NORILSK, Russia — Representatives of the indigenous peoples of Russia’s far northern Taimyr Peninsula have marched against operations of the world’s largest palladium and nickel producer — Nornickel.
Dozens of members of the Nenets, Nganasans, Dolgans, and Enets communities marched in traditional dress across the industrial Arctic city of Norilsk on August 12, saying their rights are being violated by local officials and large businesses — including Nornickel — operating in the region.
The protest lasted for more than an hour with many residents of the city joining the protesters.
“August 9 was marked in the world as the Day of Indigenous Peoples, but we have nothing to celebrate. We are deprived of our rights to fish and hunt on the territories that we inherited from our ancestors and that are currently being exploited by companies that have enormous sums of money to ‘win’ tenders on our lands,” one of the leaders of the group, Valeria Bolgova, told RFE/RL.
The protesters also charge that the authorities have blocked indigenous people from areas that have been designated as industrial zones.
They also complain that industrial companies like Nornickel have fouled the local environment with their operations, impacting their traditional way of life.
Police briefly stopped the marchers on the grounds the event was not sanctioned but let them continue after deeming it to be peaceful and not an anti-government demonstration.
In early August, indigenous peoples of Russia’s North, Siberia, and Far East wrote a letter to the founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, urging him to postpone plans to purchase nickel from Nornickel until an environmental impact study of the company’s activities on the local environment is published.
On May 29, some 21,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into a river and Pyasino Lake near Norilsk from the reservoir of Nornickel’s thermal power plant.
Russia’s ecology watchdog, Rosprirodnadzor, has estimated the damage from the spill at $2 billion.
Last month, Nornickel reported that another 45 tons of fuel spilled into the local waters in the Arctic from its aviation fuel pipeline.