It has become recently customary to say aut bene, aut nihil about Oleg Deripaska. A favorite of the Federal Tax Service, top government officials and Belarusian models, he has suffered greatly from sanctions and is still suffering reputational losses because of the story involving the escort Nastya Rybka.
However, all these stories did not affect the activity of his enterprises, as aluminum plants continue damaging nature in the east-Siberian region of Khakassia as ever. And in general it seems that Mr Deripaska's entire business is built on violating environmental requirements.
JSC RUSAL Sayanogorsk, for example, is a plant in Khakassia with a glorious history and no less glorious deeds. In July this year, the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources (Rospritodnadzor) established that the plant was not going to make the promised reclamation of the landfill lining of electrolyzers at the industrial site. Before that, in the course of a scheduled inspection, the inspectors found out that the pond of spent solutions was not included in the State Register of Waste Disposal Sites, and there were no limits for the aggregation of mineral sludge from gas cleaning of aluminum smelting (Class 3 hazardous waste). A license for the placement of such waste was absent, too.
Local residents’ complaints about the stench from the plant can are understandable: this year’s inspection established that the plant did not keep control of maximum permissible emissions whatsoever. At the same time, in April last year, Rosprirodnadzor repeatedly issued compliance orders to RUSAL to normalize the source of emissions of benzopyrene, the readings for which were in the overdrive, exceeding the norm by 20.6 times.
Yet the main problem was with the violations "discovered" by Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage, which RUSAL Sayanogorsk was to eliminate in 2018. Inspectors handed a huge pack of regulations to the plant in the autumn of 2017 after a routine inspection. I turned out that the plant had no license for the placement of sludge already in 2017. Nor did it have any standards for it. The annual volumes of the waste, for which the plant did have the standards, were exceeded: by 4.5 tons for mineral, by 1,032 tons for scrap and waste of ferrous metals, by 1,246 tons for brick scrap, and by 217 tons for polypropylene containers. Thus data of the account of waste were distorted, and the plant run by the oligarch "forgot" to pay for payment for the 2016 placement of waste from trichlorodiphenyl-containing condensers. The maximum permissible concentration of fluorides, hydrocarbonates, sulfates, petroleum products, iron, copper, and aluminum were exceeding the limits in underground waters on the territory of the plant.
"Production of primary aluminum at RUSAL Sayanogorsk is wielding bad impact on land plots located in the zone of influence of the plant inside and outside the sanitary protection zone. This leads to soil contamination with the chemical substance called the water-soluble fluorides," Rosprirodnadzor said in its conclusions, adding to it that a two-hectare quarry had emerged out of nowhere on the industrial site and RUSAL has no desire to clear out the situation. Also no one conducted mandatory control over emissions there and no one kept and eye on the condition of the gathering basin.
And what for, really? What will the supervisory authorities do to the town’s backbone enterprise for something as trifling as the poisoning of residents?
But the Khakassia Health Ministry’s data on the growing incidence of cancer are inexorable: a total of 9,715 people in 2016, 9,851 in 2017, and 10,572 as of January 1, 2019. It is difficult to claim that this is the fallout from the operations of Deripaska's plants only, but it is not ruled out.
RUSAL Krasnoyarsk behaves the same way. During an unscheduled inspection last year, inspectors caught the plant exceeding the established norms of atmospheric emission of harmful substances like hydrogen chloride (hydro-chloride) and hydrogen fluoride. In 2016 Rosprirodnadzor caught the plant doing the same thing: norms on carbon monoxide were exceeded by a factor of 1.3. In addition, the oligarch's company turned out to economize on treatment plants, the efficiency of which for some reason was below the norm for sulfur dioxide, hydrogen fluoride, hydrofluoric acid salts, and dust.
The same kind of trouble with treatment plants was identified at the JSC Silicon located in the village of Turuntayevo, Buryatia region, where the actual efficiency of gas-cleaning equipment of the Cheremshansky Mine outlet was below standard. Silicon also did not have specifications for waste generation; environmental monitoring was not conducted; and there was no control over the sources of emissions, so the enterprise paid no attention to the plan for emissions reduction, although the latter had been endorsed.
