Norilsk: Black Spot on the Map of Russia

According to the U.S. ecological organization Blacksmith Institute the Russian cities of Norilsk and Dzerzhinsk are among the most polluted cities in Russia.

Norilsk Nickel, a company operating non-ferrous metals smelter in Norilsk, judged to be one of Russia’s heaviest industrial polluters, has earmarked billions of dollars to turn itself into a greener company — but the ambitious changes won’t happen overnight.

According to The Moscow Times, Zhak Rozenberg, Norilsk’s deputy general director, said the company would spend as much as 100 billion rubles ($3.5 billion) by 2015 on ecology-related projects at its huge Soviet-era plants lying north of the Arctic Circle.

“We were set up at a time when … there was no ecological ideology, when the Soviet Union had an entirely different agenda,” Rozenberg, who supervises Norilsk’s green projects, said in an interview.

“As a global company we certainly have to accept global standards. That’s why we are introducing international technology at our facilities. But one can’t force us to drop everything else and achieve that overnight.”

Norilsk , the world’s biggest producer of nickel and palladium, has long been under Western pressure to do more to cut emissions at its operations around Norilsk, located above the Arctic Circle.

Norilsk Nickel is a Russian nickel and palladium mining and smelting company. Its largest operations are located in the Norilsk–Talnakh area, in northern Russia. MMC stands for “Mining and Metallurgical Company”.Norilsk Nickel combine, Russia

Norilsk says it has become more ecologically aware since its Arctic production sites — set up in the 1930s by prison labor — were taken over in the 1990s by managers who wanted to build a more competitive and Westernized company.

Norilsk, a center of nickel mining and heavy metals processing, is polluted with particulates, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals, phenols and hydrogen sulfide. “It is getting easier to breathe in Norilsk every year,” city council member Leonid Solomakha pointed out, however. Elena Kovaleva, deputy public relations director of Norilsk Nickel, around which the city was founded, stated that “Norilsk is not a garden city yet, and won’t be one until 2015, when our ecological program is implemented.” Blacksmith Institute noted Norilsk Nickel’s cooperation with the organization and its ecological program with approval. According to the institute, progress is already perceptible.

Norilsk Nickel announced ambitious environmental protection plans at the ecological conference held in Murmansk. The conference on protecting arctic regions from the effects of atmospheric pollution was attended by the representatives of government authorities and business community from Russia, Norway and United States.

Fifteen reports on various subjects, aiming to identify and alleviate the problems related to air quality in arctic regions, were included into the agenda of the Conference.

Norilsk Nickel has a unique Arctic cargo fleet comprising five reinforced ice-class vessels (ARC 7 according to the PMPC classification) of the Norilsk Nickel class and one tanker The Enisey. The vessels are able to operate in Arctic ice up 1.5 meters thick without icebreaker support.Norilsk Nickel Ice-Breakers Fleet

For Kola MMC (subsidiary of MMC Norilsk Nickel), participation in such ecological forums is extremely important. The Company sees these events as an opportunity for open and productive discussion between government authorities, business community and public on ecological issues and ways to reduce adverse environmental impact.

Implementation of environmental protection policies is one of the main priorities of MMC Norilsk Nickel. Such activities are aiming to improve ecological efficiency of the operating facilities and gradually eliminate historical environmental damage. Head of Environmental Protection Division of Kola MMC – Anatoly Dambrovsky noted: ‘In recent years, sulfuric gas emissions were reduced due to modernization of our production facilities, which resulted in the restoration of biodiversity around Kola MMC’s Monchegorsk production facility. The situation in Pechenga area remain stable. According to ecological monitoring reports, the condition of natural communities there has also improved.At the conference Kola MMC presented a report on ‘Planned environmental protection and monitoring activities in KMMC’s area of impact’. Cross-border transfers remain an important issue for the Company, considering that some of its production facilities are located in direct proximity to the Russian border with Norway.

As it was noted during the conference, in order to ensure that international dialogue on this matter is productive, it is also necessary to evaluate the impact of the EU and Norwegian emissions on Murmansk region. According to independent ecology experts, cross-border transfer issues require serious attention and additional research on the subject.