What happened in Norilsk and why is there talk of an environmental disaster?

What happened?

Oil spill in Arctic Circle.

On May 29 at the Nadezhda plant, which belongs to PJSC MMC Norilsk Nickel, a diesel fuel spill occurred:

more than 20 thousand tons of oil products entered the soil and water, which was the first accident of such a large scale in the polar Arctic.

The comparable scale accident occurred 30 years ago off the coast of Alaska (Exxon Valdez tanker accident), its consequences can still be seen. It cost the culprit more than $6 billion, that's the cost of the damage and recovery work.

Vladimir Putin held an online meeting with the head of the region, the country has declared a federal-level emergency regime.

Why is this an environmental disaster?

Officials say they can eliminate the first consequences of the accident within two weeks. But it is likely that no more than 10% of oil products will be collected. 

After the liquidation of the consequences, the company should prepare a project on recultivation, restoration of the damaged environment. It may take several summer seasons to restore the soil cover. 

But here it is important to understand
  • The oil products left in the environment will poison aquatic ecosystems for many years to come. 
  • It is also necessary to take into account the nature of the Arctic, where due to low biological activity one can forget about full recovery. 
  • And most importantly, it can change the lives of indigenous peoples and affect their health.

According to the head of Rosprirodnadzor, 15 thousand tons of diesel fuel have entered the rivers. If you apply the methodology of the Ministry of Natural Resources to assess environmental damage to water bodies, the damage may be more than 6 billion rubles. And this without taking into account the increasing coefficients. With the help of installed booms it will be possible to collect only a small part of the pollution, so we can say that almost all diesel fuel will remain in the environment.

What can we do?

Environmental control should be strengthened, and the operation of facilities should be specially controlled to prevent accidents, especially in conditions of melting permafrost due to global climate change. 

However, the opposite situation is now happening, in which industry is seeking a moratorium on certain environmental requirements. Greenpeace has launched a petition to prevent a repeat of the situation in Norilsk.