Russia’s Nornickel Using ‘Digital Assets’ to Pay Employee Dividends

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read
The logo of Nornickel (Nornickel Norilsk) on the side of a building in Norilsk, Russia.
Source: Alex J/Adobe

The Russian metal mining giant Nornickel (Nornickel Norilsk) says it will start paying its employees dividends with “digital financial assets.”

The firm’s board of directors has approved a program that will see employees receive around $10.40 per share.

And, according to a Nornickel Telegram post, the company’s main shareholders have also approved a plan to extend similar rewards to employees who hold its minetoken coin.

The coin, unlike cryptoassets like Bitcoin, is supposedly backed by real-world metal assets.

Nornickel began pioneering its “digital financial assets” (DFAs) several years ago with a view to commercializing the nation’s first blockchain-powered digital commodities.

The firm obtained government permission to launch its offering in 2020, with the Central Bank also approving the move.

In the spring of last year, the firm created a program named Digital Investor. The program caters to Nornickel employees who have been working in their posts for over a year.

The firm said it would reward its staff with between two and 10 tokens, depending on the length of time they have been with the company.

Nornickel began piloting DFA dividend payments last year at its Norilsk Industrial Region (NPR), Moscow, Saratov, Sochi, St. Petersburg, and Arkhangelsk offices.

An industrial facility in Norilsk, Russia.
An industrial facility in Norilsk, Russia. (Source: Ninaras CC BY 4.0)

Some 51,000 staff members have already received minetoken payments thus far.

This group includes employees in the Murmansk region, and Transbaikal and Krasnoyarsk territories set to receive coins by the end of January.

The miner previously stated that its DFAs “serve as Nornickel’s unconditional financial obligation to repay the funds to [coin] holders on the date determined by the offering documents.”

Russian Digital Financial Assets: ‘People’s Capitalism?’

Vladimir Potanin, the firm’s President, has previously stated that he envisages the program as a form of “people’s capitalism.”

The firm was privatized in 1994, when employees owned a collective 25% stake in Nornickel.

Potanin said that most staff members – at the time – simply sold their shares, unaware of their real worth. In 2022, Potanin told the media outlet RBC :

“I want to settle this historical injustice. I hope that 25% of Norilsk Nickel’s shares are returned to the people. And that includes our employees.”

Nornickel made its first DFA “pilot issuance” on the Atomyze blockchain platform in 2022.

Thus far, few Russian firms have sought to follow Nornickel into the DFAs space. But lawmakers claim they are readying legislation that will let others follow suit.

In October last year, one of the nation’s top lawmakers said that foreign buying caps for both the digital ruble and forthcoming Russian DFAs “should be scrapped.”