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Russian Fisheries Agency Seeks Damages From Metallurgical Giant For Arctic Fuel Spill

A dead fish washes up on the banks of the Ambarnaya River outside Norilsk following a 2020 oil spill there that caused extensive damage.

Russia's state fisheries agency has filed a claim for 58.7 billion rubles in damages, or about $800 million, from the Russian firm Nornickel over an Arctic fuel spill in 2020.

The state fisheries agency Rosrybolovstvo filed the claim against Nornickel, which has already paid $2 billion for environmental damage caused by the leak of 21,000 tons of diesel fuel at its power plant in Norilsk in May 2020.

The spill, one of the world’s worst Arctic ecological disasters, leaked into the soil, two rivers, and a downstream lake after a storage tank at a Nornickel-operated power plant collapsed or sank due to what the company said was thawing permafrost.

A Rosrybolovstvo statement quoted by Reuters on July 29 put the cost of work to restore aquatic bioresources at more than 55 billion rubles ($750 million) and estimated direct damage caused by the death of fish at 3.6 billion rubles ($49 million).

Nornickel, the world's leading nickel and palladium producer, said the agency’s estimates were “overstated” and it would challenge Rosrybolovstvo's claim for damages and the methodology used to calculate the amounts in court.

The agency's damage estimates are "many times the estimates prepared by specialized scientific institutes, which have assessed the impact of this incident on aquatic bioresources," the company said in a statement.

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

Weeks after the spill, the company unveiled a long-term program to monitor permafrost and remedy environmental damage, saying it now has a greater challenge due to climate change and its impact on the Arctic region.

With reporting by Reuters
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