How Norilsk, in the Russian Arctic, became one of the most polluted places on Earth

A smelting company has poisoned rivers, killed off forests and belched out more sulfur dioxide than active volcanoes. Now it wants to produce more metal for the “green economy.”

Built as a resource colony by prisoners in the Soviet Gulag, Norilsk outlasted communism, embraced capitalism, and it now aims to ramp up production to sell the metals needed for electric vehicle batteries and the clean energy economy. Norilsk Nickel is the world’s leading producer of the high-purity Class 1 nickel that electric vehicle industry leaders like Tesla CEO Elon Musk are seeking. The company’s ambitions coincide with those of Russian President Vladimir Putin for greater development in the Far North, which he maintains can be accomplished sustainably. 

But Norilsk Nickel has undermined its own vision for the future by spoiling a priceless environment, with implications for the entire planet. The company’s pollution has carved a barren landscape of dead and dying trees out of the taiga, or boreal forest, one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. Its wastewater has turned glacial rivers red. Its smokestacks belch out the worst sulfur dioxide pollution in the world. And last year, a corroded tank burst and released 6.5 million gallons of diesel fuel into waters that flow to the Kara Sea. It was the largest oil spill in Arctic history. Although Norilsk Nickel maintains that no diesel fuel made it to the Arctic Ocean, the Russian government’s fisheries science agency told Inside Climate News that its testing showed that the contamination had reached that far.

Valeriya «Lera» Bolgova, a leader of the Nganasan people, one of five Indigenous tribes of the Taimyr peninsula, at a local festival in October 2021. The region’s first people have been unique witnesses to Norilsk Nickel’s indelible imprint on the environment, because fish and reindeer meat are still central to their diets.Courtesy Valeriya Bolgova

The story of Norilsk’s pollution is written in the trees: 5.9 million acres of dead and dying boreal forest downwind from the Norilsk Nickel compound — a scar larger than New Jersey, slashed into the largest forested region on Earth. 

In tree ring samples, scientists have pinpointed the great rush of sulfur dioxide pollution that began in 1942, when the first nickel smelter geared up to meet the Soviet Union’s need for stainless steel during World War II. And the tree rings have shown how the rate of forest deaths here jumped in the 1960s, from 5 percent annually to 30 percent annually at one research site, said a study that researchers from Siberian Federal University and the University of Cambridge published last year. The discovery at that time of huge new ore reserves gave Norilsk Nickel “a new lease on life,” the company noted in its official history

By the early 1980s, all larch trees within 40 miles east of Norilsk were dead.

Satellite readings show that no other human enterprise — no power plant, no oil field, no other smelter complex — generates as much sulfur dioxide pollution as Norilsk Nickel. In fact, the only entities on Earth that rival its sulfur emissions are erupting volcanoes, according to a monitoring project led by scientists at NASA and Environment Canada. At 1.9 million tons of sulfur dioxide emissions annually, Norilsk produces as much sulfur pollution as the entire U.S. — all concentrated in a city the size of Eugene, Oregon.

“You cannot breathe there,” Valeriya “Lera” Bolgova, a leader of the Nganasan people, one of five Indigenous tribes of the Taimyr peninsula, said in an interview. The region’s first people have been unique witnesses to Norilsk Nickel’s indelible imprint on the environment, because fish and reindeer meat are still central to their diets.

 “When the pollution proceeds, and proceeds as intensively as it is nowadays, both the fish and the animals start looking for a cleaner environment,” Bolgova said. 

Researchers from Siberian Federal University affirmed that the reindeer patterns havedramatically changed on Taimyr. They found the average stay of the reindeer at their traditional summer calving and feeding place to be just 63 days, a third of what it was in the 1960s.

As for human health, lung cancer mortality is 1.2 to 2.5 times higher in Norilsk than in other Russian cities, and deaths from cardiovascular disease and infectious diseases also are elevated, according to the latest research.

Russian scientists determined that diesel fuel from the spill did reach Pyasino Lake and beyond. Contamination was found in bottom sediment in the lake and the entire 900-kilometer length of the adjoining Pyasino River, including at its mouth in the Arctic Ocean’s Kara Sea, said Vyacheslav Bizikov, the deputy director of the Russian government’s All-Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography in Moscow, in an interview with Inside Climate News.

Bizikov led the expedition of scientists, who lived on boats for 17 days sampling water, sediment and fish. The researchers found both diesel fuel and heavy metal contamination in the liver and muscles of fish they tested, and they warned local authorities and Indigenous communities that the fish weren’t safe to eat, he said.

The findings became the basis of the lawsuit the Russian fisheries agency filed against Norilsk Nickel in July. The company and the agency are working out an agreement on how to further study the damage, restore the environment and replenish the fish, Bizikov said. 

“We can restore and recover the ecosystems and water ecosystems if we do it right,” Bizikov said. “As I see it, it’s not a matter of one day or one year. If there will be no more accidents, we will manage to fix it. It’s difficult to say when, but in 10 years, maybe we will see the definite results.”

New pressures for change are building on Norilsk Nickel from the outside. 

