Nickel, copper and... ecotourism
Monchegorsk becomes Kola Peninsula's new top attraction17 september 2022
17 September marks the 85th anniversary of Monchegorsk. The single-industry town, once associated solely with nickel production, is now becoming as much a centre for tourism on the Kola Peninsula as the famous Teriberka. Located on the shore of Lake Imandra, the largest in the Arctic Circle, this harmonious city welcomes thousands of visitors from all over the country. And the stake on eco-friendly production allows Monchegorsk to develop without endangering the beautiful nature around it.
Monchegorsk grew up around the Severonickel Combine: the history of the town and its city-forming enterprise are inseparable from each other. The giant nickel plant, an example of Soviet industrial breakthrough, was put into operation in 1938. By 1941, cobalt was being produced in addition to nickel. With the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War, the company was evacuated along with all its employees, but in 1942, it was brought back to its original location. It took a truly heroic effort to get production going again. But there was no way out: the country needed Monchegorsk nickel for the victory.
In the post-war decades, the city was rebuilt according to designs by architects from Leningrad, and it became one of the most beautiful in the Arctic Circle.
The combine, now called Kola Mining and Metallurgical Company (KMMC), remains the heart of the monocity—formerly called Monchegorsk by that name. But that is about to change: at the 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the Murmansk regional government signed an agreement with MMC Norilsk Nickel, which includes KMMC. The company will build the Big Copper white metal plant in Monchegorsk.
'Labour productivity will be twice as high as at the old production facility, absolutely environmentally friendly, with a gas utilisation rate of at least 95%, and this is a very large construction project, including for Nornickel. RUB 140 bn of investment, that's a development area of more than 100 football fields,' said Nornickel's Senior Vice President Sergey Dubovitsky.
The Big Copper project uses state-of-the-art roasting-leaching-electroextraction technology with minimal impact on the environment. The plant will have a zero-drainage closed-loop water system, which means that not a single drop of polluted water will reach Lake Imandra.
Ecology is one of the absolute priorities of a modern city. That is why, last March, Kola MMC shut down its outdated metallurgical shop in order to build a new one that meets modern requirements. To preserve the fragile nature of the Arctic, Nornickel will help convert oil-fired boiler houses in Monchegorsk to electricity.
Today Monchegorsk is no longer just a centre of the non-ferrous industry. Investment, socio-economic projects and tourism development are handled by the City Development Agency, established in 2020 by Nornickel and the city administration. The first results of the Agency's work are evident: the Polar city is becoming interesting to visitors from other regions of the country as it promotes unique formats such as the annual Imandra Viking Fest. It combines the culture of the Nordic people, the atmosphere of Scandinavian legends, nature, sports and outdoor activities.
In 2021, Imandra Viking Fest won first place in the X finals of the National Award in the field of event tourism Russian Event Awards in the category 'Best tourist event in the field of culture and art—population up to 100,000 people.'
Imandra Viking Fest is a landmark event in the region. In terms of the number of visitors, this is the largest festival in the Murmansk Region: every year, the festival attracts more than 10,000 guests from all regions of Russia. There are Viking workshops, costume parades, sports tournaments, fairs and workshops, all set in beautiful natural surroundings. And on 10 September, as part of Imandra Fest, the fifth Moncha Night Trail race was held—the only night race under the lights of the northern lights.
Lake Imandra is also becoming a centre of attraction for tourists. In July this year, the Monchegorsk Development Agency launched the Visit.Imandra project, where you can learn all about outdoor activities on the largest lake in the Polar region and about the town itself.
'It is the only town located on the lake. Monchegorsk is cosy and green, with beautiful architecture and a well-developed infrastructure: cafés, hotels, parks, embankments, sports equipment rentals and entrepreneurs who organise active tours. We plan to bring Imandra on a par with the top attractions of the Kola Peninsula—Teriberka, Murmansk, Khibiny,' says Daria Yarkova.