Norway fund kicks out Norilsk Nickel over Siberian pollution controversy

Blacklisting follows 21-page report from Council of Ethics.

Norway’s NOK2,385bn (€280bn) Government Pension Fund has excluded Norilsk Nickel, the Russian metallurgical and mining company, from its investment portfolio after its Council on Ethics accused the company of causing serious environmental damage at its Siberia operations, close to the border with Norway. The Norwegian Ministry of Finance said the fund had sold a NOK312m (€37m) stake in the company between August 31 and October 31. The blacklisting follows a 21-page recommendation by the Council to the Ministry in February this year, which criticised high emissions of sulphur dioxide and heavy metals at Norilsk Nickel’s operations in the Taymyr Peninsula in Siberia. The Council of Ethics said Norilsk Nickel’s activities had “inflicted extensive, lasting damage on the environment, which the forest, vegetation and waters surrounding the operations clearly bear signs of.” The mining pollution issue in Siberia has been a contentious issue in Norway–Russia relations over several decades.
The Ministry of Finance said in a statement: “The Council on Ethics finds it probable that Norilsk’s operations are contributing to extensive environmental damage that will have effects far into the future. This is deemed to be in breach of the ethical guidelines for the fund.” It added: “The Council finds that the emissions from the company are the direct cause of forest death and other serious,visible damage to the natural environment in the Norilsk area on the Taymyr Peninsula.” The local population of more than 200,000 “are continuously exposed to high concentrations of pollutants in the air, soil and water”. The ministry said that Norilsk had acknowledged that the environmental damage was severe and had claimed that a plan to cut emissions was succeeding. Norilsk argues that a speedy and effective solution of the environmental problems is impossible without shutting down its Siberian operations for a long time.
The Council said that Norilsk’s claims were difficult to check and that the company’s targets were “unrealistic”. It said it viewed Norilsk’s actions so far as inadequate.
Norilsk says on its website that it “adheres to principles of ecological accountability and does not conceal its ecological problems from the public” and that it is in compliance with the ISO14001:2004 ecological management standard. “Recognising the scale and complexity of the environmental issues that face the company, MMC Norilsk Nickel is intent on the gradual reduction, and, where possible, the prevention of the effect of its production activities on the environment,” the company states.
The boycott brings to 31 the number of companies excluded by the Norwegian fund.