President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Potanin, have you dragged the cable to Norilsk?
Norilsk Nickel President and Chairman of the Management Board Vladimir Potanin: Yes we have, Mr President, practically on our own steam. Over 900 kilometres, almost 1,000 kilometres in the permafrost and tundra, and the broadband internet has at last arrived in Norilsk. I have to say that I underrated its importance for the city residents. We, Muscovites, and residents of other cities with the population of over one million take the internet for granted.
Of course, it was very important to do this, not only to introduce various management technologies, which are important for our company, but also to create adequate living conditions in the city. It would be impossible without this.
The programme for improving living conditions in Norilsk, which you initiated six years ago and which envisaged relocation and other issues, has brought results. Since then, some 6,500 families have relocated to the continent, which is the result of joint efforts – funds from the federal and regional budgets plus the company's funds.
There used to be queues for kindergartens. With the construction of three new kindergartens, this issue was solved. Now there is internet, and it has become even better.
I think another reason this year is important for us is that in the Year of the Environment we would like to make progress in addressing environmental issues. We have not been idle while developing the environmental programme. We have drastically improved the condition of the Kola Peninsula, with a radical reduction in the emissions of harmful substances into the atmosphere on the Russia-Norway border and a 35 percent drop in emissions in Norilsk. And now we have started the second stage of the programme.
I reported to you a year ago about the difficulties involved in getting this programme underway. There was no proper technology or understanding of how to go about it. Unfortunately, the environment received little attention in the past. Nevertheless, we have put to productive use the time that you gave us and put together a meaningful programme. We approved the plan with the support of the Government. By 2023, we will have reduced the amount of sulphur dioxide emissions by 75 percent, almost fully resolving the issue.
We managed to cut our dependence on unreliable, or shall I say, unverified technologies that are vulnerable to the risk of sanctions, and to switch to affordable technology, including Russian-made. Plus, we have substantially streamlined this project, and even though it still costs a huge amount of money – about 150 billion rubles in Norilsk alone – we will invest in overcoming this challenge. We are confident that this will pay off in spades, because city residents will be breathing clean air.
Also, this project got traction all over the world. Environmental institutions are saying good things about it. Of course, we are doing this primarily for our employees and the people who live in the vicinity of our enterprises. Nevertheless, I believe that such a response is adding to the prestige of our country on the international arena. It's nice to be able to make at least a small contribution to this.
Vladimir Putin: Prestige is a good thing, but, most importantly, the people should live better, and the environment should get cleaner.
Vladimir Potanin: This is our primary focus.
Vladimir Putin: You have another good project going in the East, correct?
Vladimir Potanin: Yes, I was about to brag about it. I hope it is worth bragging about. A month ago, the Bystrinsky ore mining and processing enterprise went operational in the Trans-Baikal Territory. It will extract and process over one million tonnes of ore. This is the largest project in the industry since Soviet times. It is important not only for our company as an element of its long-term sustainable development, but, I am sure, it will have a very positive impact on the socioeconomic situation in the region.
Importantly, we carried out this project in the form of public-private partnership, since the infrastructure – overhead lines and railway – was built jointly by the state and our company. You issued instructions on several occasions and followed this process. Finally, this process allowed us to start commissioning operations. I hope we will reach full capacity in 2019. It is going to be a very good project.
Vladimir Putin: I congratulate you, as well as all those who worked on the project.
Vladimir Potanin: Thank you. Your message arrived just in time, and the people were very pleased. With your permission, I would like to ask you to award state decorations to the best employees who worked on two projects – the construction of the Bystrinsky GOK project and the broadband infrastructure.
Vladimir Putin: Let us do so.
Vladimir Potanin: Thank you, Mr President.