Yet another mega project is planned in the Arctic. Naemly, the Palladium project, which involves development of several platinum-group metal deposits  . Agreed in 2018 between Russian Platinum and Norilsk Nickel, the new project will be launched in 2024  .
The long-term agreement is expected to be signed by the end of 2021 (given the COVID-19 pandemic). The project involves the development of several platinum-group metal deposits on Taimyr Peninsula (north of the Krasnoyarsk Territory) and investments are to be made soon.
Palladium is an expensive metal. Catalytic converters contain higher concentrations of precious metals These metals — platinum, palladium and rhodium — are used in converters to capture noxious gases as they flow through a car's exhaust system, particularly hybrid cars.
This project is expected to turn Russia into the world’s top producer of platinum metals. The deposits bear almost 5000 tonns of platinum group metals with a production potential of 120 tons per year . Russia will produce more palladium than all other countries combined together. In fact, the reserve holds more than 300 tonnes of this extremely rare metal. Palladium is currently more expensive than gold after a significant price rise in recent years. Namely, $1,800 per ounce   .
Palladium is a white shining metal and one of the six platinum-group metals along with ruthenium, rhodium, osmium, iridium and platinum. Palladium is a key material used for catalytic converters in electric cars, where it filters pollutants. It is also used in electronics, dentistry and jewelry. The metal is mined primarily in Russia and South Africa, and mostly extracted as a secondary product from operations that are focused on other metals, such as platinum or nickel .
In order to produce 120 tons a year of palladium the mine(s) will open by company Russian Platinum, on Chernogorskoye field in the Taymyr Peninsula, near the nickel fields of Nornickel. Ore reserves are estimated to last for 55 years . The project includes the building of a ore processing plant with 7 million tons capacity per year.
The metals will be shipped out of Russia through the Northern Sea route, the much-hyped and state-supported Arctic transport corridor (also used in the Yamal mega gas project) . The resources are planned to be extracted through an open pit and a nearby processing plant and a new smelter will be built . In addition to palladium, the field(s) hold large resources of nickel and copper .
Indigenous activists, however, expressed their concerns regarding the project in general and Nornickel company in particular, as the company is historically related to pollution projects and disempowerment of indigenous communities of the Russian arctic, and beyond .
10,000 indigenous people live on the Taymyr Peninsula, where Norilsk is located. Nornickel also has a production site in Russia’s eastern Kola Peninsula where the Saami people live. In both regions, pollution by the company is seen as a direct threat to the indigenous way of life .
“If you invest in a company doing dodgy business that violates human rights and land rights, you should be prepared to bear shared responsibility for what is going on at the local level” .
Therefore, activists travelled more than 4,800 kilometres to Switzerland. Their aim was to call attention to the lasting consequences of one of the largest oil spills in their country's history related to Nornickel company, among others .
They demanded Swiss banks to use their influence to push the company responsible to protect the environment and properly consult indigenous communities . A similar protest form was used in the case related to Tesla battery metals from Nornickel, Talnakh, Arctic Russia (see related case in the EJAtlas).
Now, there is a concern that the company will reproduce business as usual at the expense of Indigenous people and their lands, because Nornickel extracts and produces metals is "essential" to the booming electric car industry .
Banks assured and stated that “We will not do business if associated with severe environmental or social damage to or through the use among others breaches of indigenous peoples” . Activists hoped these consultations would push Nornickel to change course in their business .
Also, scientists from Russia’s Academy of Sciences have embarked on a comprehensive study of the ecosystems and environment of the Arctic in an expedition to the Taymyr Peninsula at the invitation of the Russian mining giant, Nornickel, to find viable, sustainable environmental solutions to local problems .
Finally, Nornickel announced that there has been cooperation agreements with three organizations representing the indigenous peoples of the Taimyr Peninsula and that they developed a joint and comprehensive, five-year support programme totalling 2 billion roubles, to support indigenous people living across the Taimyr Peninsula [11, 14].
However, Indigenous activists of the Batani Foundation stated that "This is just an example of Nornickel buying influence". “Why would they negotiate with those they cannot influence when they can simply buy the loyalty of others”, one of the activists said .
“They are used to dictate conditions to everyone in Russia in general, and in Taimyr in particular "Nornickel is the Tsar and the God at the same time” .
Batani Foundation, an international fund created to support Indigenous peoples in the Russian north . The group supports communities protesting mineral extraction and industrial pollution on indigenous land and which has always been a "thorn in the eye of authorities" . The Russian government declared Batani Foundation a foreign agent in 2015 and two years later, the organization was liquidated by the Moscow city court after a demand from the Ministry of Justice .
“Those who ask inconvenient questions, about various violations and problems, are simply excluded", activists stated.
Together with 35 other organizations and entities working with Indigenous peoples rights and environment, the Batani Foundation has sent an urgent call to both international banking and credit institutions and buyers of metals from Nornickel .