Russian mining major Nornickel has disputed a Rb147.78 billion (€1.84 billion) charge from Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources Management (Rosprirodnadzor) over the diesel spill from a failed tank in Norilsk, Russia.
The diesel tank, which collapsed on 29 May 2020, was storing 21,163 tonnes of diesel, the back-up fuel for a combined heat and power plant, known as HPP-3, at a site owned by Nornickel subsidiary Norilsk-Taymyr Energy Company (NTEC). Nornickel believes that melting permafrost in the ground surrounding the tank caused the supports to sink suddenly, causing the tank to rupture. Around 16,000 tonnes of diesel is thought to have entered the rivers, and Nornickel has previously estimated the clean-up cost at Rb10 billion.
Rosprirodnadzor says that it calculated the harm done by the spill to come to its figure for voluntary compensation, requesting Rb147 billion for damage to waterbodies and Rb739 million for damage to soil.
Nornickel says the calculations were based on flawed assumptions, distorting the estimates. Rosprirodnadzor used the maximum multiple that can be applied to calculate the cost, which is based on the duration pollutants have been in an environment and assumes no measures have been taken to clean up the pollution. Nornickel says that legally this cannot be applied, as it responded immediately to the spill. It adds that this maximum multiple also only applied to soluble pollutants which cannot be collected, unlike diesel, which is not soluble.
‘In the company’s opinion, the volume of oil products which has been spilled to the water bodies has been also determined incorrectly, since their content in the water-fuel mixture, contaminated soil and sorbent collected in the HPP-3 area was estimated before the collection of oil products in this area was completed,’ says Nornickel.
The mining firm argues that Rosprirodnadzor’s own water tests carried out recently show that pollution levels in nearby waterbodies are now in line with maximum permissible levels.
Clean-up efforts for the spill are ongoing. Nornickel says that it is currently preparing to pump out the water and fuel mixture it has removed from the Ambarnaya River from its temporary tanks to a separation site. So far, around 33,401 m3 of the water and fuel mixture has been collected. A pipeline is currently being laid from the Lebyazhye tailings storage facility, where the fuel separation site has been set up, to the site by the Ambarnaya River where the tanks are located. Pumping is expected to begin within the next two weeks. As of 8 July, Nornickel says that 188,502 tonnes of contaminated soil has been removed from the area, while 140.2 km of the riverbank and 271,720 m2 of contaminated surface have been treated with sorbents.
‘The company reiterates its commitment to fully cover the cost of remediation of the environmental impact of the fuel spill accident in line with the applicable legislation. Furthermore, Nornickel is ready not only to remediate the environmental impact, but also to completely restore the ecosystem of the impacted area in close cooperation with Rosprirodnadzor and other government agencies and organisations,’ Nornickel says in a statement.