Read the full article here:


Beyond Extraction sought views from nuclear power’s extractive frontier and from those actively resisting its expansion

by Devin Holterman & Patrick Schukalla

‘Nuclear for Climate’ as an extractive strategy

02.11.2021_ Last year’s COP meeting has just begun. Postponed due to the pandemic — Glasgow, Scotland, was to host the summit in November 2020 — representatives from around the world are once again turning their attention to the problem of climate change at the UN conference. COP26 in Glasgow will get a lot of attention, but probably not enough measured against the undisputed and enormous challenges of anthropogenic climate change. The year 2021 has – yet again – made it clear in many parts of the world, and in some cases cruelly[1], that urgent action is needed. The latest IPCC report once again provides the scientific insights, but the political and economic consequences remain controversial and the result is all too often inaction. The changes necessary to avert complete breakdown will have to be more profound than merely changing electricity suppliers. At stake is a profound change in the way we produce, consume and live. In short, the dominant paradigm in the fight against climate change lacks a post-growth strategy. But some propagate a supposedly simple carbon-free way out: nuclear power. For years now, a narrative has been gaining renewed support in certain corners, according to which the production of electricity through nuclear fission seems imperative for climate change mitigation. Against the backdrop of COP26, Beyond Extraction draws a line from nuclear lobbying in the name of climate protection to the centre of our collective’s work so far, the critical examination of the consequences and devastation of mining, exploration, and the speculation in raw materials.

In this brief article, we look at the link between the nuclear lobby, the mining industry and resource speculation and bring to the forefront the people and places who would be affected by uranium mining. While the nuclear industry is trying to present itself internationally as key to the energy solution of the climate crisis, the mining industry is waiting in the wings to offer new and old uranium mining projects as investment opportunities. But what about the people and places that would be affected by uranium mining? In order to answer this question, we need to focus on an area mostly ignored in the general debate: the initial stages in the nuclear fuel chain[2]. 

The various other reasons[3] for which nuclear power cannot be a valid answer to the climate crisis are unaffected by this.

Beyond Extraction therefore sought to amplify the voices of those campaigning against old and projected uranium mines and the devastating legacy of nuclear fuel production in Canada, Greenland, Namibia, Spain, and Tanzania. They are pushing for a carbon free, truly renewable future of energy production and against a false promise of nuclear power. 

Nuclear enthusiasm – nuclear renaissance – nuclear for climate

It is not the first time that nuclear power has been seen as a technological fix to major societal problems, nor the first time that climate change has been claimed as a problem to be solved by nuclear reactors. But all nuclear enthusiasm plays under the conditions and omens of its time. In the 1950s quasi-utopian future conditions were associated with the splitting of the uranium atom. The nuclear enthusiasm of the 1970s took place especially under the pretext of the oil crises and the subsequent debates on energy security. In both phases of great expectations in nuclear power, large mines were developed and uranium was explored across the globe. But the great expectations did not materialize as projected. This was no different in the overblown discourse of the ‘nuclear renaissance’ of the 2000s with its hyper ambitious growth scenarios. And yet, high future expectations in growing nuclear electricity production led to uranium exploration, mine expansions and new development activities. And this is precisely what we must be aware of today when governments, lobbying organizations and even some misguided environmentalists are talking about nuclear power being a potential force against the climate crisis. In fact, investing in uranium stocks is already being touted as a way to profit from climate policy[4]. 

Greening Nuclear Power’s finances!?

For some years now, the COP summits have repeatedly become an arena of the nuclear lobby. Attempts to present itself as a potential solution to the climate crisis at the Glasgow summit already led to debates in the run-up to the summit[5].

Self-proclaimed pro-nuclear activists say they want to take the COP meeting by storm[6] and major nuclear companies and its lobby are represented in Glasgow and beat their radiant advertising drum. ‘Nuclear for Climate’ is their motto and it is echoed in different parts of the world. In the EU, for example, there is currently a serious debate under the slogan of a Green Deal about whether the design of a European sustainability label in the financial sector (the so-called EU taxonomy) should, in the future, treat the financial support for nuclear power as support for sustainability and climate neutrality. This would label subsidies for nuclear power as a supposedly sustainable technology[7]. Matter of fact, an assessment published in April 2021 by the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC)[8], concluded that nuclear energy is not harmful to humans or the environment. This assessment is, of course, a travesty for all those who have lost land, health and livelihoods to uranium mining or would be threatened by it to say nothing of those harmed by the various catastrophic meltdowns, the most recent being in Fukushima, Japan in 2011. But Europe is not alone in this: Canada provides significant support for the development of so called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)[9]. In the USA, too, plans are being discussed to provide financial subsidies and relief for nuclear energy, which would happen at the expense of the expansion of renewable energies[10]. One of the arguments is climate mitigation.

Resource speculation and the revival of a dinosaur at PDAC and elsewhere

Beyond Extraction’s central activities so far have focused on the critical monitoring of the annual Toronto-based Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention. PDAC is amongst the most important global investment conferences for the mining sector. During the 2000s, the nuclear renaissance discourse translated into talk about market fundamentals that would indicate that prices for uranium would definitely have to rise due to a definitely rising number of operating nuclear reactors. So naturally the idea of a materializing nuclear renaissance was greeted with enthusiasm amongst the speculative prospectors and developers.

Measured by the aims of its proponents, the nuclear renaissance remained rather limited, yet it resulted in rampant speculation with uranium inventories, stocks, futures, prospective geology and flushed investment money into uranium exploration ventures. PDAC is not only emblematic of this form of speculation but is also one of the most important sites and gatherings for those who seek to turn geological riches into private profits. In its coverage of the PDAC convention in 2007, while uranium spot prices were approaching their peak during the so called nuclear renaissance, the Northern Miner(2007) reported that “this was uranium’s year at the PDAC, with junior explorers touting hundreds of new uranium exploration and development projects located around the world”. The mining industry journal emphasized further, “there’s actually a lot of [uranium] lying around the planet; the tricky part is jumping through the regulatory hurdles, mining it and selling it at a profit”[11].

