"Norilsk Nickel". Responsible for everything ...

This city has unique mineral reserves, which will last for centuries. But they must also be mined in extreme conditions. It would seem that the circumstances themselves determine the fate of Norilsk. But it is not. Its future is made by people on whom the polar industrial pearl has always been lucky.

Norilsk could well remain an ordinary shift camp, where they would produce metallurgical semi-finished products for processing at other plants, if not for the director of the future plant Avraamy Zavenyagin. It was he who insisted that the metallurgists, miners and their children walk along the "Petersburg" avenues and be proud of the new nickel capital of the USSR, where production was established at the full-cycle plant. By the way, in Soviet times, such an approach - processing products to the last stage - was a symbol of scientific and technical progress.

The uniqueness of the ore base of Norilsk was not immediately determined. (archive of the press service of "Norilsk Nickel")

However, the uniqueness of the ore base of Norilsk was not immediately determined: in the 1950s even the option of closing the city due to the exhaustion of old deposits was considered. But geologists were lucky (or Norilsk was lucky with geologists), and in 1960 they found Talnakh deposits, the horizons of which no one has yet taken to determine. They say that not more than two percent of all the wealth of Taimyr is explored! However, it is already known where the ore lies with twelve million tons of nickel - and “only” three hundred thousand are mined here per year.

In the same 1960, the nuclear-powered ship "Lenin" conducted the first convoy of ships along the Northern Sea Route. The USSR became the only country where atomic icebreakers were used. And they were created primarily for year-round delivery of Norilsk ore and metals to the mainland. By the way, today Norilsk Nickel has also made a revolution, but anti-nuclear. The company built six powerful and beautiful diesel ships of a reinforced ice class for work in the Arctic, which, without special support, can independently transport any cargo and break the ice of a very decent thickness.


The explosive development of the enterprise and the city is associated with the name of Boris Kolesnikov, who was the director of the Norilsk Combine from 1973 to 1988. It was under him that the Nadezhda plant, two new mines, the processing plant and the new Alykel airport were built. And the length of the Norilsk railway, the largest departmental and most northern in the USSR, reached three hundred and thirty-three kilometers. At the same time, the production of nickel and copper over the fifteen years of Kolesnikov’s work as director has doubled! Old-timers of Norilsk remember these golden times with nostalgia. They say that the miners could then afford to fly from the salary at least once a month to the mainland to watch a football match of their favorite team or a play at the Moscow Art Theater. The country was in a state of cold war with the Western world, the defense industry in incredible quantities absorbed nickel and cobalt for tank armor, and the supply of the city with food, consumer goods and other things was top notch. Like salaries. Incidentally, this was one of the reasons why entry to Norilsk was restricted and carried out only with special permits.

1970s - 1980s old-timers recall with nostalgia. (archive of the press service of "Norilsk Nickel")


Norilsk has always been an excellent launching pad for the start of a great career. After all, the same Zavenyagin was practically exiled here, but after he gave the country nickel, he was made a general and sent to create the Soviet atomic industry (without which, by the way, there would be no nuclear ships). Kolesnikov went to Moscow for the post of deputy minister of the non-ferrous metallurgy. And Vladimir Dolgikh, director of the plant in 1962-1969, made his political career: first he became the first secretary of the Krasnoyarsk regional party committee, and then a candidate member of the politburo of the CPSU Central Committee. By the way, the 90-year-old veteran still lives and is a member of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation!

The working process. (archive of the press service of "Norilsk Nickel")

And nowadays a lot of people who have grown up, as they say, from the “Norilsk overcoat”, work in the government. These are vice-premieres Alexander Khloponin and Olga Golodets, ministers Alexander Novak and Lev Kuznetsov. The current director of Roscosmos, Igor Komarov, headed the financial service of Norilsk Nickel. State Duma Deputy Raisa Karmazina and Director of Rosseti Oleg Budargin are also former Norilsk citizens.


But back to the story. The Gorbachev thaw and the first ten years of a spontaneous market economy had a detrimental effect on the enterprise and the city. Tanks began to do less, the volume of state orders fell. To replenish income, it was allowed to trade metals on foreign markets, but the lack of experience led Soviet enterprises to clumsily compete with each other, knocking down the price. As a result, nickel fell from seventeen to four thousand dollars per ton! The shortage of money led to delays in the payment of wages, and at the end of December 1988 at one of the mines was the first in the history of the enterprise strike. Then the strikes became very frequent, since social problems were not solved. Accident rate grew, labor discipline fell, the number of downtime increased. And most importantly, the production of base metals decreased by a quarter, which practically led to the bankruptcy of the plant.

