by Russel Norman
Norilsk Nickel is one of the world’s largest producers of nickel and palladium, as well as Russia’s leading gold producer. It’s also one of the dirtiest mining companies in the world.
The company’s hometown operations in Russia have resulted in the city of Norilsk becoming one of the most polluted places in the world. Many years of especially high emissions of sulphur dioxide and heavy metals from Norilsk’s mining and smelting activities have inflicted massive lasting damage on the forest, vegetation, and waters surrounding their operations. International NGO, the Blacksmith Institute, has labelled Norilsk the “City of Horror” saying that heavy metal pollution in the area is so severe the soil itself has platinum and palladium content high enough to mine.
The 200,000+ people who live in the vicinity of the company’s industrial operations are continuously exposed to high concentrations of pollutants in the air, soil, and water. Health problems and illnesses among persons subjected to prolonged exposure to sulphur dioxide, nickel, and heavy metals are well established. Children and infants are especially vulnerable to high levels of air pollution.
How bad is it? Levels of air pollution in Norilsk exceed the maximum allowable levels on 350 days out of each year. On 280 of those toxic days, the levels of harmful substances in the atmosphere were five times over the maximum allowable concentrations in Russia. On 70 of those days, the levels were ten times over the maximum.
The Norwegian Superannuation Fund divested of their holdings of Norilsk in 2009.
Why does our Superannuation Fund, who has signed up to the same set of ethical principles as the Norwegians, continue to profit from this company?