Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland): the largest ecological catastrophe in Russia for 25 years and a record fine

This week, the mood on the Moscow stock exchange has ruined the message that the Federal service for supervision in the sphere of natural resource use suggested that the company “Norilsk Nickel” voluntarily to pay 148,2 billion rubles in compensation for damage caused to the environment. The stock of the concern, one of the most expensive companies on the stock exchange in Moscow, immediately fell. Its main shareholder supports the richest Russian Vladimir Potanin and the other a large package of shares owned by the aluminum giant “RUSAL” (its main shareholder is the oligarch Oleg Deripaska).

At the end of may in CHP plant “Norilsk Nickel” in Norilsk there is damage to the tank with diesel fuel, 21 thousand tons of which spilled into the ground and especially in rivers flowing into the Kara sea in fragile from the point of view of ecology of the Arctic region. Five days after the accident, the Federal service has informed that the maximum allowable concentration of harmful substances in water samples exceeded tens of thousands of times.

In Russia they say that it is the largest ecological disaster in 25 years. The previous similar event was spill of 94 thousand tons of oil in the Komi Republic in 1994. Then the elimination of the consequences took six years.

Who will pay for the disaster

Although the scale of the disaster at Norilsk was huge, no one in Russia had expected the damage was estimated at so large a sum. Experts in an interview with the Agency TASS called the fines unprecedented. This is 5% of the capitalization of the company and half of the amount of dividends for last year.

It is not surprising that the company has disputed the assessment of the environmental damage done by Rosprirodnadzor and proposed the creation of a joint Commission for examination, and at the same time announced the intention to cover the expenses on elimination of consequences of the accident. Earlier, he said that their estimates of 10 billion rubles.

Damage to the environment and liquidation of consequences of the accident is two separate issues, said the Russian Ministry of natural resources and suggested that “Norilsk Nickel” if he does not feel guilty, to go to court.

The Agency dismissed the offer of the group to consider its costs for the implementation of the project to reduce the amount of extremely destructive to the environment emissions of sulphur dioxide. “Nornikel” declared that will allocate for this purpose up to 2025 3.5 billion.

The Russian plan of development of the Arctic under threat

After the spill of diesel fuel at the enterprises of “Norilsk Nickel” happened two accidents. In late June, the tundra got the waste slimes from the beneficiation plant of the concern, and then there was a fire at the landfill. These environmental disasters has caused concern of the Russian authorities.

Norilsk Nickel is the world’s largest producer of palladium, which is used in gasoline engines. The concern also is one of the leading suppliers of platinum and Nickel. The success of the European Union plans to create a “hydrogen economy” the demand for platinum will increase significantly, and this can lead to a sharp increase in its price. An increasingly important role in the “green industry” is also playing Nickel. Russian manufacturer of this substance, together with the German company BASF is preparing to open in Finland and East Germany’s enterprises producing key elements of the batteries for electric cars. The amazing paradox is that the raw material for “green” products of Western firms buy the concern, which was considered one of the main poisoners of the air in Russia, and now became responsible for a major environmental disaster in the Arctic region.

This exacerbates the fears of Moscow. “If we will have another similar disaster in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation, it would undermine efforts at economic development of the Arctic, because we feel the pressure growing. Meanwhile, the Arctic zone of Russia provides over 20% of exports and 10% of GDP”, — said last month the employee of the Russian foreign Ministry and Russia’s representative in Arctic Council Nikolay Korchunov.

Perhaps a record fine to the concern “Norilsk Nickel” for the disaster in Norilsk intended to convince the world that Russia has finally decided to tackle their own environmental problems.