In The Public Chamber Of Russia, Nornickel Presented An Environmental Strategy Covering Among Other Issues Nornickel Sulphur Dioxide Emissions

On June 21, the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation hosted a round table dedicated to Arctic research for sustainable development.” Nornickel presented a new Strategy on environment and climate change that was approved by its Board of Directors on June 1. The comprehensive plan has already started to be implemented across all subsidiaries of the Company. This Strategy aims to significantly improve environmental performance of the Group.

Experts from Moscow, Murmansk, Norilsk, Khanty-Mansiysk, Dudinka and the Tyiakha community camp on the Taimyr Peninsula along with independent international experts from the U.S. and Germany participated in this roundtable, which was held in a mixed on- and offline format.

Elena Sharoykina the Chairman of the Commission on Ecology and Environmental Protection of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, gave the keynote speech. She said that a year ago, at the same place, the Company, the authorities and general public for the first time discussed the situation arising from the fuel spill in Taimyr and the elimination of its consequences. On behalf of representatives of all public organizations and independent experts, she thanked Nornickel for its openness, willingness to discuss its mistakes and to draw conclusions. “This is an example that the rest of the Russian businesses should follow,” – Sharoykina said.

Andrey Bougrov, the Senior Vice-President for Sustainable Development at Nornickel, explained that the Company’s new environmental strategy covers six main areas of environmental impact:

  • climate change;
  • addressing air pollution (including the issue of Nornickel sulphur dioxide emissions);
  • addressing water pollution;
  • tailings and waste management;
  • land restoration;
  • biodiversity protection.

Bougrov added that in the coming decade the company plans to implement 307 events in the following areas – 140 on the Kola Peninsula, 127 in Norilsk and 40 more in the Trans-Baikal Territory. The largest initiatives are the Sulfur Program, a decarbonization strategy, initiatives related to mine water treatment and waste recycling. Other projects include:

  • the sanitary cleaning of the territory from litter accumulated over 85 years of the Company’s operation in Taimyr;
  • digitalizing tailings and launching a comprehensive monitoring system using the latest technologies, including robots and drones;
  • building a solar power plant with a capacity of 5 to 50 MW, which will cover approximately 20% of the Company’s needs, at the Bystrinsky Mining Plant;
  • launching 20 air monitoring installations in Norilsk by the end of this year, so that every resident of the city can find out online the amount and the type of substances that are there in the atmosphere of the city, via the mobile app.

“Thanks to these efforts, by 2025, Nornickel will meet the highest international environmental standards. By 2030, it will be able to become one of the world leaders of the environmental agenda,” – added Andrey Bougrov.

The Company representatives demonstrated the key results of the Arctic research in 2020 initiated by Nornickel the same year, and also announced the second stage of the Great Norilsk Expedition.

Andrey Grachev, the Vice President for Federal and Regional Programs of Nornickel, explained that implementation of the environmental strategy is inextricably linked to systemic scientific research. He added that the results of the Great Norilsk Expedition, which is considered to be the first Russian large-scale study in the Arctic zone since the Soviet era, allow us to address three crucial issues:

  • to understand the level of pollution after a fuel spill,
  • to find the best methods to clean up the affected territories, and
  • to develop new principles of management in the Arctic zone.

This summer, the second stage of the Great Norilsk Expedition will take place. It will mainly focus on the landscape, soil, flora research along with the study of the rate of deformation of thawing soils based on satellite imagery. Mr Grachev clarified that the scale and strategic prospects of Nornickel require comprehensive studies of the Arctic zone, while, on the contrary, the results of these studies accelerate the development of the Company.

The stages of the Great Norilsk Expedition involve the following activities:

  • At the first stage of the Expedition, soil scientists, biologists, zoologists, and permafrost scientists will be involved.
  • The second stage is dedicated to the study of soil, plants and bottom sediments before reclamation. One of the major tasks of this stage is to assess the possibility of re-pollution in case of a flood and to consider all possible risks.
  • The third stage that will be implemented in the fall will focus on the assessment of reclamation effectiveness.

Nikolai Yurkevich, the Director of the “Ecology” Research Center of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Head of the Great Norilsk Expedition added that they plan to study the quality of surface waters, including determining the genesis of pollution, since hydrocarbons could have various origins. For instance, the spectral characteristics of the hydrocarbons found by his team in Lake Pyasino do not correspond to diesel fuel. Another crucial task would involve the determination of the background characteristics and deviations: what is the background for this particular territory, and what is the technogenic impact. In addition, there is a plan to develop a remedy based on local hydrocarbon-oxidizing bacteria in order to recommend it to Nornickel to process the collected contaminated soil.

Another large-scale study commenced in March 2021. Artur Chilingarov’s “Polar Foundation” expedition involves 72 scientists from 10 research institutions. Among other things, they will conduct a comprehensive study of the state of the fauna in the Pyasina river basin.

Sergei Yakovlev, the Head of the Research Group of the Polar Research Foundation, said that their main task would be to determine the current state of the environment, so that later they can determine whether it is improving or deteriorating. The research was planned in such a way that the first part of it was already carried out in winter. In Taimyr, water bodies are under ice for 10 months per year. For instance, Lake Pyasino was 70% frozen even in May. The data obtained during this period will provide a better understanding of how the given ecosystem works. Although in part these studies will repeat those of the Great Norilsk Expedition, they will still differ. Hence, according to Mr Yakovlev, it will be interesting to summarize all the data at the end.

During the round table, the situation of the minority indigenous peoples of the North, who were also affected by the spill that happened at CHPP-3, was discussed. The development strategy of Nornickel has always included support for the northern indigenous minorities. However, after the accident, this support has increased significantly. Grigory Dyukarev, the Chairman of the Taimyr Association of Indigenous Peoples of the Krasnoyarsk Region, commented on this. He said that while facing the environmental catastrophe, his team studied a lot of documents and standards, both Russian and foreign. He said that the steps that the Company is undertaking are in line with leading international principles. Indeed, there is a dialogue: representatives of communities and public organizations participate in the advisory council of the indigenous minorities of the North at the Norilsk division of Nornickel. Mr Dyukarev’s team usually contacts the Company directly with their comments or suggestions. For example, they have been conducting fairly successful negotiations on the Company’s purchase of the products from indigenous peoples’ fields. The Chairman of the Taimyr Association of Indigenous People shared his hope for receiving help in organizing the processing of fish, venison, skins, etc.

“We have rather serious questions about the state of aquatic biological resources. In this part, we are counting on the results of the Big Norilsk Expedition and the research of the Federal Agency for Fisheries. I know that Nornickel plans to build a fish hatchery. We believe that with its help the aquatic world will become more sustainable,”- Mr Dyukarev added.