Strong Samí reactions to mining in Kvalsund

Reppar Fjord copper mines mininingReppar Fjord copper mines in Kvalsund. Foto: Svein Lund / naturvernforbundet.no

Strong Samí reactions to mining in Kvalsund

The Norwegian Ministry of Industry has granted an operating license to copper mining in Kvalsund in Finnmark. The Samí Council to appeal the decision to the King in Cabinet.


“This operating license shows an incredible arrogance towards the rights of Samí reindeer herding families. In practice, the Norwegian Government state that – even though the families are completely dependent on these areas in order to be able to carry out reindeer husbandry – this does not mean bugger all when developers are knocking on their door,” Leader of the National Samí Federation (NSR), Runar Myrnes Balto opinionates.

The Samí Council has announced that they will take the opportunity to file a complaint with the King in Council.

Measures to minimise the impact

The copper mine project is considered as controversial, in for example the Samí Parliament and in the NSR. This due to the consequences it will have for both Samí reindeer husbandry and the environment.

Minister of Industry, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen (Conservatives), informs that the mining project affects two reindeer grazing districts and emphasises that reindeer herding interests – and consideration to Samí culture – have been important in the Ministry’s assessment of the application.

“They have conducted consultations with both the affected reindeer grazing districts and the Samí Parliament, but have not reached an agreement with said Parliament during the consultations,” Isaksen comments.

The Ministry states that the operation will be adapted to minimise the impact on the grazing areas. One of these measures is that there should not be an operation at Ulveryggen during the calving period, ie May 1st to June 15th.

«As the Ministry considers it, the measure will therefore not prevent or significantly reduce the reindeer husbandry exercise or Samí cultural practice,» the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries writes.

Environmental criticism

The mining operation has also received a lot of criticism for the plans to store the mining waste at the bottom of the Reppar Fjord.

Balto implores that the Liberals, who have the Minister of the Environment, to halt the project.

“It is quite obvious that this case, with the disposal of mine sludge in a national salmon fjord, spells a disaster for the environment. The Liberals, as an environmental party, seems to have one final opportunity to steer Norway away from this catastrophic blunder. We need to tell them about this opportunity and help them bolster their demands in Government,” Balto elaborates.

“We are confident that the deposit will not occur with unacceptable effects to either the environment or the seafood industry, the Minister of Industry,” Røe Isaksen asserts.

A number of environmental organisations are sceptical to that.

The influence of several of the chemicals in the mining sludge is considered too poorly investigated, among other issues. They further believe that the fine stone dust itself will affect the food chain in the fjord.

Request for a reassessment

A number of environmental organisations and all the youth parties – except the Conservatives and the Progress Party – have previously requested a reassessment of the project by the Norwegian Parliament. Climate and Environmental Minister, Ola Elvestuen (Liberals), has rejected this.

Isaksen believes the mining project will strengthen the industrial foundation of Northern Norway.

“This will make a positive contribution to the development of the local community, with more jobs and expertise,” the Minister of Industry concludes.

Nature conservation organisations warn of a fierce battle

“One of the most environmentally unfriendly industrial projects in Norwegian history,” Leader of the Norwegian Society for Nature Conservation, Silje Ask Lundberg, states after the Government has approved mining operations in Kvalsund. She warns of continued struggle.

“The dumping of mine sludge will kill all life on the seabed in the landfill area, and this can prevent spawning and early life in a much larger area. This decision shows that the Government doesn’t take the fight for the protection of marine life seriously,” she fumes.

It has previously been mining at the Reppar Fjord, with fjord deposition of mining waste, though on a smaller scale than what is now planned.

“We, therefore, know a lot about what the consequences will be,” Lundberg emphasises.

Nature and Youth are also highly critical and call the government’s decision «completely beyond».

“All professional environmental advice suggests that this will be very serious for life in the Reppar Fjord. The Government trudges on regardless. This is an environmental disaster,” Deputy Leader, Jørgen Næss Karlsen, chimes in.

Will form human chains

If the mining becomes a reality, many have announced that they will break the law to stop the project.

According to the Norwegian Society for Nature Conservation, 2,500 persons have signed a list stating that they are willing to break the law, while Nature and Youth’s list boasts 2,900 signatures.

If they start to build the mine, we will form human chains to stop it. The mine and dumping in the fjord will cause much more damage than breaking the law will, Karlsen assures.

He asks that the Norwegian Government reconsider the operating license.


© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today



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