As GeoCurrents has reported
recently, Norilsk is one of the most polluted cities in the world, even ahead of the infamous nuclear accident cite in Chernobyl. According to some sources
, the level of nickel concentration in plants in Norilsk area is 8 times the allowed maximum, that of cadmium is 46 times, and that of copper is 25 times. The main culprit is MMC Norilsk Nickel, the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer. The situation has become so worrisome that Vladimir Putin exhorted Norilsk Nickel on multiple occasions to improve its environmental protection program. According to some recent reports
, Norilsk Nickel heeded the call and is now set to implement a massive project designed to bring the sulfur dioxide emissions to acceptable levels. According to the company’s general manager Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, none of the technologies used around the world today were usable in Norilsk for various technological reasons, so a completely new technology had to be worked out. The company has run a tender which was won by an Italian conglomerate multinational company Techint, headquartered in Milan and Buenos Aires. Strzhalkovsky says that Techint promises to make the air in Norilsk as clean as that of Western European cities. The cost of the project: US$ 2 billion, which will be a step-up in environmental investment for a company that is said to have spent approximately US$3 billion on environmental projects in 2004-2011. Norilsk Nickel’s net income is estimated
at US$ 3.2 billion in 2010. Details of the contract between Norilsk Nickel and Techint are still to be worked out, but the implementation of the project is expected to start already next month. If all goes according to plan, pollution levels should be brought down to half the current levels by the end of 2014, and by 2016 the project is expected to be completed.
On April 19, 2012, a lawsuit has been filed against MMC Norilsk Nickel at the Krasnoyarsk Territory Commercial Court. It is being sued for US$32.58 million for environmental damage caused in 2011. While environmental fines have been increased in the past two years, they remain much lower than the strategic investment needed to radically improve the ecological situation in the Norilsk region.
In the meantime, Norilsk Nickel’s stocks fell to a three-month low in U.S. trading, according to Bloomberg.com. The price of nickel itself dropped 4.4% on the London Metal Exchange to $17,505 a ton. The decline is triggered by concerns that a slow-down in China, the world’s second-largest economy and biggest exporter of goods, will stem demand for raw materials. Much of Norilsk Nickel’s revenue – some 22% in 2010 – comes from Asian sales. Nonetheless, the company expects the same level of profit in 2012 as in the preceding year, says Vladimir Strzhalkovsky.