In solidarity with Indigenous peoples from Russia and worldwide, we call on finance institutions and companies working with Nornickel (Norilsk Nickel) to demand respect for Indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental protection from their business partners. This includes asking green energy companies and international finance institutions to uphold Indigenous rights in the global supply chain by not sourcing nickel mined by Nornickel or financing Nornickel operations until the company demonstrates its ability to address standards set out by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
In doing so, we stand united with “Batani,” an international Indigenous fund for development and solidarity and “Aborigen Forum,” an informal association of experts, activists, leaders and organizations of Indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation. Together with 35 other organizations and entities working with Indigenous peoples to protect Indigenous rights and the environment, the Batani Fund has sent an urgent call to both international banking and credit institutions and buyers of metals from Nornickel, including BASF, Union Bank of Switzerland, and Credit Suisse Bank.
The next industrial revolution of electric cars and clean energy should not be pursued at the price of Indigenous peoples’ rights and traditional lands. Nickel is a key ingredient in the cathodes of electric car batteries, allowing them to store more energy more cheaply. Nornickel produces one third of the global supply of nickel, and operates some of world’s largest factories for copper and cobalt. Yet, Nornickel its widely known for its failures on environmental and human rights issues, resulting in significant negative consequences for Indigenous peoples in Russia.
The Indigenous small-numbered peoples of the Arctic have been living in the Taymyr Peninsula and Murmansk Oblast for generations. The Sámi, Nenets, Nganasan, Enets, Dolgan and Evenk communities continue to practice their traditional way of life, and depend on a healthy environment for their subsistence. These communities suffer as a result of negative impacts from Nornickel operations on their reindeer herding, hunting, fishing, and other economic and activities, as well as their physical health and well-being.
For decades, pollution from Norilsk factories has ranked at top levels for global air pollution. Publicly available information demonstrates significant reliability and reputational problems with Nornickel. In 2009, the Norwegian Pension Fund, one of the world’s largest investors, blacklisted Nornickel due to “severe environmental damage”, with other financial institutions like Actiam and Skandia following. Furthermore, the company has a well-documented history of making empty promises to improve its operations and engaging in corruption.
On May 29, 2020, a massive oil spill occurred when a Nornickel power plant flooded local rivers with up to 21,000 tons of diesel oil. The incident was the second-largest environmental disaster in the Arctic region, after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. The diesel oil polluted major bodies of water, which serve several Indigenous communities as a source of drinking water and as fishing grounds. One year later, those communities still face a shortage of food and are not able to pursue economic activities like trading fish and meat, and their traditional way of life as they could before the catastrophe.
Following this oil spill, a Russian court levied the highest fine ever imposed in Russia for environmental crimes on Nornickel. However, compensation was not paid to all those affected, and not in the amount promised. Further, Nornickel has refused to engage in dialogue with Indigenous community leaders expressing concerns about its operations, and has been unwilling to include Indigenous community demands into company plans for mitigating pollution from the spill.
These requests are particularly important to youth leaders, who are dedicated to a just transition towards an emerging green economy. It is the next generation that will pay the highest price for continuing business as usual with companies that have proven records of environmental and human rights violations. And advocating in solidarity with Indigenous peoples is part of the Green New Deal that young people are looking for in their support for more socially and environmentally responsible business practices.
We therefore respectfully reiterate our request for companies and financial institutions to not engage in business relations or professional contracts with Nornickel until company compliance with internationally recognized social and environmental standards, including UNDRIP standards on free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), can be clearly established and validated.
Sign the letter HERE