Краткий очерк об истории Мончегорска
Мончегорская природа
Географический словарь Кольского полуострова
Статьи научные
Статьи научно-популярные
Извлечение платиновых металлов
Лапландский заповедник
Гостевая книга


Предлагаемый Вашему вниманию сайт посвящен природе города Мончегорска, Мончегорского района и Лапландского заповедника (примерно половина территории района занята заповедником), а также влиянию на состояние природы выбросов одного из крупнейших в мире металлургических заводов – комбината Североникель. Поскольку это влияние чрезвычайно интересует наших ближайших соседей – Финляндию и Норвегию – мы, следуя правилам вежливости, помещаем в самом начале краткое изложение материала на английском языке.


This book took many years to write; it is a continuation of the book, “Severonickel”, by V.Ya. Poznyakov, published in 1999. We attempted to include all collected knowledge and experience on creation of favorable working and living conditions in the town of Monchegorsk, beautiful tundra town.

A relatively good state of the atmosphere and work places in town and at most production sites was the result of long-term work on improving technology and equipment and decreasing emissions into the atmosphere and water of hazardous chemicals produced during production of clean metals, such as nickel, copper, and cobalt – the main products of Severonickel smelter complex. This book is the story of what has been done and what has yet to be done.

The relief of the studied area is dominated by mountain massifs, including the Volchii (Wolf) and Svintsovaya (Led) tundra zones to the north, the Monche and Chuna tundra areas with the heights of up to 900-1,000 meters above the sea level to the west, and a number of small isolated tundra zones, particularly near the town of Monchegorsk. The latter include, for example, Mounts Poadzu-ivench, Nyudu-ivench, Vyruch-ivench, and Sopchu-ivench. These alpine tundra massifs are divided by lakes, swamps, and river valleys.

Lapland Nature Reserve occupies about half of Monchegorsk district. Most interesting geomorphologic features of the region are tectonic faults filled with deep lakes and white-water rivers. Coastal subarctic climate is softened by the presence of the ice-free south-western part of the Barents Sea. The highest summer temperatures are 30-330С above zero; the lowest winter ones are 40-450С below zero. Temperatures may fall below freezing for short periods during any summer month. Maximum surface wind speed can reach 30-35 m/sec and even 40 m/sec, leading to mass windblow and destruction of roofs and power transmission line poles.

There are no sedimentary rocks in the region. Plains and mountain slopes, except for cliffs and hilltop plateaus, are covered with main and lateral moraine deposits. Soil-forming material is moraine. Prevailing soil types are north taiga podsolic soils – illuvio-humic-podsolic soils with a shallow soil profile of 20-70 cm.

The dominant plant communities are associations of conifers. Following is a brief summary of biodiversity (as of January 01, 2017):

Total number of botany species is 2089, including 617 higher vascular plant species, 269 species of leaved mosses (Bryotae), 173 liverworts (Hepaticae), 629 species of lichens, about 193 species of Basidiomycetes, 117 species of afilloforovye mushrooms, 91 species of myxomycetes and 140 species of Сyanoprocaryotes. Inventory of botany species is continueing.
There are the following number of animals: 31 mammal, 214 bird, 2 reptiles and 1 amphibians, 15 of fish, 20 of freshwater molluscs, 1354 of insects and 276 of spiders. Total number of animals as of January 01, 2017 is 1913. General inventory of invertebrates is continueing.

The town of Monchegorsk and Monchegorsk district grew as a conglomerate of mainly political prisoner camp-like villages - 63 of them at the beginning. Construction of the town that now has a population of 60,000 people started in 1935 together with construction of the Severonickel smelter complex.

Monchegorsk district is one of the world’s well-studied areas in relation to the influence of atmospheric industrial pollution on the environment. A current bibliography on the theme exceeds 1,500 sources. Atmospheric emissions of metallurgical production are the main source of environmental pollution.

