Russia's Nornickel to cut emissions in Russia's border region with Norway, Finland

FILE PHOTO: Employees gather at the Taimyrski Mine of the Norilsk Nickel company in the Arctic city of Norilsk January 23, 2015. REUTERS/Polina Devitt

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian metals producer Nornickel said on Monday it has shut down a metallurgical processing facility in Russia’s border region with Norway and Finland which had been the area’s main source of sulphur dioxide emissions.

The shutdown, along with the recent closure of a nearby Nornickel smelting unit, will cut sulphur dioxide emissions in the area by 85% from 2015 levels to less than 30,000 tonnes this year, the company said.

In 2022 emissions will fall further, to 22,000 tonnes per year, 8,000-9,000 tonnes of which currently come from a local power plant providing heat to homes in Monchegorsk in Russia’s Murmansk region.

Nornickel plans to upgrade the plant and build a modern copper refining facility in the town with double the annual capacity - up to 150,000 tonnes - and higher environmental standards.

The facility that has been closed was processing metals concentrate, which other Nornickel assets in the Siberian Norilsk will now process into finished metals products.

The closure of the unit affected about 700 of Nornickel’s employees, it said. Two-thirds of them will be reassigned within Nornickel and one third will leave the company with one-off payments.

Nornickel, a major global palladium and nickel producer, plans to spend $5.5 billion on environment projects within the next 10 years, according to investment plans updated in December.

The company has been hit by series of accidents since a major fuel leak at its power plant near the Arctic city of Norilsk in May. It paid $2 billion, the biggest environmental fine in Russian history, after the spill.

Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Jan Harvey