THE world’s largest nickel producer, Norilsk Nickel, has admitted responsibility for the leak of iron salts which caused the Daldykan river, near Norilsk, Russia, to turn a blood red colour last week.
The company says abnormally heavy rain in the region on 5 September caused an overflow of one of the dikes in the tailings dam – used to store byproducts of mining operations – releasing wastewater containing iron salts into the river.
“Short-term river colour staining…presents no hazards for people and river fauna,” the company assured in a statement.
The company had previously denied the pollution was due to plant operations. The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources launched an investigation into the incident after pictures of the red river were taken by local residents and posted to social media.
The government investigation is ongoing, and no updates have been issued.
Norilsk Nickel said it has been upgrading the tailings dam and pipelines at the Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant (NMP), the last section of which was completed yesterday. The company said it will take all necessary action to prevent any future incidents.
Greenpeace Russia activist Alexei Kiselyov told The Guardian it is too early to judge the environmental impact.
“You can't just say that it's no big deal, Right now there is a ministry of environment commission there,” he said.
He added that Norilsk Nickel’s infrastructure is located in remote areas and the company controls access to the entire Taymyr Peninsula, hampering investigations into pollution from its plants.
The region surrounding Norilsk has historically been referred to as one of the most polluted regions, due to mining activities.
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