Nornickel denies costs of environmental damage | Polarjournal
At the end of May, a tank collapsed at a power plant near Norilsk. More than 21,000 tons of diesel ran into the ground and into a nearby river. In the end, natural pollution covered hundreds of square kilometres and costs rose to the triple-digit billion mark. Photo: Norilsk Nickel

During the Norilsk environmental disaster, more than 21,000 tons of fuel leaked into the environment. As a result, soils, rivers and a lake were heavily polluted. The Russian Environmental Agency Rosprirodnadzor investigated and sued the mother company Nornickel, which owns the causing company NTEK. But Nornickel has now rejected the cost of environmental damage calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency and has presented its own statement, which is well below the amount of Rosprirodnadzor.

The company puts the cost of the environmental damage at 21.4 billion rubel (€ 236 million) and writes in a statement that the responsible company NTEK “does not dispute the negative environmental impact of the incident and reiterates its full commitment to do everything that is necessary to completely eliminate all of its negative consequences.” At the same time, it deplores the cost of 148 billion rubels (€ 1.6 billion) calculated by the Environmental Agency Rosprirodnadzor as disproportionate and too high. The authority had set an unreasonably high multiple for the company, even though that company “acted immediately and in good faith from the first minute of the incident,” Nornickel wrote in its statement. The company estimates that the cost of the clean-up and rehabilitation will amount to another 12 billion rubel (€ 132 million). So far, 90 percent of the spilled fuel has already been recovered. But the work will continue for a long time.

After the disaster, hundreds of workers had removed the soil and cleaned rivers. However, the damage caused by the disaster can only be more precisely evaluated in retrospect. The long-term consequences cannot yet be estimated. The environmental authorities have now sued Nornickel. Photo: Rosmorrechflot

The Rosprirodnadzor Environmental Protection Agency is unimpressed by the report. It had filed a lawsuit earlier this week over the €1.6 billion, after previously trying to get Nornickel to pay the sum voluntarily. But Nornickel is fighting. The first hearings in court will take place from next Monday. However, Nornickel seems not so sure on whether it will win the lawsuit. The company has already set aside the required amount, as reported by the Reuters news agency in mid-September. This is not likely to be a financial problem for the company, but it could have an impact on the balance sheet and dividends, as well as on the share market. At present, the stock trend still seems to be stable. However, it is uncertain how a possible conviction would affect it.

The video footage shows the cracked tank and the clean-up around the plant where the fuel leaked. Video: Tiger Media

On 29 May, a tank at the TTP-3 power plant of the Nornickel subsidiary NTEK near Norilsk broke apart and 21,000 diesel fuel ran into the ground and into the nearby Ambarnaja River. Despite oil barriers and clean-up, thousands of tons entered a lake and from there continued into the environment towards the Arctic Ocean. Greenpeace, which had later taken samples on site and had been severely hampered, compared the disaster to the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident off the coast of Alaska.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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