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US offers help with Nornickel’s Arctic fuel spill, Russia thankful

Spill area. (Image courtesy of Nornickel).

Russia’s Vice-minister for Emergencies, Alexandr Chupriyan, expressed gratitude to the countries that have offered to help with the fuel spill in Siberia in which 20,000 tons of diesel leaked from a reservoir owned by MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC.

The breach at the Heat and Power Plant № 3 (HPP-3) took place on May 29, 2020. The plant is operated by Norilsk Nickel’s subsidiary Norilsk-Taymyr Energy Company and it is located in the remote Kayerkan neighborhood in the city of Norilsk.

Greenpeace said the accident was the largest ever in the Arctic region and likened it to the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska in 1989

According to Nornickel, the accident was caused by a sudden sinking of supporting posts in the basement of the storage tank. The company has suggested this could be the result of damage from melting permafrost due to the speedy rate at which the Arctic has been warming in recent years.

Talking to state-owned news agency Sputnik, Minister Chupriyan said that, despite the seriousness of the situation, things are under control. Thus, even though his government is thankful to those that have reached out offering help, it may not be necessary at this point.

“At present, we have enough strength and resources to use them in an efficient and expeditious manner,” the official is quoted as saying.

Chupriyan’s words followed an offer to help from the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Saturday tweeted that despite his country’s disagreements with Russia, the Trump administration was ready to provide support.

On June 5 and following the declaration of a state of emergency in the region, Russian authorities said the spill was under control. They had mobilized some 500 people and 200 pieces of equipment to mitigate the damage caused by the leak, which polluted land and rivers that drain into a lake linked to the Kara Sea. 

Norilsk Nickel, on the other hand, mobilized 250 personnel and 72 equipment items. As of June 7, 2020, absorbent materials had been spread out on a 22,600 square meter-surface and 50,000 tons of contaminated soil had been recovered from the area surrounding the thermoelectric plant.

The company also said that almost 950 cubic meters of a mixture of water and fuel had been recovered from the Ambarnaya river, which will be stored in seven tanks placed on the riverside. 

Special containment devices were also placed near the mouth of the Ambarka river to collect any oil products and prevent them from spreading further.

According to Greenpeace Russia, the costs of damage to the water bodies may amount to more than $146 million.