UC RUSAL Sustainability report 2016

Land and biodiversity

Land and biodiversity

Restoration of damaged land and promotion of the conservation of biological diversity are part of the environmental strategy of UC RUSAL.

Since 2008, the Company has adopted an operational policy, 'Decommissioning of assets and restoration of environment: requirements for the organisation of work and assessment of obligations, G4-EMS, setting:

          common corporate approaches and requirements for the restoration of damaged land;

          common rules on the assessment of obligations to decommision facilities and restore the environment.

According to UC RUSAL accounting policy, the expected cost of decommissioning of facilities and restoration of environment is reflected in the Company's international financial statements as provisions.

Land resources

Approach G4-EMS

Restoration of the damaged land is carried out by the Company in the following areas:

          restoration of damaged terrain and soil fertility after the completion of mining activities (open-cast and mines);

          reclamation of production and consumption waste disposal areas;

          remediation of damaged and contaminated land.


In 2016, the area of recultivated land was by 21% higher than the amount of developed land. The recultivation coefficient (the ratio of recultivated land to disturbed) was of 1.2 (1.3 in 2015). The total amount of disturbed land at the Company's production facilities has decreased from 7,441 ha in 2015 to 6,906 ha. Of these, the area of safe industrial waste disposal (mud disposal areas and industrial waste landfills) is of 3,243.7 ha (54%), the area of open-cast and waste dump is of 2,683 ha (39%), other areas requiring rehabilitation amount to 497.4 ha.

Ratio of disturbed and recultivated land, ha

The obligations of UC RUSAL to decommission the facilities and reclaim land as at the end of the reporting year were estimated at USD 382 mln. (USD 365 mln. in 2015). As a result of the sale of the Alpart factory in Jamaica, which had the largest recultivation debt, the total debt was significantly reduced to 440 hectares (more than 970 hectares at the end of 2015). In 2016, 30.6 ha were recultivated (36.6 ha in 2014).

          At the alumina plant Aughinish Alumina in Ireland, the mud disposal areas are being recultivated in full compliance with the requirements of the law. Red mud was compressed and drained, enriched by limestone and sand, loosened, ploughed, etc. Endemic plants were planted that formed the root system and are creating the soil.

          In the course of the development of the Vezhayu-Vorykvinsky deposit of the Timan Bauxite Mine (STBR), virtually all of the spent area of bauxite pits is filled with overburden rocks. This approach to reclamation reduces the area of the disturbed land.

          Windalco bauxite and alumina complex carried out active environmental work in the area of its operation. In the territories remaining after the development of bauxite deposits, which is conducted in Jamaica as open-cast, a large agricultural complex is created in Clapham (St. Ann). Twenty large greenhouses are built at the development site, in which local farmers will be able to grow in large quantities vegetables, spices and herbs. In order to provide the greenhouses with water during the dry season, the mining department of Windalco, together with contractors, constructed two reservoirs of 4 million litres each. The use of solar pumps is planned for the pumping of water during the drought season. Another Windalco project is being implemented in the vicinity of the town of Monig (St. Ann). Degraded land is rehabilitated there with the help of bamboo, which is planted in the abandoned pits. In the future, bamboo can be used by local residents and farmers to produce goods.

          For several years, Sayanogorsk aluminium smelter has been undertaking research of the detoxification of fluoride in the soil. In the reporting year a survey was carried out in a 40-hectare test area in the environmental buffer zone of the production facility, after which the soil was fertilized and the perennial plants of melilot and lucerne were planted. These activities help to reduce the concentration of fluoride and improve the condition of the steppe soils filling them with useful substances. The test area will be monitored in the coming years.

Solution of the problem of contamination of the area adjacent to the mud disposal area of the Achinsk alumina refinery

While recognising the significant impact of Achinsk alumina refinery (AGK) on the environment, UC RUSAL continues to undertake all necessary measures to improve the environmental situation in the area of the Achinsk alumina refinery.

Work to address the contamination of the area adjacent to the red mud disposal area of AGK is being carried out in accordance with the Programme for the rehabilitation of water facilities and land (PVR).

In 2016, the following significant activities of the Programme were carried out:

          the reconstruction of water supply and wastewater disposal systems of the refinery, with increased consumption of treated wastewater, reduced consumption of clean river water and lower volumes of drains in the mud disposal system:

           reconstruction of the mud disposal area with the removal of the treatment pond and the construction of the map No 3 with the film impervious membrane;

          reduction of the drainage water from the red mud disposal area:

          construction of a system for the interception of filtration water along the boundary of the red mud disposal areas, with the returning of the filtration waters of the mud disposal area to the recycling water supply system;

          cleaning of by-pass water drainage channel of the red mud disposal area from mud sediments;

          quality control of surface and ground water.  

