New tourism investment brings hope to Russian city as main smelter closes down

The plant in Nikel is due to fully close in course of 2020. (Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Nornickel might invest up to 10,5 billion rubles (€153 million) in the development of a tourism cluster in Pechenga, the municipality located along border to Norway and Finland.

There is a sense of crisis in the small town of Nikel located on the border to Norway and Finland. Here, most men and women have for the past three generations had their lives closely connected with the local nickel smelter.

Now, the cornerstone industry is closing and several hundred people will be dismissed in the course of the year. Locals fear that Nikel will be abandoned and turned into a ghost town.

However, local authorities and the nickel company assure that there will be new industries created that locals can be re-trained and re-employed in new jobs.

«Nobody will abandon Nikel,» regional Governor Andrey Chibis said after signing an agreement with Nornickel in late 2019.

Andrey Chibis is Governor of Murmansk. (Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The local town has «a serious future», the regional leader assured and invited locals, companies and investors to take part in a discussion about strategic developments.

The agreement between Chibis and Nornickel leader Vladimir Potanin is reported to include about 140 billion rubles (€2 billion) for investments and developments in the region over the next five-years period.

Included in that sum is a substantial amount of money for the development of tourism. According to regional Deputy Governor Olga Kuznetsova, Nornickel could invest 10,5 billion rubles (€153 million) in the development of a tourism cluster in the area.

The mining and metallurgy company is ready to invest the money in cooperation with local partner Port Liinarkhamari, news agency Interfax reports.

The town of Nikel has about 11,000 inhabitants. (Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The project was discussed in a regional government meeting on the 9th January. There was presented no information about specific plans under the initiative, but Port Liinarkhamari could potentially be granted major tax benefits as part of the establishment of free economic zone in Murmansk.

At the same time, local authorities are reaching out to neighboring Norwegians for assistance. In a meeting with a delegation from Sør-Varanger, the nearby Norwegian municipality, representatives of Nikel expressed hopes that the Norwegians will assist in the process.

Several joint working groups are to contribute with ideas that ultimately will be included in a local action plan, the local Russian municipality informs.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Tourism numbers in Canada’s Northwest Territories up 7 per cent, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Northern Finland’s tourism industry divided over flight tax proposal, Yle News

Iceland: Arctic tourism in the age of Instagram, Eye on the Arctic special report

Norway: Antarctic-to-Arctic ultra-luxury cruise announced for 2022, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Moscow adopts 15-year plan for Northern Sea Route, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Weak Swedish currency gives foreign tourists more spending power, Radio Sweden

United States: When the ice melts, what will happen to Arctic tourism?, Cryopolitics Blog

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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