Production waste

The Company reuses most of its industrial waste as approximately 96% of the waste generated are class 5, i.e. non-hazardous waste. This is mostly waste from the mining and smelting operations, including rock and overburden, tailings, and metallurgical slagsSlag — melted or solid substance with a varying composition that covers the surface of a liquid product during metallurgical processes (resulting from ore mixture melting, melted intermediate processing and metal refining) and includes waste rock, fluxes, fuel ash, metal sulphides and oxides, and products of interaction between the processed materials and lining of melting units.. Ore extraction waste is used as backfill for underground workings and open pits, road fill, or for tailings dam reinforcement. In 2019, Nornickel reused about 63% of all waste (70% in 2018), with the balance turned over to specialised contractors for reuse or decontamination. Higher waste generation in 2019 was due to increased processing volumes.

Waste generation by hazard class (kt)
Hazard class 2017 2018 2019
V 30,722 29,517 35,300
IV 1,190 1,191 1,115
III 12 15 5
II 2.4 1.1 0.03
I 0.1 0.1 0.04
Total 31,926 30,725 36,420

Tailing dumps

Nornickel currently operates six tailing dumps: four in the Polar Division and Medvezhy Ruchey, taking tailings from Talnakh and Norilsk concentrators and Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant; one at Kola MMC, storing tailings from Zapolyarny Concentrator; and Bystrinsky GOK tailing dump.

Nornickel acts responsibly to ensure tailing dump safety and monitors the condition of tailing dump hydraulic structures and the environment within the dump sites and affected areas on a regular basis. In line with governmental requirements, Nornickel has developed safety criteria each operating tailings facility is required to meet and got them approved by supervisory authorities. Primary oversight is provided by the Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service of Russia (Rostechnadzor).

Hydraulic structures are subject to comprehensive audits every five years, with mandatory prior preparation of the hydraulic structure safety declarations. The declarations are produced by an independent expert agency accredited by Rostechnadzor only after detailed inspections of the hydraulic structures.

All tailings facilities operated by Nornickel are situated far from production sites and human settlements. Potential damage estimates made for a safety declaration show minimum risks of adverse impact on communities, eco-systems, and critical infrastructures in case of a disaster or a tailings dam failure. It should be noted that over the last five years no environmental incidents have been recorded across the Company’s hydraulic structures and no orders from supervisory agencies were received to correct critical or pre-critical conditions.

Hydraulic structures are monitored by operating personnel and Nornickel’s environmental team on an ongoing basis. Nornickel employees involved in the operation of tailing dumps complete regular specialised trainings and knowledge assessments by Rostechnadzor.

After the Brumadinho and Samarco dam disasters in Brazil, Nornickel published a special report on the safety of all its hydraulic structures following an inquiry from a group of investors led by the Church of England Pensions Board and the Council on Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Funds (AP Funds) and guided by the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). The report is available in the link below.

Tailing dumps
Branch/subsidiary Number of tailing dumps Asset using the tailing dump
Polar Division 2 Talnakh Concentrator, Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant
Medvezhy Ruchey 2 Norilsk Concentrator
Kola MMC 1 Zapolyarny Concentrator
GRK Bystrinskoye 1 Bystrinsky GOK Concentrator