Last update:
2020-02-06

Closure/modernisation of Monchegorsk nickel and copper smelter, Kola peninsula, Russia

Mine tailings and a smelter from the Soviet era still pollute the area around the "monotown" of Monchegorsk. There are prospects for new investments but not remediation of past environmental liabilities.


Description:

Monchegorsk was one of many "monotowns".   Monogorod was the name for the hundreds of industrial cities built specifically around a mining and/or industrial project in Soviet Russia [5]. This is then a case of the unacknowledged socio-environmental liabilities from a past era, that of central-planning industrialization in Russia. Its heritage is in many ways still present. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Closure/modernisation of Monchegorsk nickel and copper smelter, Kola peninsula, Russia
Country:Russian Federation
State or province:Murmansk Oblast
Location of conflict:Monchegorsk
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral processing
Tailings from mines
Metal refineries
Specific commodities:Nickel, Cobalt
Copper
Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Nikel is a small factory town located on the Norwegian border where the Norilsk Nickel plant Kola MMC’s smelting operation is situated. Monchegorsk is another Norilsk Nickel factory [10]. Monchegorsk became the center of Norilsk Nickel’s refining production when the company decided to transferred a part of their production and initiated closing of the Norilsk plant in Nikel in 2016 [10].

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Level of Investment:96,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:01/01/2015
Company names or state enterprises:Nornickel from Russian Federation - Project developer
Severonickel from Russian Federation
Relevant government actors:The Nature Protection Control Authority
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-Action by Nature and Youth https://actionfornature.org/
-Russian Socio-Ecological Union (SEU) http://www.climatenetwork.org/profile/member/russian-socio-ecological-union
-The Barents Observer, a journalist-owned alternative environmental media, based in Norway
- Barents Euro-Arctic Council Working Group on the Environment
- Bellona Foundation NGO Norway based https://network.bellona.org/content/uploads/sites/3/2019/01/NORNICKEL_engl_4_2018_Final.pdf
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Noise pollution, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination
Potential: Fires, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Food insecurity (crop damage), Oil spills, Global warming
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Land dispossession
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Development of alternatives:The alternative decided is to modernise mining and smelters facilities and continue with the development projects. SO2 emissions have been greatly reduced since the 1980s.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Grassroots work is going on in various regions of Russia, including Murmansk. The Russian Socio-Ecological Union (SEU) and Nature and Youth, for example, have been working for a long time, developing networks of climate activists and information resources for NGOs working in the area. But the great damage caused by the old smelter will not be repaired and compensated for.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Living with Socialism: Toward an Archaeology of (post?) Soviet Mining Landscapes, by Anatolijs Venovcevs (UiT: The Arctic University of Norway). Oxford Workshop on the Extractive Industries, December 2019. Draft.

[5] Living with Socialism: Toward an Archaeology of (post?) Soviet Mining Landscapes, by Anatolijs Venovcevs (UiT: The Arctic University of Norway). Oxford Workshop on the Extractive Industries, December 2019. Draft.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] The Barents Observer: Old copper smelter in Monchegorsk faces closure, brand new under consideration
[click to view]

[1]

[2] Nornickel official site: KOLA PENINSULA
[click to view]

[2] Monchegorsk has now the world’s largest nickel refining facility
[click to view]

[3] Bellona (2018): Nornikel and the Kola Peninsula: CHARTING ECOLOGICAL PROGRESS WITHOUT A COMPASS
[click to view]

[3] Bellona: Nornickel and the Kola Peninsula
[click to view]

[4]The Barents Observer: Leader of eco watchdog gets 7 years jail for Norilsk Nickel bribe
[click to view]

[]The Barents Observer: Leader of eco watchdog gets 7 years jail for Norilsk Nickel bribe
[click to view]

[6] Mines and communities 2016: Norwegian politicians and citizens call Norilsk Nikel ‘dirtiest industry in the Arctic’
[click to view]

[7] Open Democracy: We need to find the common ground between climate change and civil society
[click to view]

[8] Helsinki Times: Huge modernisation of the Russian Nornickel’s Kola MMC will improve ecology
[click to view]

[9] Bellona 2019: Major Russia polluter begins shutting down harmful smelting works near Murmansk
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:ENVJUST PROJECT ICTA-UAB (JMA & KH)
Last update06/02/2020
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