2020 has been a year full of events. For a majority of the year, the human population has been heavily focused on COVID-19 and now has shifted its attention to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but amidst these chaotic times is yet another dire situation for the environment. According to multiple news outlets including BBC, there has been an oil spill in the Russian Arctic. This oil spill is reported to be claimed as Russia’s “worst oil spill in modern history,” says OilPrice.com. Something terrifying to consider about this oil spill is the amount of attention that this is getting today. This is not to downplay the importance of the coronavirus or #BLM movement, but this oil spill is clearly no joke, even being compared to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989.
The oil spill started leaking on May 29th from a collapsed fuel storage tank owned by Nornickel, a Russian nickel and palladium mining company. So far, sources claim that about 21,000 tonnes or 23,148 tons (158,000 barrels) has seeped into nearby waters. At the moment, emergency teams are working to contain the spillage. Additionally, as a result of the spill, President Vladimir Putin of Russia even declared a state of emergency in the Krasnoyarsk region.
According to BBC, the oil spill has traveled approximately 12 miles north of the Siberian city of Norilsk as of June 9th. Concerns have been growing greater and greater, since the oil spill is thought to have possibly leaked into a nearby Arctic lake where it could cause severe damage to the already fragile marine ecosystems of that area. The Ambarnaya river’s new crimson red color has become the face of this disaster, where its discoloration is a dangerous signal of the oil spill’s dangerous properties and even more terrifying spread.
Putin has demanded that the affluent part-owner and oligarch of the Nornickel company, Vladimir Potanin, take full responsibility for the oil spill by covering the damages and funding resources to clean up the mess. Predictably, Potanin does not agree with Putin’s demands with Nornickel claiming that the spillage occurred due to the rising temperatures in the tundra—the likes of which would have ultimately caused permafrost to melt and weaken the supports of the fuel storage. If Putin has his way, Nornickel could be facing up to $4 billion in fines and cleanup costs, so avoiding these costs is a top priority for the company. However, further investigation from the Investigative Committee and World Wildlife Federation has revealed that Nornickel is most likely at fault. The World Wildlife Federation’s Alexey Knizhnikov has stated that the “main factor [in this oil spill] is mismanagement.” These investigators have resolutely concluded that Nornickel’s quality negligence is the real culprit of the spill.
Blame has been shifted between both the president and Potanin for who is truly responsible for the oil spill, but one thing is for sure: the environment—specifically the marine ecosystems near or affected by the oil spill—is suffering. Regardless of if the spill was caused by global warming or poor quality control, it is imperative that this oil spill be prevented from reaching any further for the sake of animal and plant life in the Arctic.