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Craig Campbell
M.A. (Anthropology)
University of Alberta, Canada

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Noril'sk Smelter

The aerial photograph of the Noril'sk nickel smelter acts as a detail outset from the obscured map below. Yellow and Crimson -the colours of the Soviet Union- are meant to call attention to the socialist programs development in the Siberian north. In the post-Soviet era, the nickel smelters are still in operation -no doubt vital to the wounded economy of Taimyr. After 1991, if it wasn't already evident, it came to light that the socialist industry was just as volatile a polluter as capitalist industry.

The Noril'sk situation provides a solid example of what has been termed 'environmental racism.' The Nickel smelter is enormously destructive to the local environment (it has also been accused of adding to stratospheric pollution that ends up in Canada). While it provides employment and wealth to the ethnically European workers, management, and investors. The indigenous reindeer herders have been forced to move their herds further and further away from traditional pastures.

The mine and smelter produce platinum group metals in great quantities. The Norilsk smelters are a major supplier to the world for the production of catalytic converters. Catalytic converters are used primarily by wealthy nations to reduce noxious emmissions from automobiles (and other things like chimneys and smoke stacks). Clean air in the urban centres of North America is exchanged for a poisoned Siberian landscape.