Last week the Balsfjord to Hammerfest power line received final approval from the Norwegian government (Ministry of Petroleum and Energy). Construction can now begin. This is a major investment by Statnett (3-4 billion NOK) in a 420 Kv power line that will be 360 km long, 40 metres wide and cross 8 municipalities (Statnett).
The route of the Balsfjord power line. Source: statnett.no
It will cross 30 reindeer herding districts in northern Norway and have dramatic impacts on some districts, according to herders. Herders have been vociferous in their opposition to the project and have asked for it either shelved or that significant route alterations be undertaken, or that areas critically effected could have submarine/underground construction.
Acting Head of NRL, Per John Anti believes the consequences for reindeer herding in the area will be negative.
It will particularly impact on calving country. Research shows that the reindeer avoids areas from one to four kilometers from the disturbance, particularly females with calves. This causes pressure in other areas of these regions.
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.
March 25, Kautokeino (Norway). Minister Jan Tore Sanner, Ministry of Local Government and Modernization of Norway, participated in the international seminar “Global Change, Community-based Observing Systems and Co-production of Knowledge for the Circumpolar North” . The minister had an opening speech at the seminar, also his message to the participants of the seminar was posted on the official web-site of the government and ministries:
I am happy to be here in Kautokeino and to open this conference on Traditional knowledge, Arctic Indigenous Peoples and Reindeer Herding.
A translation of the report ‘Reindeer Husbandry and Barents 2030’ prepared by the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, in collaboration with NORUT, UNEP-GRID Arendal and others.. This report was commissioned by StatoilHydro ASA and undertaken by ICR. StatoilHydro commissioned four parallel scenario reports for the Barents Region on respectively climate change, socio-economic consequences, environmental issues and reindeer husbandry.The joint project was initiated as part of StatoilHydro’s preparations or a strategic action plan for future oil and gas developments in the High North.
You can read the report in English here and read/download the Russian translation below.
The ongoing case of mining company Beowulf’s plans to start a large iron ore mine near the town of Jokkmokk in northern Sweden, which will directly impact reindeer herders in the region has been a major news item in Sweden (The Local) and in the Sami media (NRK Sami) for the past few weeks. Now, coverage has gone international.
Major news agencies have picked up the story (AP and UPI) which has seen the story carried by the Washington Post, Fox News,ABC News and more.
“Beowulf Mining has broken all ethical rules. They have refused to talk to the Sami people, the local community and the reindeer herders as such. They have chosen to use power in order to get their way through. They have called for the Swedish police to use violence against peaceful protesters”, says Lars Anders Baer.
(Article from Barents Observer) Sami activists protesting the British company Beowulf Mines attempts to start blasting for Iron in Kallak were cleaned away by Swedish police.
“You can`t image how it feels standing there behind police road blocks with you hat in your hand, when all you want is to make sure your reindeers are safe. It is humiliating and surreal. The Swedish government has abandoned us,” says Henrik Blind to Barentsobserver. He is a Sami spokesman and local politician.
Wednesday the first explosives were detonated in Kallok where Sweden`s indigenous Sami population herd their reindeers.
Artworks made by Sami artists were bulldozed and about 50 peaceful activists were forced to disperse. 10 people were carried away by police officers.
“It made a huge impression when one of the protesters doused himself with gasoline and threatened to set himself ablaze. Our local Sami politican, Hanna Sofie Utsi, was singing (joiking) while carried away”, says Blind.
The reindeer herders were not given an opportunity to gather the animals still grazing in the area.
“It was brutal. It is impossible for me to describe how it feels in words. We have used this territory for thousands of years. The Swedish government is giving away the very basis of our existence to a foreign company”.
Interesting article and superb photography displaying Nenets herders coping with oil and gas installations on their migration routes in the ‘Russian Photo Blog‘. The photographer spent quite some time with herders that migrat through the Bovanekovo filed and was also allowed access to the contstruction site itself.