Sulfur dioxide gas is the largest (by volume) of industrial emissions of the plant; and it has the strongest impact, literally mortal, especially on conifers. Nickel and its compounds are the second most important component of the plant’s industrial emissions in terms of influence on living organisms. Nickel compounds are carcinogenic. Formaldehyde and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), especially benz(a)pyrene, are some of the most noticeable toxic organic substances, i.e. carcinogens, found in the town of Monchegorsk. Exhaust fumes of cars and planes, smoke fumes of power stations and metallurgic furnaces, forest fires and household waste combustion are the main sources of PAHs. For 50 years, military planes have been taking off in afterburner right above the town of Monchegorsk covering its territory with benz(a)pyrene.

Technology of metallurgic production of Severonickel smelter complex is based on processing copper-nickel sulfide ore and intermediate products. Until recently, the plant’s metal waste of cinder, dust and wastewater amounted to 4.5 - 5 % of their concentration in ore. The total amount of metals and sulfuric anhydride in the environment for the past 50 years appeared to be as large: nickel and copper – approximately 100,000 -110,000 ton each, SO2 - about 7,500,000 tons. Even after full termination of industrial emissions, monitoring and research on their negative influence will continue for many years.

Until recently, the share of Severonickel smelter complex in SO2 emissions was 94-96% of total emissions and 100% of copper and nickel emissions in central part of Kola Peninsula. The Severonickel smelter complex also emits carbon dioxide (СО2), carbon monoxide (СО), nitrogen oxides (NОx), phenol, formaldehyde, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, mainly benz(a)pyrene, sulfuric acid, sulfuric anhydride SO3, hydrogen sulfide H2S, chloride, nickel tetracarbonyl Ni(CO)4, vanadium compounds, selenium dioxide SeO2, tellurium dioxide TeO2, and manganese oxides MnOx.

In 1998, Severonickel smelter complex stopped fusing crude ore and became a refinery that processes nickel matte – the semi-finished product of Norilskiy and Pechenganickel plants. Together with nickel matte, which is an alloy of sulfides, some metal-bearing materials, such as concentrates and alloy scraps containing copper, nickel, cobalt, and precious metals come into procession. One should note that metal-bearing dust emissions into the atmosphere are a source of water pollution as metal compounds on the soil gradually transform into soluble forms and then are washed by rain and melt water into rivers and lakes.

Intensive landscape pollution with nickel and copper started almost simultaneously with Severonickel smelter complex’s operations at end of the 1940-s; although plant productivity was lower than it is now, metal emissions into the atmosphere were high; according to 1964-1965 snow analysis, nickel input into landscapes amounted to 200 ton per year, copper – about 130 ton/year.

Industrial activity of Severonickel smelter complex and forest fires transformed the district landscape beyond recognition. By 1965, the environmental pollution and degradation due to industrial emissions of Severonickel smelter complex were a clear fact for the majority of people of Murmansk oblast. In the 1965-1966 Nature Annals of Lapland Nature Reserve the catastrophic destruction of the forests around the town of Monchegorsk was described as a well-known event caused by the plant’s industrial emissions into the atmosphere.

After a pioneer research done by Gurevich and Doncheva on environmental pollution by the plant’s industrial emissions and their consequences, many organizations continued the research in the 1980s-1990-s and conduct it now. They are the Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences, Arkhangelskiy Institute of Forest and Forest Chemistry, Kolа research center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Lapland Nature Reserve, Institute of Ecology and Evolutionary Morphology named after Severtsov, and Turku University (Finland).

Nickel and copper concentrations in the soils in a 450-km2 area in the district with Monchegorsk town in its center, exceed the environmental level by 450 and 250 times, respectively. These soils are toxic and a health hazard. Increased concentrations of iron and arsenic were also registered in the soil. One found that on over 2,000 km2 nickel concentration in mushrooms and berries exceeds MPC (Maximum Permissible Concentration) level and their use is dangerous for health.

By the end of the first half of the 20th century, complicated structural changes of forest ecosystems started happening in Monchegorsk area that suffered from emissions. One could clearly see increasing forest degradation and deterioration of vegetation.