The nuclear renaissance talk ended with the aftermath of the reactor core meltdown in Fukushima, Japan in March 2011. Containing the damage to the industry’s image was the new motto and seemingly a job as hard as containing radiation in and around Fukushima Daiichi – which, even a decade after the accident, poses major challenges. Momentum in the nuclear industry today is undoubtedly linked to a collective amnesia about the catastrophic meltdown at Fukushima, coupled with the return of the renaissance discourse in the face of climate change.

Central to this is the investment in research and development of SMRs. For years now, PDAC has offered a platform for the nuclear industry and its most committed partners, such as the Government of Canada, to offer a vision of the nuclear industry that is more subtle and, crucially, more mobile. In Canada’s Roadmap to SMR’s[12] and its Minerals and Metals Plan, small and modular reactors are positioned as a powerful way for the mining industry to reduce its carbon emissions and the overall footprint of a project. Similarly, French president, Emanuel Macron, has recently spoken in favour of continuing down the nuclear path, with reference to the presumed developments of SMRs as a way of combatting climate change. Yet, as is usual, the promotion of this re-imagined dinosaur fails to account for the risks associated with both increasing demand for uranium and the danger of making nuclear reactors mobile. Take, for example, the ‘Akademik Lomonosov,” the only floating, and therefore mobile, nuclear power plant today. Built by Rosatom, the Russian state-owned Nuclear Corporation it is stationed at the arctic port town of Pevek. Rosatom claims that the power station was good to avoid C02 emissions, yet as an enabler of enhanced oil, gas, and mineral exploration and potential extraction in the Arctic region it is effectively a means to dig out more hydrocarbons.

Testimonies from nuclear power’s extractive frontier and those actively resisting its expansion

Nuclear power is effectively on the decline[13]. Industry’s repeated rescue attempts, however, are misleading, they waste time and resources, and they slowly start to inflate a speculative bubble around uranium resources. It is worrying that the narrative of a possible, albeit nuclear, «business as usual» could gain momentum in the face of increasingly severe climate change impacts. This is perhaps especially so for the communities affected by uranium mining or exploration whereby the threats of extraction are dangerously high. This list of testimonies is limited and would have to be expanded in order to do justice to the global spread of experiences with uranium mining and exploration. Yet here campaigners from across the globe offer their rich insights about the climate crisis and its mitigation.


Nornickel brings FPIC standards to Russia for first time

Chance of a better life

Tukhard was established as a temporary residence for shift workers producing gas in the area in 1970s, and the development of the village did not provide for the creation of any infrastructure.

Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel, which operates in the area, has now offered residents the opportunity to choose a better life.

In mid-October, the village hosted consultations between inhabitants, international experts, representatives of the indigenous peoples of Taimyr, local authorities, and representatives of Norilsk Nickel.

People are offered several options, including moving to new homes about 1.5 kilometres away from their current homes. The option of moving to other villages in Taimyr, including the centre of the region – the village of Dudinka – was also proposed.

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Norwegian wind farms violate rights of Sámi reindeer herders, says court

Norway’s top court has ruled that two wind farms in the country’s west have violated the rights of Sámi reindeer herders.

Wind turbines on Norway’s Fosen peninsula have illegally encroached on the herders grazing land, the court ruled.

Judges at the Norwegian Supreme Court declared that the license for wind power development at Fosen was, therefore «invalid».

However, the practical consequences of the ruling were not immediately clear.

The Roan and Storheia wind farms in western Norway are part of Europe’s largest onshore wind energy project and were first unveiled in 2010.

Construction at the two sites by the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) was completed in 2020.

But the project received backlash as the wind turbines were located within ​​the Fosen reindeer grazing district.

Reindeer owners claimed that the development violated their rights to cultural practice, but initially had their appeal against construction rejected in 2013.

However, Norway’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the rights of reindeer herders had been violated.

Judges said that under United Nations law, ethnic minorities should not be denied the right to «cultivate their culture,» such as reindeer herding traditionally practised by the Sámi.

An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Sámi people live in the Arctic regions of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia.

The construction of the wind turbines in Fosen had «significant negative consequences» on the reindeer’s ability to graze, the court said.

Although judges acknowledged that increased renewable energy production is «important,» they said that there were less intrusive construction sites for wind farms.

«In this case, there was no question of a collision between environmental considerations and the reindeer owners’ right to cultural practice,» judges said.

The Norwegian Ministry of Oil and Energy, which had issued the construction permits, said they would study the court’s decision before deciding on the matter further.

«This obviously comes as a surprise to us,» said Tom Kristian Larsen, managing director of Fosen Vind, one of the operators of the wind farms.

«We have been relying on final concessions given to us by the authorities after a long and thorough process where all parties involved have been heard, and where special emphasis has been placed on reindeer husbandry,» he added.

But according to lawyers for the Sámi herders, the court decision should lead to the dismantling of the 151 wind turbines.

«Their construction has been declared illegal and it would be illegal to continue to operate them,» Andreas Brønner told AFP.


Harrison Ford highlighted the role of indigenous communities in protecting nature

The world’s biggest biodiversity summit since the start of the pandemic has opened in the French port city of Marseille with a warning from Emmanuel Macron that “there is no vaccine for a sick planet”.

Speaking at the opening of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the president echoed warnings from leading scientists that humanity must solve ongoing crises with climate and nature together or solve neither, urging the world to catch up on preventing the loss of biodiversity.

“There is no vaccine for a sick planet,” Macron said, detailing the urgent tasks of phasing out pesticide use, ending plastic pollution and eradicating raw materials linked to deforestation of rainforests from supply chains around the world.

