A mining company defeated in Samiland by local resistance!
A year ago I wrote about Karelian Diamond Resources seeking diamond mining rights in Utsjoki. The local inhabitants rose to resistance and expelled this Irish company from Northern Lapland ending it’s yearn for diamond excavation in exchange for destroying the most important salmon river in Europe. [Irish Independent, referred 14.4.2015 ]
Karelian was scared off by the bad publicity of mining in indigenous Sami people’s land against their will. The victory sends a strong message: indigenous rights must be acknowledged and respected.
However the true receivers of this message must be the Finnish authorities that did unforgivingly poor job in both preparation, presenting and communicating this mining exploration project. The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) was utterly unaware of the Finnish legistlation and good business conduct while administrating the mining exploration rights to Karelian. First Tukes didn’t communicate with other Finnish government agencies in a good manner leaving multiple questions unasked granting e.g. the rights to use motorized vehicles in places where they are strictly forbidden. In addition Tukes granted rights to seek exploration in a strict nature reserve. In both cases Metsähallitus – Park and wildlife agency had to seek correction after Tukes had granted Karelian rights with out consulting with Metsähallitus first.
Second Tukes didn’t communicate their decisions in Sami language even though required to do so by the Finnish legislation. They did that only after being asked to do so but were clearly unprepared for these requests.
It is totally another question what motivated Tukes to grant such rights to seek destruction of the most important still free running Arctic river in Europe in the heart of indigenous Samiland virtually on the border of two nations Norway and Finland. My take: lack of professional competence and poor management skills with a hint of arrogance.
I also want to question Metsähallitus for it’s stay-at-home conduct on this mining exploration episode. Fully aware that Utsjoki (the river) is perhaps the most important Freshwater pearl mussel (critically endangered) habitat in Finland, they did absolutely nothing to bring this issue into public discussion. Not to mention the salmons. It seems their business code is to remain passive instead of being active. Information delay leads to wasted resources.
But the community stepped in. Together we can! Where You find value in Your own environment You can Stand up against injustice. With reason and argument minds can be won. Where there is a will there is a way.
Kevo, Deatnu/Teno/Tana, Utsjoki. This is the place where Karelian Diamond Resources (later Karelian) from Dublin Ireland plans an open pit mine. The river is Ohcejohka (Finnish: Utsjoki). A Sami heritage site, a nationally valued landscape area, and the most important daughter river of the most important wild salmon river of Europe. On top of the hill begins Kevo Strict Nature Reserve – a Natura 2000 area and an area excluded from people due to its flora and fauna. Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) has granted Karelian a research permit to explore diamond mining that extends into the Kevo Strict Nature Reserve.
This land is at the heart of the Sami. The mine would destroy the ten thousand year old livelihood of salmon fishing, severely weaken reindeer herding possibilities and destroy landscape and natural values irreversibly. There is a reason the state of Finland hasn’t signed the ILO Convention No. 169. The convention would grant rights to the Sami indigenous people to their land and give them power in matters that affect their future.
“Mining industry is the Nokia of the future”. These are the actual words by our standing president Mr. Sauli Niinistö (Taloussanomat / Kaleva: in Finnish). It seems to be the consensus amongst our political ‘leaders’. The reality is different. Almost all (if not all) of the current mines in Finland balance between living and dying – floating and going belly up. The most constant product from Finnish mining industry are the applications to exceed their toxic waste water allowance into the nature. Extremely poor managerial skills and technology failures are a routine in mining – a strong contrast to the overoptimistic promises of ‘green technology mining’ that label every single new mining plan in Finland.
A mine in Ohcejohka river valley would be extremely destructive. The landscape carves out into this valley from all over the fell plateaus around it. No matter where the waste water pools would be established the water would eventually pour into Ohcejohka. There is no place to dump the waste rock except the river valley where the river runs. Or the Kevo Strict Nature Area. A significant reindeer calving area is just a rock throw away. Kevo Strict Nature reserve is adjacent to the mining area. To top it all: the iconic Kevo canyon is 3 kilometers away from the diamond research site.
The State of Finland Refuses to Ratify ILO 169 in Favor of Short Term Investments
If ILO Convention No. 169 was signed by the state of Finland, the Sami would have their say in matters such as mining in Samiland. Vast majority of the inhabitants in Utsjoki municipality are Sami. Ratification of ILO Convention No. 169 would almost certainly mean the end of mining business in northernmost Finland. It is either pure nature or poisoned nature. From up here the choice would seem logical – almost all of the local income comes from unpolluted nature and tourism. The state of Finland has chosen to overlook these needs against better judgement. It drives towards low premium – low skill – exploitative – short term economy.
Sami people have lived through a period of strong Finnish colonization from 1695 until 20th century. The Finnish Lutheran Church has officiallyapologized (Finnish Broadcasting Company: news) the violations of human rights of that period. These violations were part of the Finnish state coordinated ‘Finlandization’. The King of Norway has apologized Norwegian colonization of Sami in Norway (The Associated Press story) and Norway has ratified ILO Convention No. 169 improving Sami rights to their land and water.