View all the photos here and the article in which they were used here in the magazine ‘Fast Company’.
Wind turbine at Markbygden near Piteå. Photo: Tom Sullivan / SR International
One of the largest wind farms in the world is being built in northern Sweden but not everyone is pleased about it. The turbines cut across an area used by Sweden’s indigenous Sámi reindeer herders.
An hour’s drive inland from the town of Piteå, a dozen wind turbines tower over the surrounding forest. In the next few years 1,101 turbines will be erected here at a cost of $8.2 billion.
“This plateau has really good wind conditions – that’s the main reason it’s being built here,” said Jonas Lundmark from the local council.
“Also 95 percent of the land is owned by two forestry companies and there has been a steady decline in the population over the last 50 years. People living here are very keen to get more business into the area.”
By 2020, the wind farm is expected to provide about half of the national target for new wind energy – about 12 terawatt hours – that’s roughly the equivalent of two Swedish nuclear reactors, according to the company building the wind farm.
Wind power is a high priority for the Swedish government, and the local power to veto planning applications for wind farms has been removed to pave the way for more of them.
Stefan Lundmark, from the Swedish ministry of enterprise and energy says that the trend across the Nordic countries is to build in northern, more sparsely populated areas.
Sámi reindeer herders losing grazing land
“I think that the wind farms will be bigger and bigger and most of them will be in northern Sweden. In the south it’s more densely populated and there are more competing interests,” he said.
Indistry Minister of Norway Trond Giske With Minerals Map of Northern Scandinavia. His governement has just announced a huge increase in funding to support the mining industry - Source adressa.no
So said, the Minister for Industry of Norway (Labour Party) while announcing a big increase in funding for mining exploration in the country in a story that appeared in Adressa.no
The Norwegian Geological Survey (NGU) believes there is a vast wealth of minerals and ore under the soil just waiting to be exploiting – only what holds them back is insufficient knowledge. That will soon change thanks to the Norwegian government announcing an extra 100 million NOK (ca. 17M USD)) over four years to searching for gold and other precious metals, mainly in northern Norway.
The first 25 million (4.3M USD) will come in next year’s budget, which is presented on Tuesday. This will represent a doubling of the Geological Survey currently receive for such work.
Giske acknowledged that as most of the deposits are in Northern Norway, this may lead to conflict with reindeer herders, but insisted that any conflict between reindeer herding and mining was “fully manageable”
Not according to Nils Henrik Sara, the leader of the Sami Reindeer Herders Association of Norway(NRL), in a reaction in NRK Sami Radio,
“It’s not as simple as the industry minister told Adresseavisen. But of course for their enforcement system, it might be “manageable” because they do not account for what the reindeer industry says, and thus it is easy for them to get the reindeer industry to follow their terms “
The NRL leader clearly stated that their organization is against all mining in areas used by reindeer husbandry.
“NRL is against all who have an intention to destroy the industry’s reindeer pastures. Mining destroys grazing for reindeer, and it can not be accepted by NRL”
“Let the treasure hunt begin” the Minister was quoted as saying in the news report…
Across the Far North, populations of caribou — an indispensable source of food and clothing for indigenous people — are in steep decline. Scientists point to rising temperatures and a resource-development boom as the prime culprits.
In late July, a group of Inuit hunters set off by boat along the west coast of Banks Island to search for Peary caribou, which inhabit the Arctic archipelago of Canada. Roger Kuptana, a 62-year-old Inuit who had grown up on the island, didn’t give his fellow hunters much chance of success in their hunt for the animals, the smallest caribou sub-species in North America.
“I think it’s a waste of gas,” Kuptana told me when I visited his modest home in Sachs Harbour, a traditional community of roughly 100 people on the island, not far from the Yukon-Alaska border. “There used to be a lot of caribou around here when I grew up. But now you have to travel pretty far north to find them on the island. It’s not just here. It seems like this happening everywhere.”