The Hollywood actor and environmentalist Harrison Ford, speaking on behalf of Conservation International, paid tribute to the role of young environmentalists in protecting nature and battling the climate crisis.

Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford highlighted the role of indigenous communities in protecting nature. Photograph: Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA

“Reinforcements are on the way,” Ford said. “They’re sitting in lecture halls now, venturing into the field for the very first time, writing their thesis, they’re leading marches, organising communities, are learning to turn passionate into progress and potential into power. But they’re not here yet. In a few years, they will be here.”

Ford, a passionate campaigner for the protection of the Amazon, highlighted the role of indigenous communities in protecting nature.

In a parallel event, indigenous groups, academics and campaigners from 18 countries gathered in the port city for a “counter conference” called Our Land Our Nature.

Delegates want to highlight the way in which indigenous people are negatively impacted in the name of international ambitions to create space for wildlife.

A key challenge is the policy target of protecting 30% of the planet by 2030, which campaigners say could violate many indigenous people’s rights.

“I think we need to rethink the definition of protected areas, those that exist, and we need to look for a more sophisticated model of biodiversity and conservation,” said Dr Mordecai Ogada, director of Conservation Solutions Afrika. “We need to break down the narrative into much smaller and more complex pieces.”

Hundreds of protesters, including representatives from Survival International, Extinction Rebellion, Rainforest Foundation and Minority Rights Group gathered at the Porte d’Aix, which marks the old entry point to Marseille, and marched to the city’s harbour in the pouring rain. The demonstration concluded with speeches, small theatrical displays and chants.

Come sail away: Bering Strait Festival to open border with Russia in 2022

Next year, our international border with Russia, just to the west of Alaska, will open for the Bering Strait Festival.

The seven-day event is a multi-year effort to bring together residents of the high north from both sides of the strait, some of whom are relatives, and to honor their shared culture. It will include a cultural summit, an Indigenous peoples’ forum, traditional sports competitions and then a 43-mile boat crossing from Uelen in Russia’s Chukotsky District to Wales on Alaska’s Seward Peninsula.

The festival’s head U.S. coordinator in Alaska, Mille Porsild, who is also an Iditarod veteran, says the hope is that the border will open every year for these seven days.

For the first crossing — set for the first week of August 2022 — Porsild says people and boats of all kinds are welcome, but there will be an important frontrunner.
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Barents Observer takes case against Russian censorship to European Court of Human Rights

“Independent cross-border journalism isn’t a crime, it builds on core democratic rights for freedom of the media,” says Thomas Nilsen.

The editor in February 2019 saw his independent online newspaper being blocked in Russia following a crack-down by Roskomnadzor, the Russian media regulating authority. It was a major blow to the small northern media that since its launch in 2002 has published in both English and Russian.

The blocking followed the publishing of an article about Dan Eriksson – an indigenous Sámi man who managed to accept his homosexual orientation and overcome psychological crisis. Roskomnazor argues that the story “propagates suicide.”

The repressive decision was in July 2019 appealed in court. After a loss, a new appeal was filed and subsequently rejected by the Moscow City Court in January 2020. In June 2021, the case was ultimately rejected by the Russian Supreme Court.

The case “Barents Observer vs Roskomnadzor” has been supported by Memorial, the Anti-Discrimination Center based in the Netherlands. It is lawyer Maksim Olenichev that is following up the case.

The “Barents Observer vs Roskomnadzor” is now taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

“After all opportunities to achieve justice in Russia were exhausted, in August 2021, the complaint to the European Court of Human Rights was filed,” ADC Memorial says in a statement.

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The first indigenous rights defender was recognized as a «private person — foreign agent» in Russia

The Russian Ministry of Justice recognized Stepan Petrov, a chair of the non-governmental human rights organization «Yakutia — Our Opinion,» as a foreign agent, TASS reports.

Stepan Petrov

Stepan Petrov was included into the list of the «foreign agents» personally as a private person along with several prominent Russian journalists: the chief editor of the «Important stories» (Vaznnyie istorii) Roman Anin, journalists — Roman Shleinov, Olesya Shmagun, Dmitry Velikovsky, Alesya Marokhovskaya, and Irina Dolinina.

By the same order, the Ministry of Justice also included into the list of «foreign agents» the only independent from state all-Russia TV-channel «The Rain» (Dozhd) and the registered in Latvia «Istories fonds» which specialized on investigative journalism.

Stepan Petrov was the leader of the NGO «Yakutia — Our Opinion,» and he is widely known in Yakutia for his active human rights and anti-criminal work. He regularly appeals to the media with requests to publish his materials and often writes letters to law enforcement agencies, in which he points to the facts of corruption. Earlier this year, the NGO he led was liquidated in the course of numerous state inspections.

Besides his anti-corruption activity on the regional level, Stepan Petrov is also known as the initiator of appeals to the UN concerning violations of indigenous peoples’ rights. For example, he appealed to the UN in 2018 with a request to «increase pressure» on the Russian Federation to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 2020 he sent another appeal to several UN human rights treaty bodies «in support of the civil society of Russia» and the request to support «the leading Russian human rights organizations «For human rights» and «The Center for the support of indigenous peoples of the North.» Unfortunately, both organizations, led by prominent Russian human rights defenders Lev Ponomarev and Rodion Sulyandziga, were self-liquidated lately.

