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Russian Company Pays Largest Legal Award In History -- Almost $2 Billion -- For Devastating Arctic Fuel Spill

The Norilsk River following the massive spill
The Norilsk River following the massive spill

Russian metallurgical giant Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) has fully paid off more than 146 billion rubles ($1.97 billion) in damages for a spill that dumped thousands of tons of diesel fuel into the Russian Arctic last year.

The company -- owned by Russia's richest man, Vladimir Potanin -- said in a statement on March 10 that its subsidiary, Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company (NTEK), had received the sum from Nornickel and paid all fees that were due in full.

Last month, the Krasnoyarsk City Court of Arbitration ruled that almost all of the sum, the largest legal award in Russian history, must go to the federal treasury, while around 1.3 billion rubles ($17.5 million) must go the budget of the city of Norilsk, where more than 21,000 tons of diesel leaked into the environment from a tank at NTEK's thermal power plant in May last year.

Russia's environmental watchdog, Rosprirodnadzor, originally sought 148 billion rubles from Norilsk in compensation for the spill, one of the world’s worst Arctic ecological disasters.

Nornickel, the world's leading nickel and palladium producer, had said the leak was caused by pillars supporting a storage tank sinking due to thawing permafrost soil.

However, in November, Russia's nuclear and environmental watchdog, Rostechnadzor, concluded that the disaster was caused by “interrelated technical and organizational violations committed both at the stage of tank construction and during its operation.”

In the wake of the disaster, President Vladimir Putin ordered a state of emergency after the extent of the spill became known.

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax

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