Largest nickel producer closes factory: dirt extractor closes

The Russian group Nornickel closes its plant in Norway. Residents: inside are happy, but now others are suffering.

Nornickel filth blower: In May 2020 there was a serious diesel accident Photo: Irina Yarinskaya / reuters

STOCKHOLM taz | The global leader in nickel production closes its dirtiest plant just before Christmas. On December 23, the Russian company Nornickel will close its plant near the town of Kirkenes in the far north-east of Norway.

Up to 500,000 tons of sulfur dioxide were released here every year, turning the region into a desert for miles. Most recently, the number was reduced to 80,000 tons, but the SO applicable in Norway2– Limits were exceeded in Northern Norway anyway, as were the Russian ones; emissions were eight times higher than permitted.

In Kirkenes and the nearby Pasvik valley, the population welcomes the end of the factory. “Of course that’s very good,” says Marta Møllersen, local chairman of the environmental movement Natur og Ungdom. And the fact that the Nikel plant has to close may also be a signal that time is running out for other Russian environmental hotspots.

“30 years late, but very gratifying”, comments Thomas Nilsen, editor of the online publication Barents Observer, “That brings the greatest SO2-Reduction in Northern Europe for decades. ”Nilsen sees two reasons behind Nornickel’s move: The relocation of production to the more modern and world’s largest nickel smelting plant in Monchegorsk, which is 50 kilometers away, will probably save the company money.

An environmental alibi

And it is an environmental alibi: “Nickel is a metal that will be in high demand in the future due to the green change in the global economy – it plays a major role in batteries in electric cars, among other things.” Nornickel’s main shareholder Vladimir Potanin would like to join Have a “green-washed image”: “And the closure of the old smelter should help,” says Nilsen.

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Overall, however, Nornickel cannot speak of “green”. The group, which has its main production facilities next to the Kola Peninsula on the Arctic Taimyr Peninsula – there was only an environmental catastrophe there in May due to diesel oil and a month later due to chemical wastewater – is located in Norilsk with its smelter and annual sulfur dioxide emissions of 1 , 9 million tons as the largest SO2– Issuer worldwide. Instead of investing in cleaning technology, it preferred to distribute $ 3.7 billion to its shareholders in 2018.

Weeks ago, seeds from Russia and Norway appealed to Tesla founder Elon Musk to stop doing business with nornickel. As long as the group has not recultivated their destroyed land on the Kola and Taimyr peninsulas, recognizes the rights of the indigenous peoples and gives them a say in all projects that affect their livelihood, they stick to their appeal.

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