Lev Ponomarev, Executive Director of the all-Russian Movement for Human Rights, and Rodion Sulyandziga, Director of the Center for the support of indigenous peoples of the North. 13 November 2019, Moscow

According to the Russian law on foreign agents, private persons — foreign agents must, at least once every six months, submit a report on their activities, including information on the purpose of spending money and using other property received from foreign sources. They are also required to indicate the status of a foreign agent, including when applying to government agencies, local governments, public associations, educational organizations.

In addition, there is a ban on serving in public service and local governments for private persons included in the register of foreign agents. They are also forced to mark anything they write or share online (or in the mass media) with a loud, inescapable notification that they have «foreign agent» status in Russia. Finally, the law also demands that these individuals create formal legal entities in order to report their earnings and spending to the government. Failure to comply with these requirements provides for administrative and criminal liability.

This is how journalist at «Radio Svoboda» Lyudmila Savitskaya, who was recognized as a «foreign agent,» earlier described her new social status: «Lyudmila Savitskaya says the state’s designation has completely erased her private life. «Now Comrade Major and the Justice Ministry know literally everything about me, right down to the brand of tampons I use,» she told Meduza. Even Savitskaya’s mother has been affected: she now needs special paperwork from her bank to prove that the money she sends to her daughter is meant for medications «and not for the next Joe Biden campaign.»

Dmitry Berezhkov, Indigenous Russia chief editor.

Arctic Council — Tackling waste pollution in the Arctic with community empowerment

The project goal was to improve the ecological situation in the Murmansk region – an important area for the Sámi people. The Sámi community in the Russian Federation identified a need to develop and implement a project to clean-up waste in the Murmansk region in the areas where the Sámi people live and practice their traditional lifestyle.

An important element of the clean-up project was that it used a community-based approach. Including local Sámi people was crucial for the project to be successful. Only with their involvement the project team was able to identify priority sites for the clean-up.
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Scientists name reasons of poverty in Arctic regions of Russia, Canada, US — TASS

YAKUTSK, August 20. /TASS/. The poverty among the Arctic communities in Russia, the US and Canada may be explained by the high birth rates, big numbers of dependents and high rates of everyday expenses, Daryana Maximova of the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) and the Academy of Sciences’ Institute of the US and Canada told TASS.

A team of experts from NEFU jointly with scientists from Canada’s University of Manitoba and the US University of Alaska compared sources of revenues and studied poverty in traditional communities, living in the north of Russia, the US and Canada. The studies were financed by a grant of 1.3 million rubles ($17,500) from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.

«We have analyzed how poor people in Yakutia, Manitoba and Alaska live,» Maximova said. «Using the national statistics and analytical data, we compared poverty conditions the said regions. Among the reasons could be high birth rates, big numbers of retirees and dependents, high levels of everyday expenses, insufficient budget payments to raise the incomes of the poor and many others.»

The scientific results may be used for recommendations on how to harmonize relations between investors and locals in the Arctic, how to have improve the social responsibility of corporates during major mining or infrastructure projects in traditional territories of the North’s communities, the Russian expert said. Additionally, the results may be useful in making more efficient the social benefits for the people living in the North.

The studies show that the poverty level is not related directly to the regional sectors. The scientists pointed to the importance of corporate social policies. «A certain role in a rather low poverty rate in Alaska is played by the natural resource rent payments from mining companies, which could form the basis for experiments to introduce unconditional basic income for indigenous communities of the North,» the scientist said.

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Norwegian Oil Fund’s new eco standards add pressure on Arctic extractors

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, also called the Oil Fund, is stepping up its attention to the environment. A new expectation document on biodiversity and ecosystems warns companies that environmental protection will be instrumental for the Fund’s future investments.

The document calls on companies to assess their direct and indirect impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems when developing policies, and take a precautionary approach wherever there is a risk of significant biodiversity and ecosystem impact. Furthermore, the Fund says companies should disclose material impacts of activities, products and services on biodiversity and ecosystems, and disclose the co-ordinates and footprint of their main operations.

“An increasing loss of species and deterioration of ecosystems can affect companies’ ability to create value for investors in the long term,” says CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management Nicolai Tangen. “Companies must therefore understand their dependency on and impact on nature, and handle both substantial challenges and opportunities through more sustainable use of ecosystems”, he underlines.

According to the Fund’s Chief Governance and Compliance Officer Carine Smith Ihenacho, protection of biodiversity and ecosystems is of key importance for the global economy. “Therefore, it is important for the fund to work proactively with these topics as a part of our work with responsible investment,” she says.
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D. Berezhkov. A fundamental gap in the understanding of reality between Norilsk Nickel and indigenous peoples

For the Norilsk Nickel leadership, indigenous peoples are legal objects — “consumers” (according to Elena Shumilova) — those with whom it is necessary to «to struggle for» (according toSvetlana Ivchenko) the «free, prior and informed consent,” and even then, only because some unknown international standards require it. 

It’s like with small children in kindergarten. Yes, sometimes you have to ask whether Vasya or Petya wants to eat and whether they need to go to the toilet. But more serious issues such as when breakfast will be served or when new curtains for the kindergarten’s sleeping room will be delivered are not discussed with the children by teachers. Why should children know about such serious things? After all, this is the business of those «who analyze all of this.»

In her speech, senator Shumilova argued with clearly good intentions. She wanted to help and cared that such roundtable discussions must provide some benefits for the “consumers” as well, but at the same time, she naively revealed the main secret and the main message of the Russian state and business in relation to indigenous peoples.

