Norilsk ( ) is a major
Krai, Russia, located
between the Yenisey river and
was granted city status in 1953. It is the northernmost city in Siberia and the
world's second largest city (after Murmansk) above the
Arctic Circle. Norilsk with Yakutsk and Vorkuta are the only
large cities in the continuous
Norilsk is also the northernmost city
on the planet with a population over 100,000. Population: MMC Norilsk Nickel
, a mining
company, is the principal employer in the
Norilsk area. The city is served by Norilsk Alykel Airport and Norilsk Valek Airfield.
Due to the intense mining, the city is one
of the ten most polluted cities in the world.
The settlement of Norilsk was founded by the end of the 1920s;
however, the official date of founding is traditionally set to
1935, when Norilsk was expanded as a settlement for the Norilsk
mining-metallurgic complex and became the center of the Norillag
system of GULAG
. It was granted the status of
located between the West Siberian
Plain and Central Siberian Plateau at the foot of the 1,700-metre-high Putoran
Mountains, is situated on some of the largest nickel deposits on Earth.
Consequently, mining and smelting
the major industries. Norilsk is the center of a region where
, and coal
are mined. Mineral deposits in the Siberian Craton
had been known for two
centuries before Norilsk was founded, but mining began only in
1939, when the buried portions of the Norilsk-Talnakh intrusions
were found beneath mountainous terrain.
Talnakh is the major mine/enrichment site now from where an
enriched ore emulsion is pumped to Norilsk metallurgy plants.
the new city a railway to the port of
Dudinka on the
River was established, first as a narrow-gauge line
(winter 1935-36), later as Russian Standard gauge (1520 mm)
line (in the early 1940s).From the port of Dudinka enriched nickel
and copper are transported to Murmansk by sea then
to the Monchegorsk enrichment and smelting plant on the Kola Peninsula, while more precious content goes up the river to
This transportation only takes place during
the summer: Dudinka port is closed and dismantled during spring's
ice barrier floods of up to 20 m in late May (a typical spring
occurrence on all Siberian rivers).
early 1950s, another railway was under construction from the European coal city
Vorkuta via the Salekhard/Ob River, and Norilsk even
got a spacious passenger train station built in the expectation of
direct train service to Moscow, but construction stopped there
after Stalin died.
According to the archives of Norillag, 16,806 prisoners died in
Norilsk under the conditions of forced labor, starvation, and
intense cold throughout the existence of the camp
. Fatalities were especially high during the
war years of 1942-1944 when food supplies were particularly scarce.
The prisoners organised a nonviolent revolt (Norilsk uprising
) in 1953. Unknown but
significant numbers of prisoners continued to serve and die in the
mines until around 1979. Norilsk-Talknakh continues to be a
dangerous mine to work in: According to the mining company, there
were 2.4 accidents per thousand workers in 2005.
Norilsk was decreed a closed city for
foreigners (except citizens of Belarus).
This is likely because of the sensitive nature of the
nickel-platinum-palladium-copper mining , and the ICBM
missile silos nestled in the Putoran Mountains
is also the nearest to the famous Popigai crater.
The mosque of Norilsk, belonging to the local Tatar
community, is considered to be the northernmost
Muslim prayer house in the world.
Norilsk-Talnakh nickel deposits
nickel deposits of Norilsk-Talnakh are the largest nickel-copper-palladium deposits in
The deposit was formed 250 million years ago
during the eruption of the Siberian
igneous province (STIP). The STIP erupted over one
million cubic kilometres of lava, a large portion of it through a
series of flat-lying lava conduits lying below Norilsk and the
The ore was formed when the erupting magma became saturated in
, forming globules of pentlandite
, and other sulfides. These
sulfides were then "washed" by the continuing torrent of erupting
magma, and upgraded their tenor with nickel
The current resource known for these mineralised intrusion exceeds
1.8 billion tons. MMC Norilsk
Nickel, headquartered in Moscow, is the
principal mining operator in Norilsk-Talnakh.
The ore is
mined underground via several shafts, and a decline
. The ore deposits are currently being
extracted at more than 1,200 m below ground. The ore deposits
are drilled from the surface. Nickel production for 2008 amounted
to 299.7 thousand metric tonnes. Copper production for 2008
amounted to 419 thousand metric tonnes.
The deposits are being explored by a Russian Government-controlled
company. The company is known to be using electromagnetic field geophysics
, with loops on surface which are over
1,000 m on a side. They are conclusively able to image the
conductive nickel ore at depths in excess of 1,800 m.
Landscape near Norilsk
Much of the surrounding areas are treeless tundra
Norilsk has an extremely harsh climate. Average temperature is
approximately −10 degrees Celsius, and temperatures as low as −58
degrees have been recorded. The city is covered with snow for about
250-270 days a year, with snow storms for about 110-130 days. The
polar night lasts from December through mid-January, so that
Norilsk inhabitants do not see the sun at all for about six
The nickel ore is smelted on site at Norilsk. The smelting is
directly responsible for severe pollution, generally acid rain
and smog. By some estimates, 1 percent
of the entire global emissions of sulfur
comes from this one city. Heavy
pollution near Norilsk is so severe that it is now
economically feasible to mine the soil, as a result of acquiring
high concentrations of platinum and palladium through
The Blacksmith Institute
included Norilsk in its 2007 list of the ten most polluted places
on Earth. The list cites air pollution by particulates (including
-90, and caesium
-137 and heavy metals nickel
) and by gases (such as nitrogen
and carbon oxides
, sulfur dioxide
and hydrogen sulfide
). The Institute estimates
4 million tons of cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, arsenic, selenium
and zinc are released into the air every year.
According to an April 2007 BBC News report, the company accepted
responsibility for what had happened to the forests, but insisted
they were taking action to cut the pollution. For the period up to
2015-2020 the company expects to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by
approximately two-thirds, but admits it is hard to guarantee this
pace of reduction because they are still developing the technology.
According to CNN there is not a single living tree within
48 km of the nickel smelter Nadezhda
People associated with Norilsk
The author of the memoir With God in Russia
, Walter Ciszek
, spent some time in Norilsk
labor camps in 1950s and details the life there in his
Although not actually having been filmed in Norilsk, the city is
depicted in the 1985 film White
, starring Mikhail
and Gregory Hines
the opening moments of the film, Baryshnikov's character, a
Soviet defector, is
on a passenger plane that crash lands at "Norilsk Air
' 2007 novel House of Meetings
takes place in part
at a Gulag
labor camp based on Norilsk.