In the late 1980s, the Soviet government decided to consolidate nickel production and the state concern Norilsk Nickel was formed, which, besides Taimyr, included Murmansk mills, the Krasnoyarsk refinery and the St. Petersburg scientific institute. Later, in the spirit of the times, the enterprise was incorporated and privatized. In 1994, the state left itself a controlling stake in Norilsk Nickel, a part of the shares was transferred to the labor collective, the rest were sold at check auctions - a quarter of a million people became owners of the shares. By the way, using the example of a company, the dream of the then head of the State Property Agency Anatoly Chubais was realized - a Volga car for one voucher. It should be noted that as a result, 220 shares of Norilsk Nickel, which could be obtained for one privatization check, were soon worth several of these Volg.

Norilsk is a great platform for starting a big career. (archive of the press service of "Norilsk Nickel")

Nevertheless, all organizational changes in the company did not help to restore rhythmic production and social peace. The financial crisis grew in the country, it was necessary to take tough measures to improve the enterprise, but the concern’s management continued to rely on the state and did not change course. The financial fire was flooded with borrowed funds, and by the mid-1990s the enterprise owed a terrible trillions of rubles to tax authorities, suppliers and banks. The salary debt was already quarterly.

As a result, in August 1997, the state sold its stake, which came under the control of businessmen Vladimir Potanin and Mikhail Prokhorov. Their team took over the management of the company.

The salary will not grow in two times

And it turned out that not everything is so hopeless. First of all, we were engaged in solving social problems - there was no more talk about wage arrears. Since 1997, all enterprises of Norilsk Nickel began to pay taxes regularly, paying off all their debts in full. True, for the debts to the Krasnoyarsk Territory we had to pay the refining plant (informally, it still remains the Norniclele subsidiary). By the end of the 1990s, the income of workers doubled!

And in Norilsk itself, the metal production scheme was changed. They stopped transporting ore from the city to the enterprises of the Kola Peninsula, as they had done for many years. This made it possible to significantly save on transportation costs, and the environmental situation in the Murmansk region immediately improved, as sulfur emissions, which are very rich in Norilsk ore, were reduced.

At the same time, the first social programs of Norilsk Nickel were developed and launched. Yes, perhaps, the very concept of “socially responsible business” in Russia arose precisely because of the leadership of the concern, which systematically, consistently and on a large scale began to take care of employees and their family members. Moreover, at first, “Norilsk Nickel” took upon itself not even the functions inherent to the enterprise — for example, it assisted the state in bringing homeless people out of the city to warmer regions and in their further adaptation.

And in the early 2000s, changes in equity made it more transparent and understandable for shareholders. As a result, at the cost of paper companies have become one of the most profitable.


Norilsk Nickel managed to occupy a worthy place in the international markets. Create your own sales network in Europe, Asia and North America. To establish direct contacts with large foreign consumers of metals. The company quickly gained a position corresponding to its value in international specialized unions and associations (it is ridiculous to recall, but earlier the London Metal Exchange accepted Norilsk Nickel with a discount of one hundred dollars only because it was Russian). Foolish regulations were also abolished - to sell the metal cut into squares measuring 20 by 20 centimeters. By the way, the buyers themselves never understood these rules. For example, in the vents of metallurgical furnaces of the German Krupp quietly passed not only half meter Norilsk cathodes, a tractor would probably fit there.


Having established itself as a leader in the global market, at some point the company thought about expanding its influence to the global one. The group included not only former competitors from Europe, but also North American, Australian and even African enterprises. This opened access to the latest technology and international experience. But perhaps the main thing was the realization that "Norilsk is our everything."

And in 2013, a new development strategy was formulated, which described with mathematical precision what and why it was necessary to concentrate its efforts, the Taimyr enterprises recognized as the main projects. Indeed, in the modern world, competition is won not by the one who is aggressive in expansion (most foreign assets have been sold), but by those who invest in the development of existing assets. Such a policy today, when metal markets are experiencing the worst situation in the last seventeen years, allows the company to remain a profitable enterprise and continue to modernize its facilities - Talnakhsky concentrator and the Skalisty mine. In addition, it actively develops the Bystrinskoe deposit and builds the same-name GOK in the Trans-Baikal Territory. Starting in 2018, copper, gold, iron and molybdenum will be produced there.

Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant. (archive of the press service of "Norilsk Nickel")

Currently, MMC Norilsk Nickel is the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium, one of the main suppliers of platinum (the fourth in the world) and copper. In addition to key metals, the company produces numerous related products - cobalt, rhodium, silver, gold, iridium, ruthenium, as well as selenium, tellurium and sulfur. Norilsk platinum, palladium, rhodium are used, for example, for the production of automotive catalysts, with which ninety percent neutralize exhaust gases in cars around the world.