This reminded me of something that happened to me personally several years ago. In days of old, when Dmitry Kobylkin had just replaced Yury Neelov in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, some Moscow guys were working on creating a new strategy for the development of the Yamal region. And I had become friends with some of them along before — just personally without professional relations. They learned that I also come from the indigenous peoples’ environment and that I work in Raipon, so they invited me to a couple of meetings in Moscow and then invited me to visit Salekhard where they organized a final discussion on Okrug’s development strategy.

Read more:

The city of Norilsk. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Russian firm Nornickel’s support programme for indigenous people is quickly becoming a model for other mining companies to follow

Photo: Nornickel

Russian mineral giant Nornickel, the world’s largest producer of palladium and high-quality nickel and a major producer of platinum, cobalt and copper, has announced plans to allocate an additional 100 million roubles (1.15 million euros) to support indigenous people living across the Taimyr Peninsula in the Russian Arctic.

The new funding was announced by Nikolay Utkin, senior vice president and director of Nornickel’s Polar Division, during a meeting of the Coordination Council of Taimyr’s indigenous minorities, which took place on the eve of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. 

The money comes in addition to funding a five-year programme designed to protect original habitats and to support the traditional activities of the indigenous minorities of the region. 

Implementation of the programme has been driven by an agreement signed in 2020 with three organisations representing over 90 per cent of the indigenous population of the Russian North and most of the indigenous population of the Taimyr Peninsula. 

The programme includes 42 projects designed to support traditional activities of indigenous peoples of Taimyr, including housing projects, medical projects, as well as educational, cultural and sports projects. As part of the programme, a total of two billion roubles will be allocated for these purposes. 

“The programme has already delivered results,” says Utkin. “The first shipments of construction materials for settlements have arrived, and exploration of pastures for the development of reindeer herding has begun in the Avam tundra. With our support, young residents of Taimyr were able for the first time to complete a year of training at the Norilsk State Industrial Institute.” 

He adds that young people in need in Taimyr settlements have also received the keys to flats and household appliances, and that an additional 100 million roubles will be allocated to similar projects as early as this year. 

“I am sure that next year we will continue complementing this programme in order to provide direct assistance to communities, hunters and fishermen,” he says. 

Grigory Dyukarev, the chairman of the Association of Indigenous Minorities of Taimyr, Krasnoyarsk Territory, adds: “What is surprising is how promptly Nornickel responds to the needs of indigenous people. 

“Two months ago, our compatriots made their requests, and today we have found out that they have been fulfilled, while an additional 100 million roubles has been allocated for these purposes. We can see that the company is responding to our requests.” 

He adds that the programme has been generating genuine interest among representatives of indigenous people from other regions. 

“The existing partnership has become possible due to Nornickel’s understanding of the role of indigenous peoples in the territories of its operations and the importance of interaction with them.”

Nornickel has experienced first-hand how complex it is to tackle corporate social responsibility commitments from different angles at once. 

Committed to providing support to local communities, Nornickel is fast erasing memories of ecological damage to the Artic ecosystem. 

Earlier this year, 28 different projects and campaigns in the Russian Arctic received grant funding from Nornickel to create a culture of environmental protection, develop infrastructure, and expand educational projects. 

Representatives of indigenous peoples’ organisations from across the Taimyr Peninsula in the Russian Arctic also received grant funding for the creation of sports clubs, hobby organisations, a small zoo, drone training and other needs. 

The degree of complexity raised by relationship between mining companies and indigenous people has long posed a significant challenge to companies operating in the north-eastern part of Russia, but on current form, Nornickel is providing a model for others to follow. 

Valery Vengo, a deputy of the Legislative Assembly of Krasnoyarsk Territory, says that the firm’s support programme for the indigenous minorities of the north is a remarkable example of a public-private partnership. 

“There are 35 regions in Russia populated by indigenous peoples. Of these, only three regions have signed similar agreements. Taimyr is one of these territories. Nornickel has been cooperating with the indigenous minorities of the north for more than 30 years. The experience of such partnership is an excellent example which should be replicated on Russian and international platforms, wherever it is appropriate.”

Additional financial support offers new hope to indigenous people in Russia’s Taimyr Peninsula

Lavrov compared the life of bears in Russia and that of Indians in the United States

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov compared the life of bears in Russia to the life of indigenous peoples in the United States. The diplomat made a comical statement at a meeting with young art and culture workers on the Tavrida art cluster site, writes RIA News …

Lavrov spoke of the bear as the world symbol of Russia. According to him, it creates a positive impression of the country along with other standard associations – vodka and balalaika.

“It is much better that these symbols of Russia evoke positive emotions and smiles than the associations that the Indians, symbol of the United States, evoke in many people,” said the minister, explaining that bears in Russia live better than American Indians. in reserves. , because bears can “walk all over the country.”

Earlier at the same event, the minister commented on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s reluctance to officially recognize Crimea as Russian territory. Lavrov stressed that the peninsula, as part of Russia, is part of the State of the Union together with Belarus, this follows from Russian legislation.

Karelian petroglyphs listed as World Heritage Site

Artur Parfenchikov, the head of the Republic of Karelia, has just announced that the petroglyphs of Lake Onega and the White Sea have acquired the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The petroglyphs received the UNESCO World Heritage Site status on July 28th at the 44th UNESCO World Heritage Committee session chaired by China. During the conference, which spanned from July 16th to the July 31st, 2021, the committee had unanimously decided to grant Russia’s petroglyphs a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Karelian petroglyphs thus became the 31st Russian site on the list.

The Onega petroglyphs are in the Pudozh region. Photo: Press service of the Head of the Republic of Karelia

Other famous Russian UNESCO World Heritage Sites include the natural heritage site Lake Baikal and the cultural heritage sites of Moscow Kremlin and the Red Square. 

