Norilsk says blood-red river spill caused by heavy rain, weather report tells another story

Daldykan river turned red after a tailings pond spillover from Norilsk-Nickel's Nadezhda plant. (Screenshot from Instagram basalyga_katerina_nl)
Daldykan river turned red after a tailings pond spillover from Norilsk-Nickel’s Nadezhda plant. (Screenshot from Instagram basalyga_katerina_nl)
“Abnormally heavy rains became the reason for Daldykan River Case,” reads the headline in a press-release sent out by Norilsk-Nickel on Monday, nearly a week after the first social media photos of the blood-red river started to appear.

That could have been a plausible explanation if it weren’t for Russia’s weather forecast service’s diary, telling that there was no rain in Norilsk on the day when the leak happened, neither the day before. In fact, no precipitation was recorded at all that week, GisMeto’s overview reads.

The red-polluted river on the Siberian tundra outside Norilsk has made world-wide headlines.

In its press release, Norilsk-Nickel says the “short-term river color staining with iron salts presents no hazards for people and river fauna.” The company, however, assures it will “do everything in its power to avoid such incidents in future.”

Based on an investigation into the leak, Norilsk-Nickel explains how the pollution came to the river from a tailings dam at its Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant.

“On Sept. 5, after abnormal heavy rain, an overflow of one of the dikes occurred, and water entered Daldykan river,” says the press release.

The company says the area received approximately 50 percent of monthly average precipitation in rainfall in the course of 24 hours.

GisMeto’s diary says there was no rain, it was partly cloudy all day long on Sept 5, just as it was the day before.

The conflicting information is not the first in this case from Norilsk-Nickel.

First, the company denied any claims about pollution. A press-note posted on September 8th at the company’s portal reads: “The waters show the natural tone; the river and its mainstream are in regular condition, which goes against the information about any colour changes due to an alleged case of large-scale river pollution.”

The text is accompanied with photos of the river, though at a totally different location, showing no red colour in the water.

Norilsk is by far the most polluted place in the Circumpolar Arctic. Heavy air-pollution has damaged the environment in huge areas on the Taimyr Peninsula. Norilsk-Nickel’s subsidiary Kola GMK has for decades been branded as the largest cross-border air-polluter in the borderlands between Russia, Finland and Norway.

Nadezhda plant in Norilsk. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)
Nadezhda plant in Norilsk. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)
Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Arsenic contamination persists in Yellowknife lake a decade after gold mine shut: study, Radio Canada International

Finland:  Finnish air pollution shortens life, Yle News

Greenland: Study finds increase in litter on Arctic seafloor, Blog by Mia Bennett

Russia:  Norilsk Nickel bribed eco watchdog, say prosecutors in Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Stockholm cleans up and passes air quality test, Radio Sweden

United States:  Mining corporation a no-show in court as environmental criminal case moves forward, Alaska Dispatch News

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

One thought on “Norilsk says blood-red river spill caused by heavy rain, weather report tells another story

  • Tuesday, December 27, 2016 at 18:58

    Some journalists have written that Norilsk is a horrible place to live, almost like living in hell. Most of them haven’t been in my city neither have spoken with anybody that lives here. Or some just stay here for some days, take pictures of the worst spots of my city and then insist that the rest is just like that. I must acknowledge that living under Norilsk’s weather conditions could be impossible for a lot of people, but I have found Home in here. And like me, thousands of people call Norilsk their home. There are a lot of things going on in here, like the Nickel plant that is shutting down this year. This plant was the major source of air pollution within the urban limits and its shutdown will undoubtedly improve my life quality and all the other inhabitants of Norilsk.

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