The very first plant of Norilsk - Nickel - is already closed today, since it is no longer subject to modernization, but remains a kind of monument to the Soviet approach to the economy, when the metal was demanded to be given at any price. At that time, ecological balance did not seem to be an absolute value, and environmental legislation simply did not exist. The termination of his work will reduce eighty percent of emissions in the city itself and twenty-five - in the whole Polar Division of the company. But production after the shutdown of old capacity will not suffer, as it will be transferred to the reconstructed Nadezhda plant. And the city will breathe more freely, because the processing of raw materials will now be made three times farther from the shelter, and the wind rose at Nadezhda is different - better. Moreover, thanks to the unique combination of two technologies, sulfur emissions into the atmosphere will be reduced by four and a half times, and the company will receive sulfur and sulfuric acid, which it can also sell, almost free of charge.


Well, where are the products of a metallurgical company actually used? For the sake of what are such expenses of human forces and all the power of technical progress? Let's see.

Palladium. As a good catalyst for the addition of hydrogen in organic chemistry is used, for example, in the hydrogenation of fats to produce ... margarine. If some palladium is added to gold, the precious metal will turn white. So get white gold, from which they love to make memorable coins and other interesting things. Including palladium is used in the manufacture of smartphones, phones and tablets.

Platinum used to be considered jewelry debris. Translated dismissively sounds like "silver" or "poor quality silver." And this is the best catalyst in the world! It is used by all advanced automakers (for cleaning exhaust gases) and used in the manufacture of hydrogen peroxide. Also, platinum is added to anti-cancer drugs.

Rhodium. The most expensive of the group of metals "Norilsk Nickel". Its value is seven times higher than gold! Metal is used, for example, in the manufacture of high-definition liquid crystal screens. And as a result, in the space industry.

Iridium. The heaviest metal on earth. Its density is twenty-two times the density of water and three times iron. Therefore, it is excellent for the production of high-quality and wearable automotive spark plugs in the engine.

Silver. Indispensable for the food industry. Additive E174 - this is it. And of course, wherever you need a reliable contact: capacitors, batteries, and so on. Some citizens can afford to eat with silver cutlery.

Taimyr production sites. (archive of the press service of "Norilsk Nickel")

Nickel. It is wherever it is about iron or what we call metal. It is indispensable in aviation (turbine blades), prosthetics (and not only dental), they are also wrapped with strings of musical instruments. Nickel is so deeply embedded in human life that it has become an integral part of many famous brands, names and brands. Children's channel "Nickelodeon", French perfumery "Nickel" and the music group "Nickelback"!

Gold. Food supplement E175 (dye), an important component of medical drugs for arthritis. It is the shell of a neutron bomb. Plus decorations, of course ...

Ruthenium. Famous Parker pens with a gold feather. On the tip of it, by the way, there is no gold, of course, no - it’s too soft metal. It is replaced by ruthenium.

Copper. Airplanes, guns, bells, cables, wires, pipes of cooling systems. The Bronze Horseman in St. Petersburg does not count - in fact, he is made of bronze.

Arctic Express "Norilsk Nickel" "Murmansk". (archive of the press service of "Norilsk Nickel")


It is no secret that the ecological situation in the city leaves much to be desired, largely due to the heavy Soviet and post-Soviet heritage.

Real complex actions aimed at improving the situation were undertaken only with the transfer of the Norilsk Combine into private hands. After the enterprise began to emerge from the crisis in 1998–1999, the first conservation programs appeared. In 2000, more than one and a half billion rubles were spent for these purposes, of which 940 million were spent on protecting the atmosphere. This allowed to stabilize and even slightly reduce the emissions of harmful substances.

Norilsk Nickel does not hide that it is one of the largest sources of air pollution. Moreover, to effectively address its environmental problems, the company is not afraid to discuss them openly and invites everyone to this, emphasizing: ecology is one of the main directions in its work. In 2010, Norilsk Nickel convened a conference on environmental protection and, for the first time in domestic practice, created a platform at which representatives of heavy industry, environmentalists, lawmakers, authorities and supervisors agreed to discuss. Because only such an approach allows making joint decisions, taking into account both scientific, and technological, and legislative aspects.

The company reports quarterly to the government, and annual reports, including those on corporate social responsibility, are published on the official website in the public domain. Одной из первых она подняла вопрос о необходимости перехода к новой эколого-экономической политике, в которой защита природы рассматривается как составная часть производственной деятельности. Важно не только ликвидировать последствия заражения и уже накопленный ущерб, но и искоренить первопричины.

Полярной ночи Норильск отвечает буйством света и цвета. (архив пресс-службы «Норникеля»)

In 2018–2021, Norilsk Nickel plans to work on the construction of special workshops for capturing and utilizing sulfur dioxide at the Nadezhda Metallurgical and Copper Plants. This will be the first experience of capturing and industrial disposal of such a scale.

