Talvivaara gets green light for waste pipeline – with tighter terms

An aerial view of frozen Finnish lake Kivijaervi after waste water began to leak from a nearby mine on November 12, 2012 in Talvivaara. (Kimmo Rauatmaa/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial view of frozen Finnish lake Kivijaervi after waste water began to leak from a nearby mine on November 12, 2012 in Talvivaara. (Kimmo Rauatmaa/AFP/Getty Images)
Officials in northern Finland have given the mining company Talvivaara a green light to construct a pipeline to discharge waste water into a local lake.

However the Northern Finland regional administrative agency has tightened restrictions on the quantity of effluent to be discharged, as well as the concentration of sulphates and other substances in the waste.

The administrator of the mining company’s bankruptcy estate previously received a permit to begin additional discharges of waste water in an area north of the Kolmisoppi industrial area in Kuopio.

According to information obtained by Yle Kainuu, the new permit to be granted to the mining concern stipulates lower levels of sulphur emissions in the effluent compared to the permit granted to the bankruptcy administrator.

The company applied to discharge 30,000 tonnes of sulphates annually in the first three years. However the new permit allows for 24,000 tonnes to be released annually via pipeline in the first three years, followed by just 10,000 tonnes annually thereafter. Concentrations of other substances have also been cut back in the new permit.

In addition Talvivaara will not be allowed to release more than 6,000 tonnes of sulphates via old routes in existing waterways.

Order to install mixing and dilution devices

In an exceptional move, the local administrative agency has also reportedly ordered Talvivaara to install mixing and preliminary dilution devices at the head of the pipeline leading to the Nuasjärvi Lake, to ensure the discharge has a mixture of two-thirds lake water and one-third waste water.

The bankruptcy administrator had also initially applied for a two kilometer-wide mixing zone to ensure that certain metals would be diluted to below the environmental quality standards. However local officials reduced the size of the mixing zone by three-quarters.

The new permit will also require the company to pay compensation to 13 land owners, owners of waterways and professional fishermen. It also calls for the settlement of claims arising from disruptions to the local fishing industry. Officials have estimated that there should be no damage caused to real estate.

Sotkamo mayor Petri Kauppinen said he would not comment on the permit at this stage.

“The decision will only become public on Friday, 24.4. So at this stage it’s not possible to disclose its content or any details,” he told Yle.

The decision to grant the permit was first reported by the local daily Kainuun Sanomat. Further details about the permit’s contents and stipulations were reported by Yle Kainuu.

The grassroots movement Stop Talvivaara has been petitioning the authorities to revoke the environmental permits granted to the mining company on the grounds of its environmental violations. Earlier this year prosecutors in eastern Finland brought charges against CEO Pekka Perä for environmental crimes.

The group has charged that the location of an open-pit mining operation such as Talvivaara’s on a watershed is unsustainable. Last week protestors took to the streets of downtown Helsinki to protest the planned pipeline.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian province of Quebec announces plan for northern development, Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Does Nordea’s divesting of coal shares signal shift in Nordic market?, Yle News

Norway: Production uncertain beyond Q2 at iron-ore mine in Arctic Norway, Barents Observer

Russia: Arctic mega-polluter pays record high dividends, Barents Observer

Sweden: Relocation of Arctic mining town underway in Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States:  Alaska – Judge temporarily halts EPA process on Pebble Mine, Alaska Dispatch

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