Abstract The Taimyr Peninsula is directly north of the world's largest heavy metal smelting complex (Norilsk, Russia). Despite this proximity, there has been little research to examine the extent of contamination of the Taimyr Peninsula. We analyzed heavy metal concentrations in lichen ( Cetraria cucullata), moss ( Hylocomium splendens), soils, lake sediment, freshwater fish ( Salvelinus alpinus, Lota lota and Coregonus spp.) and collared lemming ( Dicrostonyx torquatus) from 13 sites between 30 and 300 km from Norilsk. Element concentrations were low in both C. cucullata and H. splendens, although concentrations of Al, Fe, Cu, Ni and Pb were significantly higher than those in Arctic Alaska, probably due to natural differences in the geochemical environments. Inorganic surface soils had significantly higher concentrations of Cd, Zn, Pb and Mg than inorganic soils at depth, although a lake sediment core from the eastern Taimyr Peninsula indicated no recent enrichment by atmospherically transported elements. Tissue concentrations of heavy metals in fish and lemming were not elevated relative to other Arctic sites. Our results show that the impact of the Norilsk smelting complex is primarily localized rather than regional, and does not extend northward beyond 100 km.