The sites by the White Sea and Lake Onega contain approximately 4,500 petroglyphs and are amongst the largest in Europe. The petroglyphs have been carved into rocks during the Neolithic period about six or seven thousand years ago and give observers a sight into the Neolithic culture of Fennoscandia. 

The 4,500 petroglyphs are located in 33 distinct sites in split into overarching areas 300 kilometers apart from one another. 

22 of the carving sites, which feature about 1,200 figurines, are located on the eastern bank of Lake Onega in the district of Pudozhsky. The remainder 11 sites are scattered on the islands of the Vyg River located at the White Sea in the District of Belomorsky and are composed of 3,411 petroglyph figures. The petroglyphs in both areas date as far back as to the third and fourth millennium BC. 

However, the art subject differentiates in the two different areas. At lake Onega, the petroglyphs mostly represent various types of birds, animals, half-human-half-animal mythical creatures, cosmic symbols, and geometric shapes. While the petroglyphs at the White Sea mostly depict carvings of hunting, fishing, and sailing scenes, as well as animal and human footprints. 

UNESCO has reported that the petroglyphs are thought to be associated with sacred sites including burial grounds as well as typical settlement sites. 

On the 28th of July, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that the event emphasizes Russia’s presence as a vital cultural center on the global arena. 


Mejlis: Restoration of rights of indigenous peoples of Ukraine is key tool for Crimea de-occupation

“Restoration of the rights of indigenous peoples in Crimea covers human rights violations, education, humanitarian law, environment, and collective rights. It is a key tool for the de-occupation of Crimea as there is a tendency in the world to restore the rights of indigenous peoples. The indigenous people factor is crucial for achieving 6 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” Eskender Bariyev, member of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Head of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, said at the constituent forum of the Crimea Platform Expert Network on August 6, an Ukrinform correspondent reported.

According to him, the main purpose of the Crimea Platform expert group, which includes the Mejlis members, representatives of indigenous peoples, experts, political scientists, historians, culturologists, and lawyers, is to promote the restoration of rights of indigenous peoples of Ukraine, including the right to self-determination. territory and resources, as well as the preservation and development of political, economic, and socio-cultural systems and institutions.

Mejlis: Restoration of rights of indigenous peoples of Ukraine is key tool for Crimea de-occupation

Climate change: The Arctic reindeer herder whose livelihood is threatened by warmer winters

«The world is being widely computerised and it is very difficult to live in this world, especially for the young people», Kemlil sighs. «They can’t live without technology. We need to try to adapt to this modern world, match it step for step.»

For all the nuances of the shifts in climate and how those play out on the tundra, it is this which seems to worry him most, the eternal question of how to make the young stay.

«From times immemorial our forefathers were breeding reindeer and we try to keep this industry going to make sure it doesn’t disappear in our modern world. The young ones are not quite willing but we do our best.»
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Arctic Council — Arctic Peoples

Engaging Indigenous Peoples and local communities

Indigenous Peoples have lived in the Arctic for centuries. They have learned to adapt to a changing environment over time, and thus hold a fundamental knowledge base of the lands and waters of their homelands. The Arctic Council and its Working Groups acknowledge that the inclusion of traditional knowledge and local knowledge is vital for exploring solutions to emerging issues in the Arctic, and to provide the best available knowledge as a basis for decision-making. The active participation of the Permanent Participants is one of the key features of the Arctic Council.

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The Contours of India’s Arctic Policy

he Arctic has recently assumed considerable strategic significance as it has been underlined by the policies of major powers. The interests and concerns of the Arctic states are vast and varied. India, being an observer in the Arctic Council, has legitimate interests in the region and has created its own Arctic policy. India’s Arctic policy, notified as a draft document in early January 2021, continues along the lines of the country’s science diplomacy.

India’s Arctic Policy (IAP) was notified as a draft document in early January 2021, and the draft policy is in line with India’s fast expanding scientific-technological (‘SciTech’ power) status which has both national and international dimensions. As per the global ranking, India currently occupies the third position in scientific and technical manpower in the world. Its Research and Development (R&D) expenditure and Science and Technology(S&T) publications also rose significantly. With the surge in S&T publications, India is globally at the third position.1)

IAP has been drafted in a strategic milieu of big powers (like China) having invested with great ambition in the Arctic region. China’s ‘Polar Silk Road’ is essentially a part of its robust ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) which seeks to reinforce its geopolitical and geoeconomic posture in the region. India has stepped in at the right time with its ‘sustainable engagement’ diplomacy and ‘SciTech’ power in the Arctic.

There are not many institutions involved in polar studies in India. The Goa-based NCPOR, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, focuses on polar studies and research. While the Ministry of External Affairs looks after the engagements with the Arctic Council, other ministries such as the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Ministry of Science and Technology, and Ministry of Space are involved in polar research.

The IAP is enunciated with five major areas of engagements—(i) Science and research; (ii) Economic and human development cooperation; (iii). Transportation and connectivity; (iv) Governance and international cooperation; and (v) National capacity building. It is clear that the IAP, apart from underlining the significance of science and research, sees the Arctic region as a potential area of engagement in diverse areas of human development and commercial activities. The document says: “India seeks to engage in economic development in a manner that is sustainable and is of value to the Arctic residents, especially indigenous communities. The Arctic offers viable opportunities in different sectors where Indian enterprises can be involved, become part of international commerce, promote traditional indigenous knowledge, businesses and best practices.”

