Nornickel is Russia’s No. 1 industrial company by COVID-19 spending, according to Forbes’ ranking.

Last year, the global community faced a major disaster – the coronavirus pandemic. Within months, the pandemic disrupted the usual way of life for people all around the world. Nornickel management fully realised the gravity of the situation and joined the fight against the new infection as early as in March 2020.

Nornickel allocated over RUB 20 billion to fight the coronavirus – not only to protect its own enterprises but also to support local authorities, healthcare and educational institutions, and socially vulnerable citizens. The Company purchased over 460 thousand coronavirus tests and over 10 million protective masks, 356 ventilators, 400 thermal imagers, and 5 critical care vehicles. Nornickel financed the deployment of 2 stationary laboratories, 7 mobile laboratories, and 15 mini-laboratories in its regions of operation; new equipment was also purchased for local hospitals to replace obsolete equipment.

These efforts did not go unnoticed. Forbes magazine ranked Nornickel as Russia’s No. 1 industrial company by COVID-19 spending.

Distancing from COVID-19

First of all, the Company made every effort to implement social distancing rules to prevent the spread of the disease. All international business travel was suspended and business travel within Russia was significantly curtailed. In the shortest timeframe, 14% of the Company employees, about 10 thousand people, were shifted to remote working. Access to Nornickel production sites was minimised for white-collar employees.

As older people are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, all Company employees over 65 were suspended from work in accordance with a decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition, Nornickel voluntarily developed coronavirus control measures to protect employees aged over 60. The Company made sure that none of its older, more experienced employees found themselves in a difficult financial situation due to the pandemic, and continued to pay them full salaries. Blue-collar employees who could not be shifted to remote working received additional compensation.

A 24-hour employee hotline was set up, with information about all measures taken by Nornickel to combat the pandemic made available to employees at any time.

Safe operations

Nornickel, one of Russia’s leading industrial companies, is one of the world’s largest producers of precious and non-ferrous metals. The strategically important task of ensuring its continuous operation was greatly complicated by the threat of COVID-19 spread.

To minimise the risk of employees contracting the disease, Nornickel provided all staff with personal protective equipment and installed dispensers with disinfectants and sanitiser in all production and office premises. In a new environment, agreements were renegotiated with cleaning companies to increase the frequency of disinfection of workplaces and administrative premises.

The Company monitored employee health on a daily basis using thermal imagers and non-contact thermometers. Employees in the risk group were regularly tested for coronavirus and self-isolated as necessary.

Specific safety measures were developed for shift workers, comprising mandatory testing and quarantine in dedicated observation facilities built and equipped by the Company. Shifts were extended to include the time spent in observation facilities.

Helping hand

“Since we are in good shape, we have to take care of our employees, protect them in every possible way, both medically and socially. That’s the first thing. Secondly, we need to take a look around and help municipalities and towns, especially the single-industry towns where we operate,” said Nornickel’s President Vladimir Potanin. Businesses had to invest considerable financial and human resources to adapt to the pandemic, and small and medium-sized enterprises were hit the hardest. Supporting them was one of the most important aspects of Nornickel’s local efforts.

At the expense of Nornickel subsidiaries, rent holidays for the duration of the pandemic were granted, cargo deliveries to Norilsk were subsidised, and pro bono accounting and legal services were offered to 116 regional enterprises.

The Company provided subsidies for utility bill payments to non-profits, and granted six-month loan holidays to social entrepreneurs.

Contribution to healthcare

During the pandemic, the efforts of healthcare workers are as vital as the uninterrupted supply of medicines and availability of medical instruments and equipment.

This is especially important in the Far North. Nornickel was supporting healthcare facilities in Norilsk and on the Taimyr Peninsula from the onset of the pandemic. The Company allocated substantial sums to purchase personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, medicines and medical equipment, including vitally important defibrillators, inhalers, pulse oximeters, etc. Twenty-five new Swiss ECG machines worth a total of RUB 9 million were purchased for three ambulance sub-stations in Norilsk to replace the devices that had reached the end of their service life.

Nornickel supported the opening of an infectious disease ward for treating COVID-19 patients at the Monchegorsk Central District Hospital, equipped with ventilators. The Company also purchased state-of-the-art coronavirus testing equipment for the ward.

Doctors’ efforts in minimising the spread of the virus were recognised: Nornickel awarded 27 Norilsk medics with RUB 50,000 certificates for their selfless fight against the pandemic.