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How Norilsk, in the Russian Arctic, became one of the most polluted ...

The Fifth Crime
Inside Climate News
Undark Magazine
Norilsk Nickel
International Criminal Court
Siberian Federal University
the University of Cambridge
Environment Canada
Norilsk Nickel’s
the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for Geography
the London Stock Exchange
The Ministry of Natural Resources
the Brookings Institution
Environmental Resources Management
the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
the Oil Spill Recovery Institute
All-Russian Research Institute of Fisheries
Musk of Tesla
2030.Norilsk Nickel
Sulphur Programme 2.0
Ludmila Mekertycheva

Igor Klyushin
Elon Musk
Vladimir Putin
Alexander Uss
Vasily Ryabinin
Evgeny Shvarts
Vladimir Potanin
networks?”Fiona Hill
Vyacheslav Bizikov
Dmitry Kasarev


the Arctic Circle
the Daldykan River
the Far North
the Kara Sea
the Arctic Ocean
the Russian Arctic
the Kalamazoo River
Lake Pyasino
Pyasino Lake
Pyasino River
the Arctic Ocean’s

Arctic Museum of Modern Art

Krasnoyarsk Krai
New Jersey
the Soviet Union’s

World War II
the Exxon Valdez spill

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The New York Times
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The discolored water represented “the latest environmental crime of Norilsk Nickel,” Klyushin said in the video he posted on “Norilchane” — or “Citizens of Norilsk” — the YouTube channel he helps moderate.The channel and its Facebook group, with about 8,300 members, have become gathering places for distressed residents of Norilsk, the northernmost city in the world. The city of 176,000 has long been recognized by environmentalists — and even by the Russian government — as one of the most polluted places on Earth, because of one business: Norilsk Nickel, the world’s biggest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel and a top producer of platinum, cobalt and copper.Built as a resource colony by prisoners in the Soviet Gulag, Norilsk outlasted communism, embraced capitalism, and it now aims to ramp up production to sell the metals needed for electric vehicle batteries and the clean energy economy. Although Norilsk Nickel maintains that no diesel fuel made it to the Arctic Ocean, the Russian government’s fisheries science agency told Inside Climate News that its testing showed that the contamination had reached that far.In September, Norilsk Nickel agreed to negotiate the settlement of an $800 million lawsuit that the federal fisheries agency, known as Rosrybolovstvo, filed against the company this summer over the damage to the region’s aquatic resources.Norilsk is an example of the kind of systematic and long-term devastation that has animated a global movement to make destruction of nature an international crime. Klyushin and other local environmental activists agitated for years for Rosprirodnadzor, the Russian environmental protection agency, to establish an office in Norilsk.They succeeded early last year, and the job of chief deputy went to Vasily Ryabinin, then 39, a chemist, who had previously worked at Norilsk Nickel but left after his beloved mentor at the company died of cancer, he said in an interview with Inside Climate News.Yet the warm, spring day when 6.5 million gallons of diesel fuel spilled from the Norilsk Nickel complex into the Daldykan River marked both the beginning and the end of Ryabinin’s career as an environmental enforcer for the Russian government. Permafrost had begun to give way under a corroded fuel tank at Norilsk Nickel’s power plant that Russian government safety inspectors had deemed unstable two years earlier and that the company had never fixed.Ryabinin received a phone call from his boss, who had been denied entry to investigate at the nickel plant, saying red pollution had been spotted in the river. Norilsk Nickel said the same.Ryabinin, feeling he was being prevented from determining the true extent of damage to the environment, turned in his resignation.One of Russia’s most prominent ecologists, Evgeny Shvarts of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for Geography in Moscow, told Inside Climate News he is convinced from long experience as an environmental advocate in Russia that people can’t rely on the government for environmental protection.Shvarts has been a member of Norilsk Nickel’s board of directors since 2019, one of the independent directors the company is required to have because it is traded on the London Stock Exchange. Contamination was found in bottom sediment in the lake and the entire 900-kilometer length of the adjoining Pyasino River, including at its mouth in the Arctic Ocean’s Kara Sea, said Vyacheslav Bizikov, the deputy director of the Russian government’s All-Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography in Moscow, in an interview with Inside Climate News.Bizikov led the expedition of scientists, who lived on boats for 17 days sampling water, sediment and fish. “Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way,” he said on a company earnings call last year.Potanin has made clear his ambition to compete in this market, having announced that Norilsk Nickel will increase production of “green economy” metals by 30 percent to 40 percent by 2030.Norilsk Nickel, pledging to cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 90 percent by 2025, has said it will spend at least $4.1 billion on a project called Sulphur Programme 2.0. “In my opinion, the implementation of the project will fundamentally change the ecological situation in our city,” Norilsk’s current mayor, Dmitry Kasarev, who previously worked for Norilsk Nickel, said in written responses to questions from Inside Climate News.

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