The Guardian newspaper carried a lengthy article on the explosion of mining in northern Finland, Norway and Sweden. As anyone resident in the region knows, there is a huge minerals exploitation boom underway and many are surprised to learn that this part of the world has very favourable regulations regarding the claims process for mining. This boom is directly impacting on reindeer pasture loss. To give an idea of the scale of the boom, the article notes that,
So far in 2014, 349 applications for mining permits have been made, of which 243 have been for Finland. Over one-eighth of Finland, an area twice the size of Wales, has now been designated for mining and hundreds of applications for exploration licenses have been received by the government.
Currently in the Finnish media, attention is being paid to the massive open pit mine planned for the Sokli area,
Fertiliser company Yara International plans a massive 40-60 sq km open-cast phosphorus mine near Sokli in eastern Lapland between the Urho Kekkonen national park and the Värriö nature park. Billions of gallons of polluted waste water would have to be be drained, via pristine lakes and rivers, and millions of tonnes of waste would be created every year.
You can read one of Yara Internationals presentations on the mine here.
With the broadening of sanctions being applied on both sides of the current dispute between Russia and NATO members over the current conflict in Ukraine, there might be a silver lining for domestic producers of meat, such as reindeer herders in Russia as imports of US meat and poultry is halted. The state run importer of foodstuffs in Chukotka (Chukotopttorg) has announced that it will be turning to reindeer meat so that local schools, hospitals and institutions are able to meet their needs, according to various reports (see here for a story from the Siberian Times, and here from the Moscow Times.
One does wonder however, why it has taken so long?
One of the stories of the summer was the sudden appearance of large holes in the Yamal Peninsula, the largest single area of reindeer husbandry and also the site of mega gas extraction, making the region critically important for the Russian state. The fact that Yamal translates as ‘the end of the land’, was fodder for conspiracy theorists and alien believers.
Some alarming articles appeared suggesting that this may well be a sign of the end of days. However, more serious articles (e.g. a Nature piece you can read here and a piece on the Alaska Dispatch News here) attributed the holes to a build up of methane from thawing permafrost according to a Russian team investigating the sites, offering the abnormally warm summers of 2012 and 2013 on Yamal as a possible explanation. Of course this is of interest to the Reindeer Portal as some of the holes were discovered by reindeer herders, some of whom took pictures of themselves by these other worldly looking holes.
Either way, the appearance of these holes are a concern for us all and will be watched closely by herders and scientists alike in the future. A great series of photos from the sites are on the Siberian Times here and a video which you can see below.
Nearly everywhere, children are heading back to school, also children of reindeer herders who are working on the tundra. It is a difficult time for all children – holidays are over, but it is especially difficult for children who live and work on the tundra as they will be leaving their families and life on the tundra for up to 9 months at a time. This has major repercussions for the transmission of knowledge on reindeer herding from generation to generation.
This has just occurred on the Yamal peninsula, the largest single area of reindeer husbandry in the world and it is a major undertaking, where up 3500 young people are transported to larger urban areas for schooling. (see here for a news piece in Russian)
Sad news came from Norway where few young men witnessed a terrible scene – two dogs were killing a reindeer.
The gruesome pictures which were taken outside Tromso by few kayakers this weekend, show two dogs that have chased reindeer into water, attack and killed it.
In the end of spring NASA announced winners of the grant who will participate in the research entitled “Satellite Rain-On-Snow Detection: A New Climate Change Product”, the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry is of them.
Indigenous peoples of Yamal complain about numerous death of reindeer this winter. The reason of this death loss is not only very severe winter but also poaching.
The Arctic is changing twice as fast in terms of warming as the rest of the world. What happens to migratory species in the Arctic will affect what happens in the overwintering grounds of those species, and what happens to the melting glaciers and permafrost thaw will affect sea level rise in the rest of the world.
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The International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry video ‘Keepers of the Land’ video is featured in this ebook.
Some reindeer herders are concerned that a planned Statnett powerline from Balsfjord to Hammerfest could interfere with herding in Finnmark.
Reindeer might avoid the planned powerline from as far away as five kilometers, reducing the amount of area herders can use, said Anders Eira, a reindeer herder and a senior adviser in the Sami group Protect Sápmi, to the BarentsObserver.
A 150-kilometer segment of the project is expected to be completed by 2018 but there is no definite timetable for the remaining 350 kilometers.
Eira said the powerline will go through 30 herding districts and could affect as many as 300 herders. He said he is particularly concerned about reindeer seeing ultraviolet light from the powerline.
According to a 2011 study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, in order to adapt to the extreme seasonal light changes of the Arctic region, a reindeer’s eyes do not block out all ultraviolet rays.
(see Statnet’s information page about this project here.
In Kautokeino in the northern Norway was signed an agreement on cooperation between the Arctic College of Indigenous Peoples of the North in Cherskii village, Association of World Reindeer Herders and the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry. This was made possible thanks to the development of cooperation between the college and the Association of World Reindeer Herders and the Ministry of professional education, training and placement of the personnel of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).