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Nornickel pays record fine for May 2020 oil spill in the Russian Arctic

Source: Interfax

The Russian industrial giant Nornickel has paid in full a 146.2-billion-ruble ($1.96-billion) fine for the damages caused by a massive fuel spill at a thermal power plant belonging to its subsidiary, the Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company, in the Arctic city of Norilsk in May 2020.

The vast majority of this sum — in particular, the compensation for damages to bodies of water — will go into the federal budget. The remaining funds — the compensation for damage to soil — will be donated to the city of Norilsk.

This 146.2 billion rubles constitutes the biggest fine ever imposed on a Russian company for environmental damages. Presumably, this money will be used to support environmental projects in the Krasnoyarsk territory. 

At the end of May 2020, approximately 21,000 tons of diesel fuel leaked out of a damaged reservoir at the Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company’s Thermal Power Plant No. 3 in Norilsk, spreading into nearby rivers and the surrounding soil. This was the second largest fuel spill in Russia’s history, after the 94,000 ton oil spill that took place in the country’s northern Komi Republic in 1994.

On February 5, 2021, Russian arbitration court recovered the damages from Nornickel, partially satisfying a claim from Russia’s regulatory agency for natural resources, Rosprirodnadzor, which assessed the environmental damage from the spill at 148 billion rubles ($1.98 billion). While Nornickel initially challenged the regulator’s assessment — arguing that the actual damages should have been calculated at just 21.4 billion rubles ($287 million), — the company didn’t dispute the arbitration court’s ruling. 

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