friday, 5 june of 2020


Putin chides Nornickel, orders law change after Arctic fuel spill: Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin chided the billionaire boss of Norilsk Nickel on Friday over a huge Arctic fuel spill and ordered changes to the law to try to prevent such a disaster from happening again.

Greenpeace has compared the scale of last week’s accident near the northern city of Norilsk, where 21,000 tonnes of diesel poured into rivers and subsoil, to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.

Putin has declared a state of emergency in the region and complained of what he said was a bungled state response, while Russia’s Prosecutor General’s office on Friday ordered a review of all hazardous objects built on permafrost after saying it looked like the ground beneath a fuel tank had subsided.

In an online meeting, Putin asked officials to amend Russian law to try avoid similar accidents in future and criticised Norilsk Nickel President Vladimir Potanin for not replacing the source of the pollution - the fuel tank - in a timely fashion.

"If you had changed it on time there would not have been this ecological damage and the company would not have had to foot these (clean-up) costs. Study this as closely as possible inside the company," Putin told Potanin during the televised meeting.

Potanin, the largest shareholder in Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) with a 34.6% stake, said he couldn’t estimate any potential fines from the authorities, but the firm would cover clear-up costs set to top 10 billion roubles ($145 million).

Shares in Nornickel, the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer, were up 3% in Moscow after the meeting, having previously been hit by fallout from the disaster.

Putin’s spokesman earlier on Friday dismissed the idea of the government ousting Potanin after a Russian lawmaker said he should go following the spill.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the priority was to clear up the May 29 spill and an investigation would decide if anyone was guilty.

The RBC media portal reported earlier on Friday that a Russian safety watchdog had warned a Nornickel subsidiary in 2017-2018 about violations at the Arctic fuel site.


A Russian safety watchdog warned a subsidiary of mining giant Norilsk Nickel in 2017-2018 about dozens of violations at a fuel site in the Arctic where a huge leak of diesel fuel occurred last week, the RBC media portal reported on Friday.

Greenpeace has compared the scale of the accident, which saw 15,000 tonnes of fuel spill into rivers and 6,000 tonnes into subsoil near the remote northern Russian city of Norilsk, to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.

President Vladimir Putin has declared a state of emergency in the region and upbraided a senior official on television over what he said was a bungled state response.

Norilsk Nickel, whose share price has been hit by the incident, has said melting permafrost driven by climate change may have eroded the foundations of a fuel tank at a power station in Norilsk, causing it to lose pressure and spill out the diesel fuel.

Environmental scientists have warned for years that climate change causing the Arctic to warm faster than other areas of the world poses a threat to infrastructure built on permafrost.

Rostekhnadzor, a safety watchdog, carried out three major spot checks in 2017-2018 at the power station operated by the Norilsk Nickel subsidiary and found an array of violations, including ones that concerned fuel tanks at the site, RBC reported.

The power station was found, among other violations, to have failed to clean rust off the walls and roofs of some of its fuel tanks as it had been instructed to do by authorities years earlier, it said.

Norilsk Nickel, the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer, says that such violations had not been identified at the fuel tank that lost pressure however, but concerned other fuel tanks, the media portal reported.

(Published by Reuters, June 5 2020)

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