As it turned out, Kuptana was right; the Inuit hunters found no Peary caribou, despite three days of searching. The hunters’ predicament is familiar to the Eskimos of Alaska, other Inuit of Canada and Greenland, and the Nenets, Komi, Evenks, Chukotkans, and indigenous groups of northern Russia and Scandinavia. Throughout the Arctic, many of the great caribou and reindeer herds that once roamed the treeless tundra, providing an indispensible source of meat and clothing for aboriginal groups, are in free-fall.
The Canadian mining company Blackstone ventures has managed to buy the rights to start drilling in the Vindelfjällen nature reserve in the north of Sweden. The company is planning to drill right by one of the most ancient Sámi summer villages still inhabited every summer by the reindeer herders and reindeer of Grans Sameby, the northernmost mountain Sami village in Västerbotten.
This story has been getting some coverage in the Swedish Sami media, most recently with this story, where it was reported that the Grans Sameby wanted Blackstone to pay them 1.5 million SEK (215,000 USD) for the additional work and feed for reindeer because now Sami had to keep animals in enclosures and feed them artificially instead of free-grazing. Village leader, Tobias Jonsson says that they had several meetings with Blackstone, only when the company applied for exploration permits for areas Vindelvaggen 1-4, and Umeå lake. Then they had several consultations on the work plans, but the mining company Blackstone has been unwilling to listen to the Sami village’s views.
(Press Release, Saami Council) The Saami people say a mining project in Northeastern Sweden, proposed by a Canadian company, threatens their traditional way of life and violates their basic human rights, as recognized by the United Nations.
On 31 August 2009, Blackstone Ventures Inc., a Vancouver-based mining company, announced plans to begin test-drilling for minerals on pasture lands considered invaluable to the Saami people. In a press release, circulated in Canada the same date, Blackstone further announced its plans to mine in the disputed area (See this material here). The Sammi communities have not agreed to such test-drillings. Furthermore, Saami community memebers do not recognize the company’s right to drill, noting that the company does not hold the relevant permits to drill and lacks a work-plan, approved by the reindeer herders.
Al Jazeera is not the first network that springs to mind when thinking of reindeer, but this is an excellent overview of the threats faced by reindeer herding Sami in Sweden, and these are the same threats that reindeer herders and other indigenous peoples practicing traditional livelihoods face elsewhere. You can watch the video here on the Reindeer Portal
(Photo J.E. Kalvemo, NRK) The Bessaker wind power station in the Fosen region in the southernmost parts of reindeer husbandry in Norway has just opened and was visited by reindeer herders from Norway and Sweden (in Jamtland and Trondelag) who fear the impact that it will have (there are plans for large expansion) on reindeer and loss of pastures. There is also wind power development on the Swedish side of the border and reindeer herders are feeling squeezed according to reindeer herder Arvid Jaama on the Norwegian side. Reindeer Herder on the Swedish side Sture Åhren said to NRK Sami Radio,
If this wind power development continues on the Norwegian and Swedish side of the border, I would warn young people to stay away from reindeer herding.
Reindeer Herder Patrik Lundgren from the Östra Kikkejaurs sameby, Photo Nils Widman
Although on paper, Sami reindeer herders have a statutory right to graze their reindeer over half the surface of Sweden, in practice, industrial activities such as mining, hydropower, logging, infrastructure and the new kid on the block, windpower development culminate in a progressive loss and fragmentation of pastures.
There are now 14 wind power parks planned on paper that are in areas of reindeer husbandry in Sweden. The largest wind park in the world (by German company Svevind) is planned in the Östra Kikkejaurs sameby, and it will cover a quarter of their winter pastures. The project plans to erect 1000 windmills to provide electricity for 2 million homes.
