Mining company CAN dump waste in Arctic fjord, says Norway; Saami opposed

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Vidar Helgesen, Minister of Climate and Environment of Norway, speaks during the launch of the 2050 Pathways Platform, at the COP22 climate change conference, in Marrakech, Morocco, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (Mosa'ab Elshamy/AP/The Canadian Press)
Vidar Helgesen, Minister of Climate and Environment of Norway, speaks at the COP22 climate change conference, in Marrakech, Morocco on Nov. 17, 2016. He says Norway is comfortable in authorising a mining company’s waste disposal plans in an Arctic fjord. (Mosa’ab Elshamy/AP/The Canadian Press)
Government gives plan thumbs up despite big protests from environmentalists and the Sami Parliament

The disputed decision will open up for the dumping of two million tons of mining wastes per year in the Reppar Fjord, an environmentally vulnerable area in the country’s northernmost region of Finnmark.

Minister of Climate and Environment Vidar Helgesen argues that is all safe and sound.

«It is environmentally justifiable to give the permission», he underlines, and adds that the environmental consequences of the mining project have been carefully reviewed, a press release from the ministry reads.

The disposal area for dumping covers about 8 square km of waters. The wastes from the nearby Nussir copper mine are believed to have a significant impact on environment in the area.

Minister Helgesen argues that the project will create 150 new local jobs and that copper is a metal much needed by the electric car industry.

A ‘dead fjord for Christmas’

Environmentalists, however, say that the decision is a major blow both to nature and to the government’s green reputation.

«The government is giving us a dead fjord for Christmas», leader of Friends of the Earth Norway, Silje Ask Lundberg says in a press release. She call the project «one of the most environmentally hostile industrial projects in Norwegian history» and underlines that the decision is made in contradiction with experts’ advice.

«The dumping of mining slag will kill all life on the sea bottom in the disposal area», she underlines.

Saami opposed
The Sami flag is pictured on snow covered trees at the Kallak prospecting area near Randijaur village, 40 kilometers north-west of Jokkmokk, in Swedish Lapland on November 6, 2013. (Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP)
The Saami flag. Saami authorities are opposed to the mine’s project saying it will have «very extensive and negative consequences for fisheries, reindeer herders and the environment». (Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP)

Also Sami authorities have expressed strong opposition to the project. In a statement made early this year, the Sami Council said the Nussir mining will have «very extensive and negative consequences for fisheries, reindeer herders and the environment».

«This is an economical and environmental high-risk project where they play with the local society», Council representative Silje Karine Muotka says.

From before, Norwegian authorities have allowed mining companies to dump wastes to sea also in Kirkenes, the mining town located near the border to Russia.

Norway is one of only three countries in the world which allow dumping of mining wastes to sea.

The Nussir field was discovered in the late 1970s and is the biggest copper deposit ever found in Norway. The field is located in Kvalsund, a municipality on the Barents Sea coast. The project is 100 percent owned by company Nussir ASA.

Correction: Because of a CMS error, this article’s byline was previously incorrectly attributed. It’s now been corrected to its original author: Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Arctic mining: unexpected social negatives for Inuit women, Radio Canada International

Finland:  Finns begin to abandon lawsuits against Talvivaara mining company, Yle News

Norway:  Norway votes against ban on dumping mining waste at sea, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Mining accident death toll rises to 36, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Mining company LKAB won’t pay for earthquake damage to homes in Arctic Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States:  Could good mining jobs actually hurt Bush villages?, Alaska Dispatch News

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Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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