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Massive Fire Engulfs Waste Landfill Near Russia's Norilsk

A worker takes part in a clean-up operation following a massive fuel spill in the Ambarnaya River outside Norilsk on June 15. The area has been hit by a number of environmental catastrophes in the past month.

An industrial-waste landfill near the Russian city of Norilsk caught fire on June 29, in the third environmental disaster to hit the area around the Siberian Arctic city in a month.

Civil defense authorities said the 1,000-square-meter fire at the solid=-ndustrial-waste landfill was later contained as smoke billowed out over the tundra.

The landfill is located several kilometers from residential areas.

The incident follows two environmental disasters near the industrial city, home to Norilsk Nickel, the world's leading nickel and palladium producer.

On June 28, Norilsk Nickel admitted one of its plants pumped wastewater from a reservoir into the fragile Arctic environment and that it has suspended the responsible employees.

Greenpeace Russia released photos of the illegal dump it said likely contained heavy metals, surfactants, and sulfurous acid.

The nongovernmental environment group said that satellite images suggest Norilsk Nickel workers regularly engage in such discharges.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said it opened an enquiry after receiving reports of the "unauthorized dumping of liquid waste into the tundra" on the site of the facility.

In what has been described as the worst environmental disaster to impact the Arctic, on May 29 more than 21,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into the soil, two rivers, and a downstream lake after a storage tank at a Norilsk Nickel-operated power plant collapsed or sank due to the thawing permafrost soil.

Two plant managers and two top engineers have been arrested on suspicion of violating environmental-protection rules. The mayor of Norilsk and a government inspector have also been charged with negligence.

President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency after the incident and Norilsk Nickel promised to pay the costs of the cleanup, estimated at 10 billion rubles ($145 million).

Norilsk Nickel is own by Russia’s richest man, Vladimir Potanin.

Local officials and environmental groups say it could take years for the environment to recover from the fuel spill.

With reporting by dpa and Interfax
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