(Pic-Philip Burgess). With the coming of summer and the migration of reindeer from Finnmarks’s interior to the coast, the local media has lately been filled with stories about the reinplagen. This translates as ‘reindeer plague’, a disease which sounds deadly, but so far, only reindeer have died as a result. It relates to reindeer grazing in urban and agricultural areas where they are not welcome by farmers or some residents. The epicentre of this ‘reinplagen’ seems to be Alta and Hammerfest. Both have been in the media extensively this last two weeks.
(Visualisation of proposed wind power megaproject from Vernfosen)
Reindeer herders in the South Sami regions in Norway fear for their future, in a story from yesterdays NRK Sami Radio. Reindeer herder Terje Haugen is the head of the Fosen reindeer husbandry district (North of Trondheim). Much of his time over the last few years has been taken up with struggling against wind power development on his districts winter pastures, most particularly Fosenhalvøya. A seminar on South Sami rights is being held in Trøndelag this week and this issue has been high on the agenda. Hauge feels that legislation and current Sami rights do not protect their livelihood.
Large areas around each windmill will be developed, and roads are constructed between each windmill. When all this is combined, a lot of pastures disappear.
A campaign has been launched to protest against the megaproject, with an online petition.
The annual meeting of the Sami Reindeer Herders Association of Norway has started in the southern reindeer husbandry area of Trondelag. The theme of the opening day has been mental health issues for reindeer herders, an issue that is generally overlooked, accoridng to Nils Henrik Sara, NBR leader in a report today in NRK Sami Radio. Nils Chris Danielsen , an elder herder spoke clearly and eloquently about the issues facing reindeer herders in the region, as he has seen it over the last six decades,
The whole world’s elite now come to the area. They come to areas (to ski) which we depend on in the summer. The reindeer need these areas for cooling in the summer, but the animals can no longer go there because of the skiing events. Interference is increasing. One can say that this also creates psychological problems for us,
Danielson went on to talk about the other challenges that herders face in the area,
It is important to mobilise against the construction of windmills. Moreover, the expansion of cabin building creates problems for, among other things, migration. Those who have cabins will also be hunting in these areas. This creates problems for us with dogs who will run for anything at a time when the reindeer are to have peace. In addition, power lines are criss crossing the pastures.
If these issues were not addressed, reindeer could no longer thrive, said Danielson, and without reindeer, the Sami culture could not survive.
(Pic: Vartland) While many people would love to have reindeer gambolling through their village, it has long been a bone of contention in Hammerfest. Each summer, the reindeer migrate from Kautokeino /Guovdageaidnu in inner Finnmark to the island of Kvaloya, where Hammerfest is. Residents are tired of their flower beds being munched by reindeer and their defecatory practices. The local priest, according to an article in the Vartland newspaper has taken to erecting signs near damaged flowerbeds which read ‘A result of years of Hammerfest council saying We are Working On It’.
Wind power is blowing its way across the windy parts of Europe – such as Sweden, Norway and Scotland. A major seminar in Scotland recently was attended by municipal leaders from Östersund, who were interested in learning how Scots had dealt with mega project windfarm development. At present there are only small scale wind farms in Sweden with fewer than seven turbines, however, a 100 turbine development is being proposed for a former military base. The impacts on reindeer pastures of such developments are known to be negative.
Predation is a serious problem for reindeer herders in the spring and early summer after calving season, as young calves are particularly vulnerable to predation. Kristian Jåma, a Sami reindeer herder from Sør-Fosen in Sør-Trøndelag region said to NRK Sami Radio that he feels that his claims about predation loss are not believed. In a small area, he has lost 24 reindeer, many of which are claves to predation, particularly eagle.
I feel that Statens naturoppsyn (SNO) do not believe me because they have not come to document the carcasses before they are eaten up.
Without documentation by SNO, reindeer herders do not receive compensation. Another risk to reindeer at this time of the year, when so many reindeer are moving or have arrived in their summer pastures is traffic, with a high number of reindeer fatalities being reported along the E6, Norway’s main North South artery.