Land was contaminated in the equivalent of 724.8 million rubles at Deripaska’s famous alumina plant in Achinsk (which suspended operations in August due to explosions at a military warehouse in the Krasnoyarsk territory). A demand for this amount of money came from Rosprirodnadzor for the damage done to 30 hectares of land in 2015. RUSAL should reclaim the land area before the end of 2019. These are the conditions on which the court spared the producer of raw materials for aluminum plants, as it decided not to overburden it with this debt.
The plant did not learn any lessons, and in May 2016 it allowed the spill of sludge waters near the village of Bely Yar. In 2018, RUSAL Achinsk was again dragged into the courtroom, this time for polluting a water to the tune of 20 million rubles.
Has RUSAL improved anything? Nothing like that. In July 2019, the Achinsk plant was again caught committing an offense –it had organized a waste dump to the east of the township of Mazulsky. In April 2019, Rosprirodnadzor registered a discharge of non-treated wastewater from the plant into the river Mazulkas, and at the end of last year, inspectors issued a whole pack of compliance orders – for atmospheric emissions of pollutants in the village Belogorsk on the Kiya-Shaltyr nepheline mine, falsification of waste reporting, and encroachments on law during dump reclamation.
Deripaska has 40 manufacturing facilities in RUSAL alone, which means the scale of the disaster can figured out. However, some of its plants are not in Russia. Interestingly, does the alumina plant in Ireland also drain pollutants into local rivers and poisons the inhabitants with emissions of all sorts of exhausts of rubbish into the air? Or does Mr Deripaska have this attitude to nature and people only at home?
The lover of escort ladies, who made downhill in the Forbes list, also owns an agribusiness, and here, of course, he traditionally tries to squeeze the maximum profit without regard the laws that impede doing so. Protection of nature and care for the health of people, apparently, look nonsensical against the background of billions of dollars in profits.
Deripaska currently owns Kuban, the largest agricultural holding in the south of the country, which includes, among other things, dairy farms, a pig breeding complex, the Svoboda sugar factory, three plants for seed production and the Voskhod stud farm. The sentimental admirer of yachting in the company of officials, he founded Kuban in his small native town of Ust-Labinsk. However, judging by the attitude of his companies towards the locals, it would be better if Deripaska was born on a desert island.
Svoboda (which in Russian means freedom - from stupid environmental laws?) polluted the water protection zone with waste and worked without project documentation for the extraction of groundwater at all. Obviously, there was no expert evaluation. In addition, Rosprirodnadzor caught registered violations of industrial safety requirements by the plant.
Southern Meat Processing Plant LLC (Kuban meat processing complex), which boasts of environmentally friendly quality produce, violated the rules for storage of produce and did not control its condition at all. No wonder that Rosprirodnadzor also found E.coli and false labeling that showed alleged Eurasian compliance, but it did not find data on vaccinations or medical examinations of workers. In addition, the meat processing plant did not even consider installing a sanitary protection zone around its smelly production site. And what for, indeed?
His JSC Rassvet in Ust-Labinsk did not have licenses for the use of subsoil, and violated the rules of waste management at the site of temporary storage of pesticides in the village Novotitarovskaya. The absence of the license was discovered in 2016, but the local branch of Rosprirodnadzor went to the site to check the observance of its own order only two years later. Probably, the inspectors were very surprised when it turned out that Deripaska’s company had not received the license. Maybe, they should drop in a couple of years later once again, should they not?
On the whole, Deripaska's agro-industrial business also fails to comply with Russian laws. And it is noteworthy that the Kuban agricultural holding is a backbone enterprise in the region. Undoubtedly, the fact gives comfort to Governor Kondratiev. Supervisory authorities treat such companies with special piety, probably because Deripaska keeps the regions on the hook of social contracts.
Anyway, there is always a possibility to relegate these problems to regional and state budgets.