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A Letter to Elon Musk from Arctic Shores

An appeal of AborigenForum network to Elon Musk, the head of the Tesla company in the aftermath of Norilsk oil spill

Ambarnaya River poisoned by diesel spill

Corporate Secretary, Tesla, Inc.
3500 Deer Creek Road,
Palo Alto, CA 94304
United States

Dear Mr. Elon Musk,

We are addressing you as representatives of Russian Indigenous Peoples.

We stand united as “Aborigen Forum,” an informal association of experts, activists, leaders and organizations of Indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation. Aborigen Forum’s work focuses on protecting and implementing the rights of indigenous peoples in Russia; analyzing legislation and monitoring the living conditions and economic activities; developing ties with other organizations and international cooperation; and working with all levels of government of the Russian Federation.   

We are respectfully requesting that you DO NOT BUY nickel, copper and other products from the Russian mining company Nornickel until the following is implemented:

  1. Nornickel conducts a full and independent assessment of the environmental damage of mining for nickel and other metals in Russia’s Taymyr Peninsula and Murmansk Oblast. The assessment should include the harm from the ongoing Norilsk diesel oil spill and consider the damage done by industrial production to traditional economic activities of indigenous peoples.
  2. Nornickel compensates indigenous communities for the damages done to their traditional way of life.
  3. Nornickel prepares and implements a plan for re-cultivating contaminated lands in the Taymyr Peninsula and Murmansk Oblast.
  4. Nornickel revises its policies for engaging with indigenous peoples. The new guidelines must be informed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the need to obtain free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting indigenous lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

We are writing to you following the media coverage of your appeal for mining companies to produce more nickel to fully address production needs of Tesla. Your proposal mentions that Tesla is prepared to offer nickel producers “giant” long-term contracts if they are able to produce nickel effectively and environmentally safely.

As you know, the Russian company Nornickel is a global leader in nickel production. In Russia, its principal places of business are the Taymyr Peninsula and Murmansk Oblast, where the company mines for and processes ore. The company is also a global leader in environmental pollution, which is especially dangerous given the Nornickel’s presence in the Arctic region where the environment is particularly vulnerable and it could take decades to recover from a single incident.

The Indigenous peoples of the Arctic have been living in the Taymyr Peninsula and Murmansk Oblast for generations. The Sámi, Nentsy, Nganasan, Entsy, Dolgan and Evenki communities have preserved the traditional life, culture, and economy of Northern peoples, including reindeer herding, hunting and fishing. Indigenous people view clean environment as a key factor for survival in harsh northern conditions.   

You may be aware of the Norilsk oil spill that began on May 29, 2020. One of Nornickel’s power plants flooded local rivers with up to 21,000 tons of diesel oil. The incident was the second-largest environmental disaster in the Arctic region, after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. The contaminated rivers in Taymyr are traditionally used by the local indigenous communities for fishing. The ongoing ecological catastrophe is the largest in Nornickel’s portfolio but it is not an isolated incident. Environmental pollution in the company’s mining for nickel and other metals is a routine occurrence in the Taymyr Peninsula and Murmansk Oblast. The lands of indigenous people appropriated by the company for industrial production now resemble a lunar landscape, and traditional use of these lands is no longer possible.

We are aware of Tesla Inc.’s policies on human rights. The Company’s Code of Conduct for suppliers prescribes minimizing negative impact on the environment in all activities in order for the global economy to transition to sustainable energy. We call on Tesla, Inc. to refrain from cooperation with Nornickel and announce this decision publicly, until the abovementioned policies are implemented by the Russian nickel supplier.

Sincerely yours,

Gennady Schukin

Executive Secretary,
Aborigen Forum

Russian version . Source:

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