By investing large sums and signing long contracts, the Russian mining giant is here to preserve the presence of Indigenous people.

The Nganasan Folklore Group performing in Helsinki in 2018. The Nganasan people are recognized as one of the Indigenous people of the Russian north. Photograph: Ninara/Flickr

“We do everything possible to preserve the culture, lifestyle and traditions in the territories of the Norilsk industrial region and in Taimyr,” said Andrey Grachev, the vice president for federal and regional programs at Nornickel (Norilsk Nickel), the Russian palladium mining and smelting company.

Grachev was speaking in a discussion panel at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Saturday where representatives of industries indulged in dialogue with leaders of the communities of Indigenous people.

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At the beginning of his speech, Grachev highlighted a five-year support program for the Taimyr’s and Krasnoyark’s Indigenous people re-established last year, with a budget of two billion Russian rubles (€22.5 million). The program is based on the suggestions of some of the largest ethnic minority communities living in the Taimyr Peninsula, Far North of Russia.

While the program, according to Grachev, includes massive housing projects such as constructing 18 apartment buildings and establishing shops to produce fish, an important aspect is the “humanitarian component.” “We understand very well that if people are losing their language and culture, they lose their territory. That is a direct route to extinction,” he said.

As an example of Nornickel’s efforts to cherish minority languages, Grachev pulled out an ABC book in a Uralic language of Entsy, the first of its kind, created with the financial assistance of Nornickel.

The Sami people have not been forgotten either.

In March this year, Grachev met with Elena Rocheva, the president of the Kola Sami Association, to discuss ways to extend the company’s aid to Russia’s northwest Indigenous communities.

Previously, Nornickel has provided support for the publication of the Almanac of Sami Literature and in 2020 it helped create a memorial dedicated to the soldiers of the Sami reindeer transport battalions, which defended the Soviet Arctic in World War II.

The parties agreed to prepare a cooperation agreement between Nornickel and several Sami organizations in the Murmansk region.

 “We understand that we are not present with our facilities where the Sami people live,” Grachev said. “But being a socially responsible company, we decided to do that in order to systematize our agreements.”

Nornickel (Norilsk Nickel) is the world’s largest producer of refined nickel and palladium with a refinery in Harjavalta, Western Finland.

Earlier in April, the company announced plans to increase sustainable nickel and cobalt production in Harjavalta in response to the growing European demand for high quality and responsibly sourced metals for the electric vehicles industry.