Norilsk Nickel must modernize or pay fines - Putin


Norilsk Nickel must modernize its polluting way or production, or risk considerably higher fines, says Vladimir Putin. The company and the federal environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor have concluded an agreement on reduction of pollutant emissions over the next three years.


However, the agreement concerns the company’s factory plant in Norilsk in the Northern Russian territory of Krasnoyarsk, and not the production plants in Nikel and Zapolyarny in the border area to Norway.

- The Russian Government considers a solution of the ecological problems in the Norilsk region as one of the company leadership’s main tasks, Putin said yesterday during a visit to the company’s main production plant in Norilsk, Vesti reports. – The plant has to be modernized, or the ecological fines will be considerably higher, he underlined.

These remarks come only two weeks after Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev applauded Norilsk Nickel for its environmental efforts. In connection with the company’s 75th anniversary they both greeted Norilsk-Nickel’s ‘high environmental standards’ and ‘technological upgrading, environmental safety and corporate responsibility’.

Norilsk Nickel operates three of the biggest polluters in the Barents Region; the smelter in the town of Nikel, the pellets factory in the town of Zapolyarny and the nickel and cobber smelters in the town of Monchegorsk. The emission of sulphur dioxides (SO2) and heavy metals excides by far the nature’s critical level, and the size of dead taiga forest around the plants are severe.

Norilsk Nickel is one of the most profitable companies in Russia. The board of Norilsk-Nickel in May decided to pay half of last year’s net profit of 2.65 billion USD in dividends, an action that was criticized by Putin during the yesterday, The Moscow Times report.

The main share holder in Norilsk Nickel, Vladimir Potanin boosted his personal fortune from 2.1 billion USD in 2009 to 10.3 billion USD this year, making him Russia’s seventh richest man. General Director Vladimir Strzhalkovsky in 2009 earned 24.8 million USD, making him one of the highest paid top managers in Russia.

Ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit to Norilsk, Norilsk Nickel and the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage, Rosprirodnadzor, concluded an agreement where the company undertakes to reduce pollutant emissions over the next three years. The document describes in detail how the plant will be modernized and will reduce the plant’s emissions of sulphur 4-5 times, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

Visiting Norway in April this year, President Dmitri Medvedev discussed cross-border pollution from the smelter in Nikel with Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Both agreed that the pollution from the plants on the Kola Peninsula must be reduced to a level not harming health and environment.

So far, no definite measures have been taken to reduce the emission from the plant in Nikel.