How Nornickel Became the Arctic’s Biggest Polluter (VTimes/Moscow Times – September 28, 2020)

One Russian company releases more sulfur dioxide into the air than the whole of the U.S.

Ecologists often joke that Europe owes its clean skies to the dirty sky of Norilsk — and there’s more than a shred of truth in this assertion.

The Nornickel mining and metallurgical company supplies metals to 37 countries, where they are used in the production of electric cars, electricity stations and solar panels.

But in the process of extracting all these environmentally valuable metals, Nornickel systemically pollutes the surrounding nature with sulfur dioxide (SO2). Toxic in high doses, this gas causes choking, coughing, pulmonary edema, and (according to the WHO) increases the frequency of respiratory tract diseases.

Sulfur dioxide makes up 98% of all the company’s emissions (according to data from Nornickel itself). It is formed during the processing of sulfide ores, in which metals are combined with sulfur.

According to Igor Shkradyuk, coordinator of the environmental industry program at the Center for the Protection of Wild Nature, it is difficult to understand from the mining company’s reports what precise proportion is currently recovered, but more than 80% of sulfur dioxide definitely escapes into the atmosphere.

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