Russia’s Nikel smelting plant is slated for closure in late 2020

Nornickel is likely to gradually reduce production and employees at the nickel smelter over the next year.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - November 13, 2019
A worker walks past Nornickel’s plant in Nikel. (Atle Staalesen / The Independent Barents Observer)

Russian mining and smelting giant Nornickel plans to close its nickel smelting plant in the border town of Nikel. A gradual halt in production is likely before the company fully closes its smelter near the Russian border with Norway and Finland.

Employees have started to get notice from Nornickel about re-employment in other company units in Zapolyarny, Monchegorsk, as well as the far away Norilsk and Bystrinsky project.

The closure is due to take place by year 2021, a plant worker named Sergey told the Barents Observer.

[As a Russian nickel plant faces closure, locals fear for their town’s future]

The time schedule is confirmed by representatives of Kola MMC, the regional subsidiary of Nornickel. The plant equipment will stepwise be taken out of operation and parts of the plant will continue production until the full dismantling of the furnaces, the company says to SeverPost.

The process is planned to be completed by the end of year 2020.

The number of people working at the plant is due to gradually reduced in the course of the period.

The Russian town of Nikel, located just few kilometers from Norway and Finland, has about 11,600 residents. (Atle Staalesen / The Independent Barents Observer)

According to the company, the preferences of the employees will carefully be mapped in the course of the next couple of months. Based on the results of the surveys, a set of support measures will be elaborated, SeverPost reports.

The measures will take into account the various life situations of the employees and their individual needs, Nornickel says to the news agency.

Nornickel is the world’s leading producer of nickel. In the first nine months of 2019, the company produced a total of 166,948 tons, a 6 percent year-on-year increase from 2018. The company plants in the Kola Peninsula accounted for 120,513 tons of the production, a survey from the company shows.

At the same time, financial results show major revenues. In the first nine months of the year, Nornickel intends to pay $1.5 billion in dividends to owners.

Nornickel President Vladimir Potanin is biggest shareholder with a 32.9 percent stake.

The closure in Nikel is likely to result in a significant population decline in the municipality of Pechenga. On Jan. 1, 2019, the local population totaled 37,129. That included 11,672 inhabitants in Nikel and 14,902 people in nearby Zapolyarny.