Still heavy pollution in border areas

The total emissions of SO2 from the nickel industry in Nikel and Zapolyarny are about five times larger than the total SO2 emissions from all sources in Norway.

The Pasvik valley and Jarfjord area in Sør-Varanger municipality have the highest measured concentrations of SO₂in all of Norway. The source is the nickel industry in neighboring municipality of Pechenga.


Although the emissions of SO₂ have gone considerably down since the 1970’s, the levels are still alarmingly high, a new report from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) shows.

The total emissions of SO₂ from the briquetting facility in Zapolyarny and the smelter in Nikel sum up to around 100,000 tons per year, about 40,000 tons from Zapolyarny and 60,000 tons from Nikel respectively. This is about 5 times larger than the total SO₂ emissions from all sources in Norway. These emissions contribute to very high SO₂ concentrations in the Norway-Russian border area.

During the period April 2012 – March 2013 NILU made measurements on the Norwegian side of the border from four different stations.  The monitoring results show that the environmental impact from SO₂ pollution was lower during summer season 2012 and higher during winter season 2012/13 than the previous monitoring period.

The Norwegian limit value for daily mean SO2 concentration is 125 µg/m3, and can be exceeded no more than 3 times a year. There were 2 exceedences of this limit value at Svanvik (located 8 km west of Nikel) for the period April 2012 – March 2013. Karpdalen (in Jarfjord, located 15 km east of Kirkenes, and about 30 km north of Nikel) had 5 exceedences of this limit value for the period April 2012 – March 2013. This means that the air quality in Karpdalen were not in compliance with Norwegian law concerning daily mean values.  

Monitoring of metals in air and precipitation at Svanvik and in Karpdalen shows enhanced concentrations of specific trace metals from the smelting industries (nickel, arsenic, copper and cobalt).

NILU has been measuring air pollutants in the border areas since 1974. A compiled analysis of SO₂ pollution in the border areas during the period 1974-2012 shows that the emissions and concentrations reached a maximum during the end of the 1970’s/beginning of the 1980’s. Since this period, the emissions and the measured concentrations have been reduced. The emissions of SO₂ are now approximately ¼ of the levels 35 years ago.