Nornickel draws up permafrost monitoring plan after Arctic fuel spill

MOSCOW, July 2 (Reuters) – Russia’s Norilsk Nickel , a major global nickel and palladium producer, has prepared a long-term programme to monitor permafrost and remedy
environmental damage after an Arctic fuel spill in its home city, it said on Thursday.

A fuel tank lost pressure on May 29 and unleashed 21,000 tonnes of diesel into rivers and subsoil near Norilsk, an incident that Greenpeace has compared to the devastating 1989
Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska.

“For several years, Nornickel has been working on reducing its environmental impact. Today we face greater challenges relevant for everyone around the globe – climate change and its impact on the Arctic region and our operations,” Gareth Penny, Nornickel board chairman, said in a statement.

The company and emergency specialists are collecting contaminated soil and fuel from local rivers, and President Vladimir Putin has said the scale of the clear-up operation is unprecedented for Russia.

According to Nornickel’s estimate, over 90% of spill fuel has been collected and removed so far. It said previously the accident was caused by a thaw in the permafrost weakening the
foundations of a storage tank.

Officials are yet to rule on the damage caused or the reason for the accident, but Greenpeace has put the environmental damage to waters in the region at $1.4 billion.

Nornickel also said it had appointed Andrey Bougrov, who has worked at the company since 2013, as its senior vice president for environmental protection.

The company plans to boost its cooperation with Russian and foreign researchers focused on the Arctic ecology and permafrost zones to find solutions and improve the industrial safety in the region, Bougrov said in the statement.