Russia’s Richest Man Loses $4.1bn After Major Environmental Disasters

The president of metal giant Norilsk Nickel and Russia’s richest man, Vladimir Potanin, has seen his fortune reduced by $4.1 billion after two environmental disasters in Russia’s far north, according to business magazine Forbes.

On May 29, about 20 thousand tons of diesel leaked from a thermal power plant owned by Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company, a Norilsk Nickel subsidiary. The fuel entered into the soil and contaminated reservoirs responsible for supplying the area’s residents with clean water, Russia Today reports.

Following this disaster, on July 12, almost 45 tons of aviation fuel leaked from a pipeline in the Krasnoyarsk Region, inside the Arctic Circle. The pipe is owned and operated by Norilsktransgaz – another subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel.

According to Forbes ‘Real Time’ tracker of billionaires’ wealth around the world, Potanin’s net worth began to fall after a June 4 televised meeting between President Vladimir Putin and regional officials. Overall, due to these environmental incidents, his fortune fell from $26.7 billion to $22.6 billion.

Russia’s environmental protection agency, Rosprirodnadzor, expects Norilsk Nickel to pay compensation to the tune of 148 billion rubles ($2 billion) for the May 29 leak. The company has agreed to pay out of its own pocket but has challenged the government’s figure. On June 3, Potanin estimated the damage at $150 million.

Despite a $4 billion loss, Potanin is still the richest man in Russia. Behind the Norilsk Nickel president are Leonid Mikhelson, the founder of natural gas company Novatek, and Vladimir Lisin, chairman of steel product manufacturer NLMK Group.

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