IAP sees the Arctic as “the largest unexplored prospective area for hydrocarbons remaining on earth” besides its vast reserves of mineral deposits. It also keeps in perspective India’s investment in Russia which amounts to $15 billion in oil and gas projects. Hence India seeks to explore “similar opportunities in other Arctic nations as well”.7)

The draft policy document is also confident of utilising India’s expertise in the digital economy for facilitating establishment of data centres for commerce in the region. It further explores “opportunities for investment in Arctic infrastructure in areas such as offshore exploration/mining, ports, railways and airports.” This inevitably calls for encouraging participation by Indian public and private sector firms with an expertise in these sectors. India’s chambers of industry and commerce will be encouraged to enhance private investment in the Arctic and explore the public-private-partnership model. The draft policy also indicated that Indian companies will be encouraged to obtain membership of the Arctic Economic Council.

Another area where India has leverage in the Arctic region is human development. The document says: “Specialized cultures of the Arctic’s indigenous inhabitants are being inexorably impacted by climate change as well as economic development and improved connectivity. This is similar to the socio-ecological-economic predicament of the Himalayan peoples. The disruption of unique ecosystems and erosion of traditional knowledge are common to both. India has substantial expertise in addressing such issues and is uniquely placed to make a positive contribution in assisting the Arctic’s indigenous communities cope with similar challenges”.8)

India expects that ice free conditions in the Arctic would soon result in the “opening of new shipping routes and thereby lowering costs and reshaping global trade. Traffic, especially through the Northern Sea Route, is rising exponentially and is projected to quadruple by 2025.” The draft policy also seeks to “explore the possibility of linking the International North South Transport Corridor with the Unified Deep-Water System and its further extension to the Arctic.” India expects that “the North-South connectivity will result in lowering shipping costs and overall development of the hinterland and of indigenous communities more than East-West connectivity.”

India is well aware of the fact that the Arctic governance is very crucial in the geopolitical milieu and the region itself is “governed by numerous national domestic laws, bilateral agreements, global treaties and conventions and customary laws for the indigenous peoples.” Hence the Arctic states’ “respective sovereign jurisdictions as well as areas beyond national jurisdiction” need to be reckoned within the framework of international and national regulations.

India put together the IAP at a crucial time of global and regional power realignments, even in the midst of the pandemic. It was in 2018 that China declared itself a ‘Near Arctic State’ and brought out a white paper outlining its plans for the region. Though China does not have territorial sovereignty and related sovereign rights in the Arctic, it has been eager to establish a foothold in the region with its self-professed identity as a ‘near-Arctic state.’ The strategic significance of China’s Arctic Policy (2018) outlined through its white paper cannot be glossed over. It underscores that the Arctic is a region having “global implications and international impacts.” Referring to the Arctic situation, the white paper says that the geopolitical scenario “goes beyond its original inter-Arctic States or regional nature, having a vital bearing on the interests of States outside the region and the interests of the international community as a whole, as well as on the survival, the development, and the shared future for mankind”.9) China has also gone to the extent of conceding, perhaps for the first time, that its interests in the Arctic region cannot be limited to ‘scientific research’ but would move to an array of commercial activities. This obviously becomes a part of its project to build a ‘Polar Silk Road’ that links China with Europe through the Arctic and fits in with the new ‘blue ocean passages’ extending from Beijing’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR), put in place in 2013.10) A document by the European Parliament Think Tank (EPTT) says that “China’s Arctic policy suggests a strong desire to push for the internationalisation of the Arctic’s regional governance system. The white paper is not a strategy document, and is more interesting for what it omits, such as the national security dimension that is a major driver of China’s Arctic ambitions”.11) By calling itself as a “responsible major country,” China, however, tries to dispel concerns of the Arctic or non-Arctic states—about the extent of its geopolitical ambitions in the region—by emphasising Beijing’s “commitment to international law and cooperation and balancing economic interests with environmental protection” as EPTT pointed out.

The Contours of India’s Arctic Policy

For use in electric cars and thermonuclear weapons, Rosatom plans for lithium mining on the Kola Peninsula

The world’s hunger for lithium-ion batteries is sky-rocketing as the car industry rapidly changes from combustion engines to electric powertrains. A carbon-free future will additionally require huge amounts of batteries to store wind and solar power on the grid.

Data collected by Bloomberg shows how demand for lithium-ion batteries will surge from roughly 526 gigawatt hours in 2020 a predicted 9,300 gigawatt hours by 2030. To meet the demand, annual production of lithium carbonate should be boosted from today’s 520,000 metric tons existing mining capacity up to 2,8 million metric tons by 2028, a study by Rystad Energy suggests.

The study warns of the risk of a significant supply deficit from 2026-2027 unless new minings are started.

It is Atomredmedzoloto (ARMZ), the mining subsidiary of state nuclear power company Rosatom, that plans to start producing lithium compounds on both the Kola Peninsula and in Irkutsk region in Siberia, newspaper Kommersant reports on Thursday.

Investments in the Russian lithium mining projects are estimated at over 50 billion rubles (€570 million), ARMZ Business Development Director Russian Dimukhamedov told Kommersant.

Dimukhamedov said he counts on government support measures like tax benefits, removal of administrative restrictions and assistance to attract long-term project financing.

ARMZ does not identify where on the Kola Peninsula such lithium mining is planned, but a well-known geological area with huge amounts of rich spodumene pegmatites of lithium is the Kolmozero deposit, halfway between the Khibiy mountain plateau and the coast to the Barents Sea.

For use in electric cars and thermonuclear weapons, Rosatom plans for lithium mining on the Kola Peninsula