The Baikal pulp mill, which pollutes the world’s largest and deepest freshwater lake, will “likely” be shut down, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said on Friday.
“There’s been a lot of talk, a group is studying different options…[But] the Baikal factory will almost definitely be closed,” Dvorkovich said at a business summit in Nizhny Novgorod.
The authorities have finally started to engage environmentalists and the general public in considering the ecological repercussions of major industrial projects, Dvorkovich added.
But the government reserves the right to ignore environmental protests, he added.
The Baikal paper mill, opened in 1966, has been a longtime target of environmentalists, who claim it is doing untold damage to the Siberian lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and holds 20 percent of all the planet's unfrozen surface fresh water.
The debt-ridden mill has been struggling to keep afloat for years. It was shut down in 2008, but reopened in 2010 on the sanction of Vladimir Putin, then the Prime Minister.
The bankrupt plant, which owes 1.9 billion rubles ($61 million), ceased operating in August, but resumed work last week, denying reports of mass layoffs.
The mill, which is authorized to dump its wastewater into lake Baikal, was fined 51 million rubles ($1.6 million) for environmental pollution between 2009 and the first half of 2012.