The implementation of PVR is planned until 2020, and the total cost of the activities is estimated at USD 5.5 bln. Most of the costs, about USD 3.9 bln., are already included in UC RUSAL investment budgets in the next few years.


Approach G4-EMS

The production facilities of UC RUSAL are located in different regions and countries of the world, while the main productioncapacities of the Company is in Siberia, which is an eco-region with unique flora and fauna.

The territories, in which UC RUSAL production sites are located, do not include or border the land of specially protected natural areas (SPNA). G4-ЕN11

In compliance with the principles of sustainable development and provisions of the environmental policy, the Company works under long-term programmes to maintain and conserve biological diversity:

          the establishment and opening of visit centres and environmental routes in SPNA, and assistance in the development of the infrastructure of such territories;

          ecological volunteering marathon ‘Yenisey Day’ is a joint project with the Russian Geographic Society to clean up the banks of the Yenisey River and to organise special recreational areas;

          a project of study and conservation of the snow leopard (irbis), jointly with the Russian Geographic Society, aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of environmental protection activities in the Altay-Sayan ecoregion. The ecosystem of the Altay-Sayan highlands, located on the border of the steppe and taiga landscapes, is included in the Global 200 ranking list, which includes the most important regions of the world for preservation.

Since 2014, activities are performed under the programme of monitoring of anthropogenic (man-made) impact on the forest ecosystems of the Stolby sanctuary in Krasnoyarsk. In Sayanogorsk, since 2011, the Protected Country National Fund has been carrying out activities under the programme of Environmental Monitoring (including biodiversity monitoring) of specially protected natural areas in the area of influence of the Sayanogorsk aluminium smelter.


For 15 years, the specialists from the Biology Institute of the Komi Science Centre, Ural branch of the RAS monitor the operation of the STBR. This is done by such methods as lihenoindication and bioindication, in which the main surveyed objects are the lichens and mosses that are particularly responsive to soil and air pollution. Monitoring of the state of terrestrial ecosystems, radiological conditions and fish stocks shows that the activities of STBR are carried out with minimal environmental impact. The trees in the STBR area can be classified as healthy. All moss and lichen species, including lobaria and vulpicida included in the Red Book, are preserved. The results of the monitoring allow seeing the reality to date and, accordingly, adjusting environmental activities and design decisions. Research materials are also a unique, regularly growing scientific database on the natural components of the north and the degree of their resilience to the impact of mining.

In the creeks of Chernaya, Vorykva, Vym Atlantic salmon and common miller's thumb, included in the Red Book of the Russian Federation and the Komi Republic, lay eggs. Data from the annual studies of the fisheries of the Vym river, which flows in the STBR area, confirm that the fish habitat is not distressed, the miller's thumb maintains its presence in the waters directly in the area of the man-made impact. There are young fish and Atlantic salmon producers in the monitored area of the upper current of Vym. This demonstrates the continued importance of this section of the river in the reproduction of the salmon population. Nevertheless, scientists note that the number of specimens of valuable and commercially important fish, including whitefish, has decreased several times due to the intensity of fishing in rivers. In 2016, the production facility supported the republican programme for the development of aquaculture and organised the production of 12 thousand young whitefish in the Vym river, which will increase the population of this valuable commercially important fish.

The ecosystem, in which the largest European alumina smelter, Aughinish Alumina, is located was found to be the best preserved ecosystem in Ireland. According to a report of the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Republic of Ireland about the nationwide study of semi-natural grasslands, the Aughinish peninsula, close to which the territory of one of the alumina refineries of UC RUSAL is located semi-natural grassland. These ecosystems are the habitat of many rare and protected species of plants, as well as invertebrate animals, birds and mammals. Despite the fact that Aughinish Alumina is the largest alumina refinery in Europe, the 400 hectare area of the peninsula represents a wide variety of rare plant distribution, including the two most rare in Europe, where Sanguisorba officinalis and other plants faced with extinction grow. G4-ЕN12, G4-ЕN13

During the reporting period, the employees of the Krasnoyarsk, Bratsk, Irkutsk, Petersburg, Volgograd and Kandalaksha aluminium smelters, the Achinsk alumina refinery and the Urals aluminium smelter were actively involved in the social and environmental projects of ground cleaning and water protection areas in cooperation with the all-Russian environmental public movement Green Russia aimed at improving the ecological condition of cities and regions.

Youth organisations of UC RUSAL are regularly involved in urban activities and environmental programmes for the gardening of the urban environment, and for the purification of water protection zones initiated by the city and local public environmental authorities.

The Company works to promote environmental education, awareness and creation of environmental culture among the younger generation through cooperation with universities and general education institutions.