A Russian court ruled that MMC Norilsk Nickel should pay 146-billion rubles ($1.95-billion) in compensation for an Arctic fuel spill, RIA Novosti said, in line with a demand by the nation’s ecological watchdog.
In July, the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources, known as Rosprirodnadzor, asked Nornickel to pay 148 billion rubles to cover damage caused by the massive spill from one of its fuel tanks. The miner disagreed with the watchdog’s estimate, saying it didn’t account for fuel the company had recovered and other restoration works. Nornickel told the court its own compensation estimate was 21.4-billion rubles.
RIA Novosti reported Friday’s figure from the court room.
While Nornickel has the right to appeal, the court ruling could pave the way for Russia’s largest environmental penalty and may weigh on the company’s dividend prospects. Those payouts have been the source of tension between the miner’s largest shareholders, with United Co. Rusal International PJSC using the dividends to service its debt.
The miner initially blamed melting permafrost for the collapse of the fuel tank but an investigation by the regulator found faults in its construction and maintenance. The watchdog also said the 30-year-old tank had resumed operations in 2019, following repairs, without proper permission.
Nornickel has pledged to replace dangerous infrastructure and invest in monitoring thawing permafrost in the Arctic. The miner has spent more than 12-billion rubles cleaning up the area impacted by the spill.