Deal signed to help protect thousands of indigenuous peoples

Russia’s metals and mining giant Nornickel has signed a cooperation agreement with the associations representing the indigenous peoples of the Taimyr Peninsula, a remote Arctic land dubbed “the last frontier of Russia” offering a five-year support programme worth 2 billion roubles (over €22 million at the current exchange rate), writes Martin Banks.

This big move shows that the mining company is engaging with the indigenous communities of the areas where it operates. The issue has come under the spotlight recently after another global miner Rio Tinto faced outrage after it had destroyed a 46,000-year-old Indigenous heritage site in Western Australia.

The Nornickel’s support programme, signed on Friday, includes a wide range of initiatives aimed at protecting the natural habitat and supporting indigenous peoples’ traditional activities.

The money will be used to build new homes, hospitals, schools, for infrastructural and cultural projects.

The initiative was drawn up after 100 interviews and various polls of the indigenous communities. Priority areas for support were identified as the creation of seasonal jobs in tourism and other industries, reindeer husbandry, fishing and hunting. The 40 new initiatives also include workshops for reindeer and fish processing, purchase of refrigeration units, construction of an ethnical complex with workshops for fur processing and subsidises of helicopter transportation.

Nornickel Federal and Regional Programmes Vice President Andrey Grachev said the programme is aimed at “stimulating the economic activity of the indigenous peoples and facilitating the use of renewable resources – the basis of their traditional lifestyle”.

He added: “Nornickel has a long history of close cooperation with organizations representing the interests of indigenous communities in the regions of our operations, ensuring transparency in decision-making and that joint projects are implemented in the most efficient manner possible.”

Further comment comes from Grigory Ledkov, President of the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the North in Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation, who said the agreement “can serve as an example for other companies, as it emphasizes the importance of preserving the habitat of indigenous people and protecting our values and traditions.”

He said that gathering opinions of indigenous populations was “a huge step in the right direction and will serve as a model for future projects of this kind”.

The results of this exercise, he said: “Will help develop initiatives which will be of paramount importance for indigenous populations.

“This agreement will help us find new joint approaches to sustainable living and working in the North, as well as resolve other pressing issues facing local communities.”

The company already offers a range of support in the region ranging from air transportation, the procurement of building materials and diesel fuel, as well as cultural events and celebrations.

The agreement was signed in Moscow by Grachev and Ledkov along with Artur Gayulsky, President of the Regional Association of Indigenous Peoples of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, and Grigory Dyukarev, Chairman of the Association of Indigenous Minorities of Taimyr, Krasnoyarsk Territory.

Nornickel, the world’s largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel, has already invested 277m roubles (over €3m) between 2018 and 2020 towards support and development of the regions.

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