VAST WEALTH beneath the Siberian snow : Norilsk has risen again along with Russia's economic fortunes. Around 175,000 people now live year-round in Norilsk.

Beyond the city, which is 1,800 miles northeast of Moscow in northern Siberia, extends an endless, mostly uninhabited wilderness.

''Everything else is a vast wild land with no people,'' said Vladmir Larin, a scientist who lives in Norilsk. ''This is where the last wild mammoths died. When they dug the foundations of the buildings, they found the bones of mammoths.''

The bones of former prisoners also keep resurfacing, appearing each year when winter finally breaks in June and the melting snow carries to the surface these buried remains of the city's grim and, in official accounts at least, still mostly smothered past.

Some residents are the descendants of former slave laborers who stayed on simply because it was too hard to leave a place so remote that locals refer to the rest of Russia as ''the mainland.''

There are no roads or railway lines connecting Norilsk to parts of Russia outside the Arctic. The only way to get in or out is by plane or by boat on the Arctic ocean.

Many resident, however came voluntarily, lured by the promise of relatively high salaries and steady work in the city's metallurgical industry, a sprawling complex of  of mines and smelters owned by Norilsk Nickel.

The business is a privatized former state company that is world's largest producer of palladium and also a major supplier of nickel, copper and other metals.

It is also one of the world's biggest producers of pollution, turning the area into a dead zone of lifeless tree trunks, mud and snow. At one point, the company spewed more sulfur dioxide a year than all of France.

It has since taken some steps to reduce its output of toxic waste but was last year blamed for turning the Daldykan, a river that runs by the plant, into a flow of red goo. Locals called it ''blood river''.

The company gets its products to  market through a port at  Dudinka on the Yenisel River, the largest of the three great  Siberian rivers that flow north into the Arctic ocean.

Dudinka, as well as providing Norilsk's outlet to the outside world, also offers a glimpse of the region's past.

The settlement's natural history museum displays tents used by the four main indigenous people in the area. The biggest of those today are the Dolganas, a nomadic Turkic people that used to live off hunting and reindeer herding but were themselves herded into collective farms during the Soviet era.

The Honor and Serving of this latest Global Operational Research on 'Siberia continues  to Part 2. 


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