Norilsk: A blood red river runs through it

A river near the city of Norilsk in Siberia, the eponymous home of the world’s top nickel and palladium producer, turned blood red recently with various social media outlets posting pictures of the crimson flood.

In a statement updated on Friday, Norilsk Nickel denied that accidental discharge or leaking from a nearby processing plant is responsible for turning the Daldykan river red, but said it would be reducing production at the smelter and conduct tests.

Russia’s natural resources and environment ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it too was investigating the event which was possibly caused by a break in the mining company’s slurry pipe carrying concentrate to the plant. The city of Norilsk does not rely on the Daldykan river for drinking water.

Norilsk is a top ten mining company with its ADRs trading in New York affording the company a $25 billion market value. The company produces roughly a fifth of the world’s nickel, mainly used in steelmaking, and half the world’s palladium used in autocatalysts to reduce emissions. Its operations in Russia, Australia, Botswana and South Africa also produce significant quantities of copper and cobalt, platinum, gold and silver as byproducts.

The town of Norilsk is located in the Arctic circle with a population of 100,000. Construction started in 1936 after the discovery of the rich nickel deposit and today most inhabitants of the isolated city work in the metal and mining industry.

Click here for a fascinating photo essay of life in Norilsk by the Meduza project.