Tailings and Waste Management
We are committed to minimising the environmental impact of waste from our operations, ensuring efficient waste management practices, finding alternative uses for the remaining waste, implementing responsible sourcing, and safely operating tailings facilities.
Norilsk Nickel’s priorities are to maintain responsible management of tailings facilities and maximise tailings processing, while also ensuring safety and minimising risks throughout the life cycle of tailings facilities and striving to achieve a zero risk of emergencies in tailings management.
As a party to the UN Global Compact, Nornickel is committed to managing its tailings facilities in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular:
Although all tailings facilities operated by the Group are located far from production sites and residential areas, we view them as assets with elevated risks capable of having a material impact on the environment and local communities.
Our commitments relating to tailings management are as follows:
- Ensuring safe management of tailings facilities throughout their life cycle, including design, construction, operation, mothballing and decommissioning, with relevant KPIs set for the employees operating the tailings facilities;
- Customising available technologies for tailings facilities construction and operation based on the unique technical, geotechnical, geodetic and chemical parameters of each tailings facility;
- Implementing best practices, standards and best available technologies to ensure and maintain efficient and safe operation of tailings facilities;
- Searching for technical solutions to ensure high rates of tailings processing and reuse;
- Developing tailings management strategies;
- Monitoring and reviewing the technical condition of tailings facilities;
- Ensuring the integrity and safety of tailings facilities and timely addressing the changes happening to them throughout their life cycle;
- Making sure that appropriate systems, standards, resources and funds are in place to prevent potential emergencies;
- Maintaining a mature and effective risk management system.
- By 2031, ensure that all tailings generated as part of new projects are disposed of using technologies that help minimise environmental impact;
- Eliminate all accumulated tailings by 2023;
- Increase the share of mineral waste recycling;
- Implement the principles of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management.
Our next steps towards our targets
- Cleaning up the area of production units;
- Conducting a comprehensive survey of industrial and adjacent areas;
- Developing a tailings facilities monitoring system;
- Establishing a mass balance planning model for waste at the Group level;
- Initiating cooperation with partners and the government on efficient waste management;
- Performing self-assessment in line with the global tailings standards.
Our progress and performance
Nornickel acts responsibly to ensure tailings facilities safety, regularly monitors the condition of their hydraulic structures and conducts environmental assessments of tailings sites and nearby areas.
Our tailings facilities comply with the Russian laws and have all the required construction permits and expert opinions in place. In addition, we developed mandatory safety criteria to operate each tailing facility and had them approved by regulators.
Nornickel also established organisational units and roles accountable for tailings-related risks and reporting to governance bodies. More information is available in the Company’s annual reports.
Nornickel currently operates six tailings facilities:
- four at Polar Division and Medvezhy Ruchey, storing tailings from Talnakh and Norilsk concentrators and Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant;
- one at Kola MMC, storing tailings from Zapolyarny Concentrator; and
- one at Bystrinsky GOK.
Tailings facilities safety reviews
Nornickel acts responsibly to ensure tailings facilities safety and regularly monitors the condition of their hydraulic structures and assesses the state of tailings sites and nearby areas. The Company also established organisational units and roles accountable for tailings-related risks and reporting to governance bodies. Competency and experience requirements are defined for critical roles within relevant organisational units. Qualified and experienced staff are responsible for identifying and analysing tailings-related risks, developing relevant controls and reviewing their effectiveness. Internal and external review and quality assurance processes are in place so that controls for tailings risks can be comprehensively assessed and continually improved. The Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Supervision (Rostechnadzor) provides external oversight. Hydraulic structures are subject to comprehensive audits every five years, with mandatory prior submission of the hydraulic structure safety declarations. The declarations are prepared by an independent expert agency accredited by Rostechnadzor upon a detailed inspection of the hydraulic structures. The findings of the review and quality assurance processes, as well as the relevant follow-up actions are recorded, analysed, summed up and disclosed. Over the last five years, we have had zero environmental incidents at our hydraulic structures and received no instructions from supervisory bodies to fix either critical or pre-critical conditions. Hydraulic structures are constantly monitored by operating personnel and Nornickel’s environmental team. Employees operating the tailings facilities undergo regular dedicated training and knowledge tests mandated by Rostechnadzor.
Emergency preparedness and response
All Nornickel’s tailings facilities are located away from production sites and residential areas. Potential damage estimates show minimum risks for local communities, ecosystems and critical infrastructure in case of an emergency.
Emergency preparedness and response (ERP) plans take into account a potential impact, and determine roles, responsibilities and communication procedures. These plans are subject to regular testing.
As required by the Russian laws, ERPs have been developed for all operating tailings facilities and a public warning system is in place. Nornickel has all necessary resources and funds required to respond to an emergency at its tailing facilities and promptly repair any damage, including a sufficient fleet of excavators, dump trucks and other vehicles (as outlined in the ERPs).
Tailings facilities disclosure
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), Nornickel published a special report on the safety of all its hydraulic structures. More information is available in the report.