What is the dirtiest business in Russia

Largest nickel producer closes factory: dirt extractor closes

The Russian group Nornickel closes its plant near the Norwegian border. Residents: inside are happy, but now others are suffering.

Nornickel dirt thrower: In May 2020 there was a serious diesel accident Photo: Irina Yarinskaya / Reuters

STOCKHOLMtaz | The global leader in nickel production closes its dirtiest plant just before Christmas. On December 23, the Russian company Nornickel will close its plant near the town of Kirkenes in the far north-east of Norway.

Up to 500,000 tons of sulfur dioxide were released here annually, turning the region into a desert for miles. Most recently, the number had been reduced to 80,000 tons, but the SO applicable in Norway2- Limits were still exceeded in Northern Norway, as were the Russian ones; the emissions were eight times higher than permitted.

In Kirkenes and in the Pasvik valley, the population welcomes the exit from the factory just a few kilometers across the border with Russia. “Of course that's very good,” says Marta Møllersen, local chairman of the environmental movement Natur og Ungdom. And the fact that the plant in Nikel has to close may also be a signal that time is running out for other Russian environmental hotspots.

"30 years late, but very gratifying," comments Thomas Nilsen, editor of the online publication Barents Observer, “That brings the greatest SO2-Reduction in Northern Europe for decades. ”Nilsen sees two reasons behind Nornickel's move: The relocation of production to the more modern and world's largest nickel smelting plant in Monchegorsk, which is 50 kilometers away, will probably save the group money.

An environmental alibi

And it is an environmental alibi: "Nickel is a metal that will be in high demand in the future because of the green change in the global economy - it plays a major role in batteries in e-cars, among other things." Have a “green image”: “And the closure of the old smelter should contribute to this,” says Nilsen.

Overall, however, Nornickel cannot speak of “green”. The group, which has its main production facilities next to the Kola Peninsula on the Arctic Taimyr Peninsula - there was only an environmental catastrophe there in May due to diesel oil and a month later due to chemical wastewater - is located with its smelter in Norilsk and annual sulfur dioxide emissions of 1 , 9 million tons as the largest SO2- Issuer worldwide. Instead of investing in cleaning technology, the company preferred to distribute 3.7 billion dollars to its shareholders in 2018.

Weeks ago, seeds from Russia and Norway appealed to Tesla founder Elon Musk to stop doing business with nornickel. As long as the group has not recultivated their destroyed land on the Kola and Taimyr peninsulas, recognizes the rights of the indigenous peoples and gives them a say in all projects that affect their livelihood, they stick to their appeal.