Termination of ore processing and operation of furnaces and converters in the melting shop in 1998 decreased sulfur dioxide gas emissions down to 45,000 ton per year and rapidly improved air conditions in the town and its neighborhood. Average annual concentration of sulfur dioxide decreased down to 0.02 mg/m3. Nickel emissions in the atmosphere and nickel concentration in the air decreased at the same time. A decrease in concentrations of main pollutants, sulfur dioxide gas and nickel, in the air favorably affected the town’s vegetation – conifers stopped dying out.

Influence of air pollution on human health

Literature on the influence of industrial emissions on health is abundant, but all attempts to find direct dependences and cause-effect relations between the health of Monchegorsk citizens and the amount and nature of industrial emissions have failed. For the man in the street, Monchegorsk is a town dangerous for health. But we did not find direct reliable research results. According to one of the official publications – Informational bulletin of Sanitary and Epidemiological Inspection Center in Murmansk oblast “Analysis of diseases of adults in Murmansk oblast” for 10 years (1991-2000), the biggest increase in disease incidence occurred in Kirovsk, Murmansk, Polyarniye Zori, Severomorsk and other towns, but Monchegorsk was not on the list. A detailed analysis of the dynamics showed that the town of Monchegorsk is not on the list of towns leading in the incidence of malignant growth cases either. Monchegorsk took the fourth place in the incidence of diseases of endocrine system, blood and blood-forming organs, and digestive organs; the sixth place in the incidence of blood circulatory system diseases, but the first place in the incidence of cardiovascular diseases and the second place in the incidence of diseases of respiratory organs and skin. Monchegorsk took one of the last places in the region in the incidence of nervous system diseases and congenital abnormalities. The bulletin concludes that the current unfavorable trend of increasing case incidence among adults in the region continues in general, but not in the town of Monchegorsk.


It is hard to tell which lake is more polluted – Imandra Lake, largest reservoir of Kola Peninsula and water-supply source for Apatity, Polyarniye Zori and settlements Afrikanda and Zasheek , that receive industrial waste water from plants and sewage from towns, or Moncha Lake, source of drinking water for the town of Monchegorsk located above the plant and the town.

Heavy metals are main toxic pollutants of surface water near the town of Monchegorsk and Severonickel smelter complex, with nickel making most of it. Highest concentrations of nickel, copper, cobalt and zinc are registered in Moncha Bay (due to Severonickel smelter complex’s wastewater), but high nickel concentration (over 20 mkg/L) was found in all water area of Imandra Lake.

Coming into natural reservoirs, pollutants cause toxicity and death for inhabitants. Breeding grounds of vendace, whitefish, and trout in Monche Bay were destroyed. Fish catches dwindled; in 1934, about 3,500,000 kg of fish were caught in Imandra Lake; after 1963, annual catches were down to 600,000-700,000 kg; at present, commercial fishing stopped in Imandra Lake due to its low profitability. One should also say that rapid decrease in fish stock in the lake was caused not only by water pollution, but artificial recession of water level in Imandra Lake by 1.5 m in dry autumn 1960.

Monche Lake, drinking water reservoir of Monchegorsk town, does not have incoming waste, but it is polluted with metal compounds that used to come down with rainfall and sedimentation of metal-bearing dust on the lake, as well as metals coming from the vast water-catchment area, from springs and river water, especially at the water withdrawal point. Despite the fact that lake water at withdrawal point is polluted, clean water runs out of faucets in the town of Monchegorsk.

In 1972, the research on influence of surface water of Kola Peninsula on human health was published and showed a connection between the water composition in reservoirs of Monchegorsk and Apatity districts and increased incidence of human kidney stone and gallstone diseases. At present, proposals to switch to underground sources of drinking water, that were first voiced at the end of the 50-s – beginning of the 60-s, seem to have moved to a practical stage. One should realize that underground water will free the town from the necessity to purify drinking water, but in our area ground and underground water is very soft, and the threat of kidney stone and gallstone diseases will remain.

