Potanin, the chief executive and co-owner of nickel and palladium miner Norilsk Nickel, has seen his wealth rise $2.8 billion over the past year, propelling him from the position as the eight wealthiest man in Russia in 2013 to number one in 2015, according to Forbes.
Norilsk Nickel’s market capitalization jumped 55 percent last year as global prices for nickel soared amid fears of supply shortfalls. Norilsk Nickel, in which Potanin owns a third, is a major exporter and has also benefited from a slide in the ruble.
Norilsk Nickel, a key part of Potanin’s Interros holding, continues to be one of the main polluters in Russia. The city of Norilsk in Siberia, where the company has its main production facilities, is considered to be one of the most polluted places on earth.
A significant part of the company’s operations are made on the Kola Peninsula by regional subsidiary Kolskaya GMK. Alone the company units in Nikel and Zapolyarny, located along the border to Norway and Finland, emit about 100,000 tons of sulfur per year. That alone is about five times more than Norway’s total sulfur emissions.
Potanin was also ranked 60th on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, topped by Microsoft founder Bill Gates with a personal fortune estimated at $79.2 billion.
The second richest man in Russia according to Forbes is Alfa Group’s Mikhail Fridman ($14.6 billion, 68th place), the third richest is the founder of Metallinvest, Alisher Usmanov (14.4 billion, 71st place). Usmanov has held the position as the richest man in Russia for the last three years.