Pollution in Arctic Russian city of Nikel increases – Will new technology turn the tides?

The smelter in Nikel is located a few kilometers from Russia's border to Norway in the North. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
The smelter in Nikel is located a few kilometers from Russia’s border to Norway in the North. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Russia’s environmental minister informs Norway about how the plant in Nikel will come up with a plan for best available technology (BAT) by 2019.

Sergey Donskoiy, Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, had dinner with his Norwegian colleague in Oslo on Sunday. Pollution from Nikel, the long-lasting pain in bilateral environmental relations between the two countries was a natural talking point while the ministers were eating.

Minister Vidar Helgesen says to the Barents Observer that Donsoy informed him about Russia’s plans to demand best available technology (BAT) at the country’s industry.

«Kola Mining and Metallurgical Company is among the 300 most polluting companies in Russia that will be pilots for introduction of BAT. They have now been ordered to have a plan for this ready by 2019,» Vidar Helgesen says.

The Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment tells that his ministry has been informed that emission from Zapolyarny has been reduced substantially after the new briquetting plant became operational earlier this year.

«That means that the briquets to be smelted in Nikel, located closer to Norway, will contain more sulphur. In order to reduce pollution from Nikel, it is therefor needed to do modernization, like they have announced,» Helgesen says in an e-mail.

Before the new plant became operational, parts of the sulphur in the ore was emitted as sulphur dioxide in Zapolyarny. Today, this sulphur stays in the minerals until smelted in Nikel. As a result, the total emission of suplhur dioxide from the plant in Nikel is higher today than it was before the plant in Zaployarny was rebuilt.

Most serious air pollution problem in Norway
Vidar Helgesen is Minister of Climate and Environment. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Vidar Helgesen is Minister of Climate and Environment. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Emissions from Nikel is considered to be the most serious air pollution problem in northern Norway. The smelter is also identified as an environmental hot-spot by the Barents working group on environment.

«I want to underline that it is a Russian responsibility to reduce the emissions,» Vidar Helgesen says underlining that Russian authorities have to come up with requirements to the Kola Mining and Metallurgical Company to make improvements.

«From the Norwegian side, we follow up with dialogue with the company and Russian authorities. We do also follow with environmental monitoring in the border areas.»

The Norwegian environmental minister says it for him is important that locals get reliable information.

«It is important to monitor whether the announced measures actually are implemented and give improvements. I will bring up the Nikel-case again at the meeting of the joint Norwegian-Russian environmental commission to be held in Norway next spring,» Vidar Helgesen says.

Kirkenes Mayor Rune Rafaelsen is invited to take part at the meeting. He has earlier said that his municipality is seriously worried about what happens and what consequences it will have for the people and nature in the border area.

«Norway’s biggest environmental problem is here in the border area. The factory in Nikel cause serious problems across the border,” Rafaelsen said.

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

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