Putin: Nornickel should bear responsibility for Arctic fuel spill

"One has to answer for what has been done," the Russian president said during his annual press conference.

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The logo of Russia’s miner Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) is seen on a board at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017 (SPIEF 2017) in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 1, 2017. (Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters file photo)

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that nickel and palladium producer Norilsk Nickel should bear responsibility for a major fuel spill at a power station in the Russian Arctic earlier this year.

The spill released 21,000 tonnes of diesel into rivers and subsoil from a fuel tank near the city of Norilsk in May. Greenpeace has compared the incident to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska. Putin voiced fury over the leak in June.

“As to Nornickel, I do not interfere, I just know that the demands on Nornickel are very high. Well, one has to answer for what has been done,” Putin said in his annual press conference on Thursday.

Nornickel is in dispute with the country’s environment watchdog, which filed a lawsuit against Nornickel’s power business to claim $2 billion for the spill damage. The next court hearing in the case is due on Dec. 24.

[Technical issues, not permafrost, to blame for Arctic fuel spill, says Russian environment watchdog]

“In Norilsk (city) itself, of course the company should pay more attention to environmental issues and be more attentive to what is happening to emissions,” Putin added.

Nornickel updated its environmental investment plans and output growth strategy earlier in December. They will require more than $27 billion within the next 10 years, including $5.5 billion for environment projects.

It plans to upgrade 60 percent of its energy infrastructure by 2030 and target a significant reduction in sulphur dioxide emissions in the Norilsk area by 2025.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Anastasia Lyrchikova and Alexander Marrow; writing by Polina Devitt.