Finally, a board member of the Finnmark branch of Norway’s right wing Progress Party (FrP), currently Norway’s second largest political party has claimed in a local paper that reindeer husbandry is acting as a hindrance to industrial development in Finnmark, and went on to opine that as reindeer herders use such large areas and block development they should pay a tax on land use.
JOINT PRESS RELEASE by the Saami Council and the National Swedish Saami Association
Saami areas in Sweden are currently experiencing an explosion in mining and windpower development. There has been an increase in both Scandinavian and foreign companies in prospecting, mining and windpower. Ironically, while many of these companies market themselves to investors based on principles of Corporate Social Responsibility, companies often fail to see the connection between the impacts of their activities and the rights of Saami people.
“The Saami Council and the National Swedish Saami Association are in dialogue with several companies, one of which is Blackstone Ventures Inc. This is a Canadian exploration company, who claim to respect the rights of indigenous people in Canada. At the same time, the company seems to have no problem with performing intrusive exploration activities in sensitive Saami reindeer herding areas in Swedish nature reserves”, says Mattias Åhrén, Head of Human Rights at the Saami Council.
The Saami Council and The National Swedish Saami Association (SSR) are demanding that companies and the Swedish state both take responsibility to ensure that Saami rights are protected before development projects – such as mining and windpower – go ahead.
Mining activites across the Sapmi – Norway, Sweden, Finland and Norway are intense at the moment driven by high demand and elevated commodity prices. New mines are planned, extensive prospecting is occurring and old mines are being reopened. Yesterday, NRK Sami TV had a lengthy piece on the impact of mining activities in several areas in northern Sweden, that were directly impacting on reindeer husbandry and a press release (see below) has just been released by Sámiid Riikasearvi/Svenska Samernas Riksforbund protesting the activities of Canadian mining company Blackstone Ventures in the Vindelfjallens nature reserve, a story that was also covered in the Metro newspaper.
PRESSMEDDELANDESamebyar protesterar mot mineralprospektering inom Vindelfjällens naturreservatDet kanadensiska prospekteringsföretaget Blackstone Ventures Inc. söker efter brytvärda mineraler inom Vindelfjällens naturreservat. Nu protesterar de berörda samebyarna mot att bolaget letar malm inom deras kärnområden.
– Fjällområdet är hjärtat i våra marker, säger Tobias Jonsson, ordförande i Grans sameby. För oss är det helt oacceptabelt att det prospekteras efter malm i fjällområdet. Det är obegripligt hur det kan tillåtas att prospektering över huvud taget förekommer i känslig och orörd fjällmiljö.
New hydropower projects, windmill parks and the construction of new houses and cabin put increasing pressure on the reindeer herders in Norway. The industry might vanish by year 2050 should the developments continue, a representative of the reindeer herders says.It is not climate changes, nor the high number of reindeers or the increasing motorized traffic which pose the biggest threat against the Norwegian reindeer herders. It is rather the big number of cabins built in the pasture areas, as well as the planned hydropower and wind power projects, head of the Norwegian Association of Reindeer Herders, Nils Henrik Sara, says to newspaper Aftenposten.
-We are being pushed out […] Our future looks gloomy and we do not have the necessary dialogue with the authorities, Mr Sara says.
He is supported by researcher Christian Nellemann from the United Nation Environmental Programme (UNEP), who says that the reindeer herding industry might disappear by 2050 should the current development continue.
–The only thing, which can save the Sàmi reindeer culture is state intervention and protection of the necessary land areas, he adds.
Lawyer Geir Haugen says to Aftenposten that Norway is committed by the ILO Convention on protection of indigenous peoples’ culture and industry and that the current development in the country therefore can be seen as a violation of international law.
Only this year about 1000 new cabins are planned built in northern Norway, of which half have got special permissions. In addition come 25 planned hydro power projects, 10-12 wind power projects, as well as mining projects.