Containers loaded with metals from Norilsk in the port of Dudinka on the Taymyr Peninsula. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The War troubles Nornickel as it struggles to shift to new markets

Consolidated revenue shrank significantly in 2023 for the Arctic giant metal producer as European buyers refuse to trade with the company that indirectly pays hundreds of millions of dollars in tax to Putin’s war economy.
April 01, 2024


The wealthy oligarch controlling Nornickel, Vladimir Potanin has not taken a stand against Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine. Nornickel, however, is not sanctioned by the European Union, but the company is increasingly met with a cold shoulder from buyers of metals in Europe.

Total revenue amounted to $14,4 billion in 2023, down 15% year-on-year, according to the company’s financial reporting.

With mining and metallurgical production on the Taymyr Peninsula in Siberia and the Kola Peninsula in Russia’s northwestern Murmansk region, Nornickel is the world’s largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel. It is also a major producer of platinum, copper and cobalt, all metals important for the world’s shift to a greener economy.

In northern regions, Nornickel is mostly known for being worst on dirt as the Arctic’s biggest toxic air polluter

Battery producers in Europe were important customers for nickel, copper and cobalt from the Russian Arctic before Putin launched his full-scale war on Ukraine in February 2022.


Murmansk port is transshipment hub for Norickel and serves both the factories in Norilsk and on the Kola Peninsula. Photo: Thomas Nilsen



Vice president for Sales, Anton Berlin, said to Reuters that some consumers are shunning deals with Nornickel for its metals made from Russian raw materials. For example, Berlin said the company’s Harjavalta plant in Finland, which produces battery materials for electric cars in Europe, was affected.

Nornickel experiences European banks refusing to transfer money for Russian products and the company is challenged in dealing with insurance companies, ships and ports, Berlin told Reuters.

Headquartered in Moscow, and restricted by Russian law from naming the war a war, Nornickel predicts troubles to continue. “In 2024, we expect that risks related to an adverse geopolitical situation will continue to impact our operations,” the company said in a statement.

Shifting sales away from Europe, Nornickel looks to Asia. 

Anton Berlin said China is now the company’s largest sales market. 2023 became the first year with Asia’s share of Nornickel’s revenue exceeded 50%


Norilag monument in Norilsk, the Siberian industrial town built by Stalin’s political prisoners. Nowadays, Putin’s Russia is again sending political prisoners to Norilsk and other labor camps in the Arctic. Photo: Thomas Nilsen


Edit: This article was updated at 12.24 pm removing the naming of oligarch Oleg Deripaska as equal to Potanin on not taking a stand on the war against Ukraine. Deripaska has called for an end to Russia’s war against Ukraine, his press team informs in an email to the Barents Observer.  

In 2008, Oleg Deripaska’s Rusal purchased a 25% stake in Nornickel from Mikhael Prokhorov.



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