The nickel ore is smelted on site at Norilsk. The smelting is directly responsible for severe pollution, generally acid rain and smog. By some estimates, 1 percent of the entire global emissions of sulfur dioxide comes from this one city. Heavy metal pollution near Norilsk is so severe that mining the surface soil is now economically feasible, as a result of acquiring high concentrations of platinum and palladium through pollution.
The Blacksmith Institute included Norilsk in its 2007 list of the ten most polluted places on Earth.
CNN has claimed that there is not a single living tree within 48 km of the nickel smelter Nadezhda (“The Hope”).