Without waiting for the decision on the underground water withdrawal, Monchegorsk citizens take water from numerous springs in town and around it. It is assumed that the influence of sewage on water quality is not as dangerous as that of industrial wastewater. But one should not divide wastewater into more or less dangerous. As a result of nutrients flow into the water, i.e. water enrichment, unicellular and filamentous blue-green algae reproduce and take in oxygen from water. Every several years, algae reproduce unusually quickly, the water tints green, algae take in all oxygen from the water and fish suffocate and dies. In December 1982, a gigantic fish kill happened in Bolshaya Imandra, when thousands of fish suffocated to death.


Lapland Nature Reserve occupies about half of Monchegorsk district. One should say that there are very few places on the Earth where a huge metallurgic plant and its town are located next to a large nature reserve, not a nursery or a national park, but a nature reserve whose inhabitants live on their own according to the laws of nature and not under control of man.

Lapland Nature Reserve was established in 1930 to protect vast natural landscapes with their plants and animals, first of all, for the benefit of hunting society. Wild reindeer seemed to need most protection at that time, as they were almost exterminated by the end of the 19th century. Seventy-five years since that time show that the Reserve has reached its goals stated in 1928 and added research and ecological education and outreach of the local people.


Termination of Norilsk crude ore fusion and smelter shop operation in 1998, together with previously taken measures, cut atmospheric pollution in the town of Monchegorsk. In recent years, average annual sulfur dioxide concentration has been much lower than the Maximum Permissible Concentration level; and only for several hours per year with unfavorable weather conditions the control points register an excess. Conifers in town have stopped dying, and pine trees, fir-trees and larches started growing. Planned changes in the technological scheme will cut down the plant’s emissions even more, and the atmosphere in the town of Monchegorsk will meet the highest requirements. We have an example to follow – houses of the settlement of the Falconbridge copper-nickel plant in Christiansand (Norway) are built right under the plant walls and surrounded by blooming vegetation.

One should realize that even with the most optimistic approach it will take many years to recover the polluted soil on the large territory and remove the increased metal concentration in mushrooms, berries and surface water, but that is why it is important to start the work as soon as possible.

Recent years show that natural recovery of the forest on the territory destroyed by Severonickel smelter complex emissions will take dozens of years and will happen in several stages in the places where soil remains. Grass will appear first; then willow trees will start growing as most tolerant to industrial pollution of air and soil; then birch trees will appear, and only after that pine and fir will start growing there. If topsoil is destroyed, then recovery process may be delayed for an indefinite period of time unless special revegetation measures are taken. The main condition is a decrease in industrial emissions to the level that would exclude damage to environment, which is possible through the planned changes in technological scheme, efficient decontamination of technological and ventilation gases, and good condition of equipment.

Metal compounds accumulated in soil and bottom sediments of Monche Lake will continue causing increased metal concentrations in drinking water for a long time, and solving this problem is an urgent task. Top-priority tasks of further ecological improvement in Monchegorsk town should be a decrease in air pollution with industrial emissions from Severonickel smelter complex, liquidation of all dust-forming and smoking boiler plants, planting of greenery in the town, decrease in exhaust fumes of cars, and improvement of drinking water quality.

One should note the environmentally oriented technical policy of Kolskaya mining and metallurgical plant. New technological schemes are being developed, and they presuppose decrease or total elimination of hazardous emissions and waste. Work has started on recultivation of disturbed land around the plant and town; greenery planting in the town of Monchegorsk continues; and these works are financed well. Kolskaya mining and metallurgical plant signed long-term contracts with research organizations to recultivate the land. Ecological outreach activities, especially with children, receive support; it is clear that one should start from the kindergarten in order to reach real results in the future.

Obviously, the adults among us will not see the time when forests start growing on barren land around Monchegorsk town. But if the trend continues, today’s babies, having reached our current age, will be able to go collect mushrooms and berries only five-ten kilometers away, but not 30-40 km as we do now.