka, NorNickel’s port facility serving Norilsk on the Taymyr Peninsula in Siberia.

According to Kn51, about 700 employees will be affected by the closure of the old copper plant. A fifth of them have agreed to resign after receiving “serious monetary compensation.”

Others will get new vacancies in other parts of the company, but for most, the future is still uncertain.

Dmitry Getman understands people’s fear.

“For all of us, to leave our comfort zone and change something in life is quite difficult. Therefore, we try to answer people’s questions. The developed programs can help employees when deciding whether to retire or transfer to other departments, where they can improve their skills, get new professions and continue working in the company.”

 

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