Debate on Mining in Finnmark Heats Up

May 4, 2010 • Philip BurgessReindeer Herders

(Map shows the mining claims in Kvalsund, an area important to migratory reindeer husbandry in Northern Norway, source: NGU) According to an article on TV2, one of the largest networks in Norway, Finnmark is sitting on a potential ‘treasure trove’ of over 1 billion NOK of valuable minerals and including cooper, gold, iron ore and valuable natural stones.

Helga Pedersen, deputy leader of the governing Labour Party was quoted as saying,

We are for mineral exploration in Inner Finnmark – But it’s not that we can say yes all, everywhere and at any price. We must also develop this industry and take account of the environment and to those on the plateau before (mining)

Here she is of course referring to the indigenous Sami, many of whom (especially reindeer herders) have been critical of the current ‘gold rush’ for minerals that is occurring in Finnmark. Surprisingly perhaps, Pedersen herself is of Sami ancestry and she has been a vigorous supporter of developing mining in the county. Legal researcher, Øyvind Ravna is quoted in the article as saying,

A charge should be introduced which would provide direct compensation to the  indigenous Sami people if they are  to accept such activities in their core areas

Ravna pointed to the activities of some mining ventures in Canada where First Nations are compensated directly for mining activity on their land. Pedersen is quick to rule out talk of compensation for mining for the Sami, which would be very unpopular among many Norwegian communities,

Meanwhile, in the regional media, the County Mayor of Finnmark is quoted as saying that people are getting angry that mining is being held up,

For far too long there has been talk of the great riches found in the county and how many jobs a new mining industry can provide. Now is the time that they should be realized otherwise people will become frustrated and eventually angry