One year after the Norilsk Nickel accident (May 29)
Indigenous communities of Siberia divided (Press Release)
Climate change is already causing environmental catastrophes – especially where environmental and safety standards are not respected. One year ago (on May 29, 2020), an accident occurred on the Taimyr peninsula: a diesel tank of the company Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) burst after the permafrost had thawed, causing support pillars to sink into the ground. "Not only did the leak lead to a contamination of large areas of water, on which the local fishermen of the Nenets and the Dolgans are dependent," stated Yvonne Bangert, STP expert on indigenous peoples, "…but the inadequate processing of the disaster is now also causing social upheavals within the indigenous communities."
Nornickel closed a deal with Raipon, a state-affiliated organization that represents indigenous communities, and compensation payments can only be requested through this organization. "Critical representatives of the indigenous communities were not heard. From their point of view, the compensation payments are a means to silence those affected," Bangert stated. In 2012, the formerly independent organization Raipon had been banned from work by the Russian Ministry of Justice – allegedly because of violations of its statutes. After it reopened, it was placed under state-affiliated management. Meanwhile, oppositional indigenous groups are getting organized via the Aborigen Forum or the Batani Foundation. Both, however, are not able to work freely in Russia. In 2016, Pavel Sulyandziga, President of the Batani Foundation, was declared a foreign agent. He and several of his fellow campaigners are now living in exile, as Siberia is not safe any more. The organization was banned in Russia.
Recently, on May 17 of this year, another leak from a similar tank had become known. The extent of the leak is not yet clear. "This shows that the extraction of natural resources in fragile ecosystems is always risky," Bangert emphasized. "And the risks are especially problematic for the indigenous communities, whose lifestyle is just as fragile, as it was fine-tuned to the ecosystem over the course of thousands of years."
It was a positive signal that Deutsche Bank announced in 2020 that it would no longer finance oil and gas production projects in the Arctic in the future. However, the German Commerzbank continues to finance Nornickel. When asked about the cooperation with the Russian corporation, the financial institution refused to give the STP any details.