The state of Finland denies such colonization and refuses to ratify ILO Convention No. 169. (Read president of Finland Mr. Sauli Niinistö deny Finnish colonization. YLE: news). This interpretation conflicts the academic consensus, the Finnish Lutheran church’s interpretation, the interpretation by the Kingdom of Norway and naturally the interpretation by the Sami parliament of Finland. However this is the official status of the State of Finland until proven different. The colonization is well and kicking.
A Dangerous Game
The state of Finland is playing a dangerous game. Ohcejohka flows into Deatnu (Finnish: Teno, Norwegian: Tana) river, which is a border river between Finland and Norway. Norway has already taken steps to increase the protection of Deatnu’s wild salmon after it grew tired of cooperating with Finland in that matter (The state of Finland treats Deatnu’s wild salmon population as an abundant natural resource owned by the state. Norway recognizes it as a scarce resource owned at least partially by the locals i.e. Sami) . The state of Finland has chosen to overlook the vulnerability and special circumstances of Arctic nature.
The latest Finnish mining legislation was heavily lobbied by the mining industry as it was formed a few years back. It violates not only the rights of every citizen in Finland to own land and to livelihood but also is in gross violation to indigenous people’s rights defined by the United Nations, the European Union defined Natura 2000 -legislation and also violates the rights of foreign citizens across national borders.
By allowing mining industry at the heart of Sami heritage site and also potentially endangering Norwegian Sami people’s rights to their land and water the state of Finland is in danger of running into conflict with Norway and eventually European Union and the United Nations. As a Finnish citizen there is nothing I find dignifying in the way the state of Finland treats its own citizens and cultivates the richness found in multiculturalism.
Current mining legislation in Finland is in super rapid need of total change. Karelian Diamond Research advertises on its web site its close and longstanding relationship with the Finnish national agency Geological Survey of Finland. The state of Finland is selling our national treasures to the highest faceless bidders in expense of its own citizens. In fact you have to pay close to nothing for mining research permits. The state agencies completely lack experience and comprehensive knowledge of their actions. Their ignorant decisions threaten Finnish citizens, our national treasures and our environment. By overlooking these issues the state of Finland is selling its citizens and our land at a fire sale.
How would You feel if we poured some Talvivaara uranium oxide into your Guinness?
The news has gained international attention. Finland is a bilingual country (Finnish, Swedish) with Sami language as a regionally official administrative language. The research permits and other official decisions by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) are in Finnish only. To my understanding this is in violation with Finnish law.
In Finland we have this fundamental problem: a bunch of dumb fucks run our country. When someone yells “employment” everybody gets excited and blasts a load on to his own thighs. That is exactly the case with the recent mining industry boom in our precious country.
I just spend a fantastic week in Yllästunturi fell one of the top 3 most important leasure centers of all Finland. It is arguably our best Lapland skiing resort with fantastic alpine and cross country skiing and the season is fabulous running from late october until mid may. A white gold paradise in the middle of undisturbed and clean nature.
The problem: an open pit mine, of the size of the notorious Talvivaara mine, planned just 8km from the resort to Hannukainen.
Ylläs and Äkäslompolo villages on both sides of Yllästunturi fell are probably 95% dependent on tourism and the skiing resort. The fell itself is the highest in elevation and has the widest variety of activities and has probably the best snow guarantee of all our skiing resorts in Finland. A white pearl with good accessibility. My personal favorite and I’ve tried them all several times.
Now Northland Resources basically wants to destroy everything once and for all. Helsingin Sanomat wrote today that the local tourism industry is very afraid that the mine will tarnish the image of Ylläs. Well fucking right it will. And unlike the pop soda brand Sprite advertises image is everything.
First the mine will be visible all over the fell. You can’t escape it since it’s gonna be right there where the sun sets around this time of the year. Oh and this time is exactly when the skiing resort makes it or breaks it for the season with easter filling the resort each year. Is that really what people expect to see when they want to spend their hard earned money and enjoy Nature’s playground in all its beauty on their fun filled holidays?
Second the mine will shine in the night skies like Vegas. Northern Lights tourism is such an important business that Ylläs resort even decided to turn off the street lights for the season so that people will be better able to see blazing auroras. They won’t once the mine will open.
Third. The mining company argues that the dust from the mine will not be a problem but fall with in 1km distance from the fell. BUAAHAHAAAAHAHAAA. The Amazon rain forest gets majority of its fertilizing power from the Sahara desert. From the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The Arctic skies in March are beautifully red…from the heavy metal coctail that circulates around the North Pole at higher atmospheric altitudes. The mine and the belt transporting the ore to the refinery are all located on the west to south west region from Ylläs – exactly upwind of the main direction of the wind year round. Any promises of the mine not dusting up Ylläs with toxic waste is a complete lie and the mining industry and Northland Resources know that. In Talvivaara in Sotkamo for example none of the promises of environmental security made by the mining company on a similar mine have held. Talvivaara is now in solvency due to its inability to handle the environmental crisis it’s managerial incompetence has created. All of the Talvivaara’s environmental liabilities will fall on us tax payers since Finnish government was gelded a long time ago. In Finland we have this endless natural resources called ‘hyväuskoisuus’.
