Exposed scale of Arctic oil spill catastrophe by whistleblower

Exposed scale of Arctic oil spill catastrophe by whistleblower

Vasily Ryabinin stands on the banks of the River Daldykan and pushes a long stick to the blood-orange sludge. Raising the rod, he places a lighter to it, and it ignites it like a flashlight.

We were a couple of kilometres from the Siberian city of Norilsk, where six months ago a massive fuel tank in a power plant ruptured, spilling thousands of tonnes of petrol to the river.

The owner of the plant, the Nornickel metals giant, says the spill was quickly contained, along with the damage restricted.

Mr Ryabinin has forfeited his job and his family’s future in Norilsk to lift the lid on which environmentalists have called the worst environmental disaster from the polar Arctic.

This spill was by no means the first ecological disaster in this part of Siberia, many whose rivers flow red with toxic waste from factories amid lax environmental regulations.

But this rare spotlight on the city and Nornickel has prompted the company to give public explanations, accept complete responsibility for the spill and accept the expense of the clean-up.

Last week it said that over 90 per cent of gas in the spill was collected.