The outlet from the Nornickel nickel smelting plant in Nikel has made many different influences on the surrounding through the years. Therefore, the closure of this production can have a positive impact on the environment, according to the Norwegian Institute for Bioeconomy Research.

The closing of Nornickel nickel smelting plant will lead to the recovery of nature. Photograph: Kola MMC

The outlet from the Nornickel nickel smelting plant in Nikel has made many different influences on the surrounding through the years. From a scientific view, it is very interesting to learn about what is happening by the different species, the biodiversity, the ecology and the various processes—both the normal types of processes and the uncommon processes in our adjacent border areas of Norway and Russia—Sør-Varanger and Petchenga.

Paul Eric Asfolm, a researcher at NIBIO Svanhovd or the Norwegian Institute for Bioeconomic Research, told us about this.

Earlier it was reported that Russia’s Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium, closed its smelter in the city of Nickel in northern Russia at the end of 2020. Kola is a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel on the Kola Peninsula with mines, processing plants and pellets in Zapolyarny, as well as metallurgical plants in Monchegorsk and a plant in Nikel, which closed at the end of December 2020.

“From the perspective of nature protection, the stopping of SO2 and other pollutants from the Nickel smelting plant will make nature to recover slowly. Already, there are some changes in nature as a response to the lowering of emissions since the 1990s. The process of recovery is slowly but visible through some decades, for example, horsehair lichens. Further, the common frogs have become more common and the mice (voles) reach a higher number of individuals during the maximum of population cycles,” noted the scientist.

In addition, the cycles of the population are becoming more stable. In the rivers, the toxic effect on the fishes by deformation of the body of fish seems to be better. However, in water, there are still high and even some places higher concentrations of heavy metals as they have started the transportation from the soil into the water systems during the last decades.

“Right should be right, though many, not all the elements come from the Nickel smelter plant. There is also a change in the climate that make various effects of transportation through the nature of the heavy metal and other pollutants. Nature is not always doing as we humans think,” Asfolm said.

One important point of this is that Norwegians and Russians can learn much when working together, and still there is needed a common work in order to solve the future tasks that we will get. Involving local people and researchers and management (at all levels) and business is critical to meet future problems. International (Norwegian Russian) research in the area is important to follow the situation in nature as well as this has huge relevance as the knowledge that can be transferred to other areas on the globe.

Reducing emissions and making cleaner productions by new technologies and important new thinking is important—the better use of the resources is important, for example collecting the copper for the metallurgy instead of letting it blow in the wind, makes the scientist conclusions.