IRKUTSK - The Russian government has unexpectedly decided to close down the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, which had been the center of one of the biggest environmental battles in recent Russian history, Kommersant reports.
The paper mill, which is located on the shores of Lake Baikal in Siberia, had been struggling though bankruptcy proceedings since 2009, and was the largest polluter of the lake. Environmentalists had long been demanding the mill’s closure.
Lake Baikal is the world's deepest freshwater lake, and is estimated to contain about 20% of unfrozen fresh water in the world.
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Lake Baikal. Photo Délirante bestiole la poésie des goupils
The environmental and financial problems were related. The mill had not been able to turn a profit since the government forced it to adopt a closed-loop water recycling system in 2008, and had been accumulating debts since then, Kommersant reports.
The paper mill will be closed gradually, and it is still not clear what will replace it, although it will certainly include a pollution cleanup.
One scenario is that the mill will be replaced with a resort and health spa. The Russian Foreign Trade Bank, the mill’s largest creditor, will oversee the mill closure and environmental rehabilitation of the surrounding area.