The environmental modeling in Ylläs seriously underestimate all of the aspects of the polluting effect of the mine. The modeling for example relies entirely on Northland Resources’ own promise that the dust will not be a problem. There is no real research behind the claim. The waste water effects on the down stream Torniojoki are ridiculously overlooked. Torniojoki is one of the most important wild salmon rivers in Europe and the open pit mine in Ylläs is a serious threat to the health of that river ecosystem. Just look at the water balance of Talvivaara where the company totally messed up its water management. By the way the climate change is going to increase rain and snowfall in Ylläs says research from the Finnish Meteoroligical Institute making waste water management even more challenging. And the mining history in Finland shows that we have a very serious competence gap in that department.
And yes I said Ylläs mine. Because that is what it is gonna be known for. The people in power want to trade away a high premium service industry to a very low premium resource industry. Exactly opposite to what all the economics hand books suggest one should do.
So why don’t You well respected dumb fucks finally wake up and see what is important to us, the future generations, and what brings the highest value to our well advanced society. Our competitive advantage lies in pure nature undisturbed not in a dirty hole at our porch. We don’t want any stupid open pit low premium dirty environment destroying industry right next to one of the most respected and valued Pearls of Finnish Nature.
The National Landsurvey of Finland -agency (Maanmittauslaitos) opened up its vast database of geographic information for the masses. The picture above (CLICK FOR LARGER) presents the current state of mining related reservations in Central Lapland made mostly by foreign multinational corporations to the national treasure of us Finns – our clean and beautiful nature. Inside the concentration on the left are Levi and Ylläs, two of the most important leisure centers of Finland. The municipality of Sodankylä in the middle is basically one large mine field.
Beyond the shear size of the land mass reserved for destruction is the fact that at the same time down south in Talvivaara all the possible measurements and observations indicate that the current state of the art in clean tech mining in Finland has sunken deep beyond acceptable levels. Ethical mining in Finland is hogwash – it’s a myth way bigger than Santa Claus. At the same time that Talvivaara and e.g. Raahe gold mine have vast environmental problems we are having a fire sale in Lapland to exploit strategic and diminishing natural and national resources. Local municipalities are left basically with just income from wages from mines but have to cope with pollution and damages to the nature. In comparison Norway takes a 68% cut from all the income from oil production with in its borders. At the same time Finnish Minister of Employment and Economy is reluctant to even talk about taxing ore exploitation in Finland.
The newly elected Finnish president Sauli Niinistö stated a couple of weeks ago, that he believes the mining industry will be Finland’s new Nokia – the locomotive of our economy. Has it come to this: from high premium knowledge intensive economy to low premium primary production? At the same time that we are transferring to decreasing returns from our resources, us citizens have to fight for our rights to own property and rights to own land. Large land areas next to the mines have lost major shares of their value but the mining corporations refuse to pay adequate compensation. The “new” mining legislation from a couple of years back was watered over in favor of mining industry and to disadvantage to private citizens. In practice this means that us highly educated citizens need to spend our time promoting our own rightfully earned rights to prosper and let opportunities to create value in life slip away in order to stand up against negligence and short sightedness.
What about Santa then? His home, the Korvatunturi fell, is cornered next to Russian border by mines from West and South. Maybe its time for the exodus of one more Finnish national treasure.
Canadian mining company Dalradian Resources has reserved mineral rights at the heart of Samiland combined 5% of the total land mass of Norway. The majority of the reserved areas are located in Kárášjohka (Karasjok) and Guovdageaidnu (Kautokeino) municipalities right at the heart of the most essential water resources for the most important wild salmon river of Europe, Deatnu. The area is also the most important reindeer herding area in Samiland.
Deatnu river is not only the most important wild salmon river of the whole Europe but the blood vessel of Samiland. It brings prosperity and life in the middle of the wind blasted mountain plateaus and barren fells. A mine along one of its upstream veins will likely destroy the whole delicate ecosystem of the river, spread toxic waste and bring dirt downstream and eventually leave no space for salmon.
Stupidity like this has been done before. Once an exlusive salmon and a holy Sami river Álttáeatnu (Altaelva) was harnessed for hydroelectric power production in 1981 despite wide resistance only to realize afterwards that the project was not necessary for Norwegian power production.
The rights to search for ore for such a vast area at the heart of indigenous Sámi is not only short sighted in a land that took thousands of years to develop but also conflicts with ILO principles and the Sámi people rights for their own land and their way of living. The rights for reindeer herding and salmon fishing are at risk.
The now reserved concentrations of gold are a part of the same greenstone belt the Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited is mining currently in Kittilä Finland. The belt runs through Pöyrisjärvi Wilderness area and Dalradian Resources mineral rights extend right at the border of this important wilderness area in Finland. On Norwegian side the mineral rights surround the Øvre Anárjohka nationalpark from west and north.
The history shows that it takes only a generation to fuck things up generously. Let’s not be the generation that will be looked upon as the dumb sons of bitches that destroyed something once so beautiful so irreversibly badly.