And today, the company is actively engaged in the restoration of natural ecosystems and biodiversity, planting greenery in the city - planting seedlings and sowing the streets of Norilsk with lawn grass.

It is clear that such work requires huge financial investments. In 2014, Norilsk Nickel's capital expenditures on environmental protection exceeded five hundred million dollars. In the same year, shareholders adopted a program of more than twelve billion dollars until 2019.

The Space Marines landed in Norilsk. (archive of the press service of "Norilsk Nickel")


In the near future, Norilsk is waiting for another revolution. Rather, it has already happened. In the 1950s, there was already one cultural break, when from the barracks behind the barbed wire in the Gulag they proceeded to the construction of a normal city, when efficiency was achieved not under duress for a plate of balanda, but in terms of freedom - for wages and bonuses. Today, another hypostasis has emerged - from the metallurgical capital Norilsk is turning into the cultural center of the whole Polar region. The metallurgical theme and gloomy landscapes with smoking pipes also gradually cease to be central to the media. Thanks to media projects and regular performances that the company arranges on Taimyr, Norilsk Nickel has managed to change its attitude towards itself as the enemy of all living things and interest the public in the amazing transformations that have taken place over the past few years in the Far North. In essence, it is to do the impossible and change the attitude of the country, and of the residents themselves, to the city.

Norilsk has become a cultural center of the entire Arctic. (archive of the press service of "Norilsk Nickel")

They say that a long time ago the Norilsk people had a dream that the whole city would be under the dome and - no blizzards. To come in winter in shorts to the inner glass (or what this dome will be made of), lean against your nose, fold your palms by the eyes and watch how it sweeps out from the outside. Right before the new 2014 year, this dream was selected. "Norilsk Nickel" took and built a sports and entertainment complex "Arena". Now townspeople, as they dreamed, can walk without fur coats through the mall, dine in restaurants, go to the cinema and water park. Even if a “black blizzard” sweeps over the dome!

And today the company is still one of the best examples of social policy in the country. Since 2001, the interaction of management and employees is based here on the basis of collective agreements. The last of them was signed in November 2015, and it is certainly one of the most attractive for workers in Russia. This agreement extends to almost thirty thousand people from all divisions of Norilsk Nickel and even to their family members who are paid for annual travel to and from the place of rest. With the introduction of the “My Home” and “Our Home” corporate programs, young, highly qualified and even scarce personnel came to the enterprises. Former employees can still relocate to regions with more favorable climatic conditions, vocational training and advanced training have reached a very high level, and there are also pension programs.

The company took under its protection and the indigenous peoples of the North, actively supports the preservation of the population of Arctic animals. The musk ox, a red-breasted goose, a goose-starter - thanks to “Norilsk Nickel”, they finally moved into the detachment of those species that are no longer threatened with extinction. For the past ten years, patronage assistance has come to the Taimyrsky, Putoransky and Bolshoi Arktichesky state reserves, where the picturesque landscapes, rookery of the Laptev walrus, the habitat of bighorn sheep and reindeer are protected ...

And of course, Norilsk Nickel is the largest taxpayer in the regions of its presence. For example, it forms up to forty percent of the budget of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, builds dozens of kindergartens at its own expense, and began the construction of a universal sports and recreation center in Norilsk worth about four hundred million rubles. And the company has become the general partner of the 2019 Universiade, which will be held in Krasnoyarsk.

In 2015, Norilsk Nickel became the general partner of the Golden Mask festival and its best employees were awarded participation in a theatrical program, and the performance of the Vl. Polar Theater. Mayakovsky was included in the list of nominees for 2017.

This once again confirms that in recent years, people have been rediscovering the Arctic for themselves. Including Taimyr. Here, artists, photographers, directors stretched to Norilsk. Some, however, to make a name for themselves in the “creepy scenes of northern Mordor” (there was such a thing, unfortunately), but most still want to look at the Russian North with different eyes and bring a bit of their art into his life. Olga Sviblova, Alexey Pivovarov, Marina Zvyagintseva, Alexey Venediktov, Dmitry Bykov - these and many other names have added to the list of friends of Norilsk. People come here to wonder, create, create. No wonder the city museum for the last two years has grown and a new exhibition gallery, and even its own art residence ...

Of course, the conditions of the Far North will not become softer from the fact that a person wins from him his right to an active and fulfilling life - nature simply observes its laws. But people are so arranged - it is very important for them that they can look to the future with hope and confidence, then they will again be ready to build a new world beyond the edge of the world ...

The publication was carried out with the support of PJSC "MMC" Norilsk Nickel ", 2017.

  1. Cover photo: Sergey Gorshkov
  2. Text: Andrei Chernitsyn, Tatiana Babiuk
  3. Photos: Ekaterina Frolova and from the archive of the press service of "Norilsk Nickel"
  4. Drawings: Natalia Oltarzhevskaya

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