In a bold move Russian mining powerhouse Nornickel has stepped onto the ice to engage with the indigenous people of Tukhard, a remote Arctic settlement. Collaborating with architectural wizards Wowhaus and the Norilsk Development Agency, Nornickel is pursuing a UN-sanctioned relocation plan for these residents, currently nestled in an industrial sanitary zone.

nornickel Photo credit: nornickel

Nornickel has been beating the drum for this plan at a public consultation with the locals. The heart of the meeting throbbed with talk about the master plan for the new settlement, the design of the houses, and the all-important consent of the community. Nornickel is no greenhorn when it comes to these talks, having hosted three rounds of consultation with experts in indigenous rights, all to ensure that the rights and opportunities for the locals are kept front and center.

Tukhard, a rustic locale on the banks of the Bolshaya Kheta River on Russia's Taimyr Peninsula, is home to many reindeer herders. The village, which sprung up in the late 1960s at an industrial site, is now under the microscope due to laws that prohibit permanent residence in industrial sanitary zones. To navigate this iceberg, Nornickel is securing the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the residents before moving them a stone's throw away from their current homes.

"After a five-month marathon of negotiations, we finally broke the ice. Tukhard residents are ready to pack up and move, but only under certain conditions," said Vasily Zakharov, Nornickel's indigenous engagement expert. Among these conditions are the ability for residents to pick social and utility infrastructure options, lay down demands for the appearance of the new settlement, and ensure adequate infrastructure for reindeer herding.

This groundbreaking resettlement project, footed entirely by Nornickel, is poised to be the gold standard for similar renovations of remote settlements in the frosty expanses of the Russian North. The master plan for Tukhard is an ode to modernity while respecting the traditional ways of life of the indigenous people.

"Think of a settlement that blends seamlessly with the local climate and landscape, where curved streets shield you from the wind, and the heart of the community is just a five-minute stroll away," said Oleg Shapiro, co-founder of Wowhaus. The plan also includes a landscaped lake embankment and a pier on the river, adding the finishing touches to this picturesque Arctic haven.

The final blueprint for this ambitious project is expected to be unveiled this fall, ready for all eyes eager to see the future of Tukhard.