An important report authored by Rebecca Lawrence (Uni of Stockholm) and Rasmus Larsen of the (Stockholm Environment Institute) has just been published. Entitled ”Då är det inte renskötsel” – Konsekvenser av en gruvetablering i Laver, Älvsbyn, för Semisjaur Njarg sameby, the report concerns the impacts of Boliden’s proposed mine in Laver, northern Sweden, for the Semisjaur Njarg Sami reindeer herding community.
The proposed mine is on the Semisjaur Njarg community’s winter grazing pastures. Across the Sami reindeer herding area, winter pastures are under pressure and are particularly challenging for herders as they are experiencing intense pasture fragmentation. The district are concerned that the impact of this mine will hinder their ability to practice traditional herding and nomadism in such a way that a herder is quoted as stating ”Då är det inte renskötsel”, or, ‘Then it’s no longer reindeer husbandry’, and the district is opposed to the development of the mine in the Laver area.
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.
Perth based mining company Hannans Reward is hoping to develop open cut mines in Sweden’s north. But as Verica Jokic writes Indigenous communities argue the mines will endanger their traditional way of life. (Source ABC Bush Telegraph)
Hannans Reward is undertaking several exploratory operations near a town called Kiruna to see if it can proceed with open pit iron-ore, copper and gold mines.
But the location of the proposed mines is on Indigenous Saami land and critical reindeer herding habitats.
The Saami say the mines will threaten their millennia old culture and they’ve started a campaign to stop the Australian company.
Mats Berg is a representative of the Laevas and Girjas Saami Communities in Sweden’s north.
He says the new mines will cut the Saami communities in half, leave 20,000 reindeer without grazing lands, and directly affect the animals’ migratory path.
The Al Jazeera news network has released a fascinating 25 minute documentary by filmaker Glenn Ellis that looks specifically at the impacts of massive increase in mining activity in Sweden and Finland and includes segments from the ongoing controversial mining proposal by Beowulf on reindeer herding pastures in Sweden.
Europe’s far north is a place of spectacular beauty, of mountains and forests, lakes and rivers, illuminated in winter by the ethereal glow of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.
It is also home to an astonishing array of plants and animals which have survived largely thanks to the indigenous people of the area – the Sami.
To this day many Sami follow herds of free-roaming reindeer, maintaining a tradition that has helped preserve their ancient environment into the 21st century.
But in recent years a new species has arrived: the multinational mining company. Keen to exploit the region’s extraordinarily rich mineral deposits, the industry is being welcomed by Scandinavian governments who want to share in the bounty of jobs and income they promise to bring. But the Sami feel that their way of life and the remarkable natural world they inhabit are being put under threat. So they have been fighting back.
Read the full article on Al Jazeera here and you can watch the documentary below
Long article posted on Barents Observer today on the ongoing dispute between Swedish Sami reindeer herders and others and Beowulf Mining and their supporters. Beowulf plan to mine a remote peninsula (Kallak, see our previous post on this story here) which Sami reindeer herders have used as pasturage for generations. The article features interviews with both opponents and proponents of the mine. Kallak will cost roughly $900 million to build and generate around $2.9 billion in revenue over its 15-year lifespan, according to company records.
The costs include the construction of a tailings facility, new roads and, potentially, a railroad spur connecting the site to an existing rail line that would carry the ore to ports on the Baltic Sea and Norwegian coast, where it would be shipped to steel plants in northern Europe and used in the production of everything from cars and ships to electronics and paper clips.
Sami herders insist the new infrastructure and mining activity would block two routes used by reindeer to migrate from summer pastures in the mountains north of Kallak to winter grazing land in the forested valley south of Jokkmokk.
A short video accompanies the article which you can view below and which includes a short interview with a Sami reindeer herder, Jonas Vannar.
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”.
Very interesting article in this months Atlantic on the impact of the newly launched copper and gold mine, Oyu Tolgoi. Although located a long way from areas of reindeer husbandry, the impact of a megaproject such as this in such a sparsely populated country will have strong ripple effects across the entire society.
“The launch this year of Oyu Tolgoi, the world’s largest untapped copper-and-gold mine, has ignited a debate in Mongolia about how to avoid a massive rise in income disparity. While most of the country’s wealth accrues in the nation’s capital, the vast majority of nomadic herders, who make up a third of Mongolia’s population, remain skeptical that they will reap any benefits from this new venture. The herders who live near Oyu Tolgoi in the Gobi Desert say they are getting both the best and worst of the deal.
Australia-based mining giant Rio Tinto is courting Gobi nomads and offering impressive compensation packages — particularly when compared to national salary averages — to win over locals. New schools, full-ride scholarships, guaranteed lifetime employment, part-time positions that don’t interfere with herding schedules, lump sums of cash, and new sheds and animal pens for each family are just some of the incentives to entice natives to move off ancestral grazing land and make room for the mega-mine.
“Besides herding animals, we do two days of work a week for Oyu Tolgoi,” says Erdenejargal, a herder who lives a few miles from the mine’s open pit. “It’s better to have both jobs.”
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…
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.
(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
A multi stakeholder seminar was held in the Kautokeino, Norway yesterday which focussed on the issue of mining in Finnmark, an issue of some controversy in the region since the passing of the Finnmark Act which devolved desicion making powers over multiple resource issues to the region of Finnmark. The seminar was attended by the leader of the EALÁT project and several EALÁT partners including the leader of the Sami Reindeer Herders Association of Norway. Heavyweight politicians were present, including the Parliamentary leader of the governing Labour Party Helga Pedersen and the leader of the mining company Store Norske Gull, who have been active in staking claims most particularly in the Karasjok region. Pedersen was unequivocal in her support for the future development of mining in the the region, which reindeer herders fear will mean the further erosion of winter pastures that are already under duress. Pedersen told NRK Sami Radio
Both Finnmark society and the Sami community is entirely dependent on new activity. If one is to preserve the culture and language we are going to have to have new jobs for the youth in the Sami villages. You can not save the Sami culture simply by having Sami kindergarten at Tøyen in Oslo and courses in communities with cafe lattes, it has to happen here,
(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.
Även om beskedet att det kanadensiska bolaget, Northland Resources fått tillstånd att bryta järnmalm i Pajala, så finns oron hos Muonio sameby kring vilka konsekvenser det får för renskötseln. / The Canadian mining company, Northland Resources has received permission to mine iron ore in Pajala, and as a result, there are concerns among Muonio Sameby about the consequences for reindeer herding in their district, especially as the activities will be in the sameby’s reindeer calving grounds
Muonio sameby oroas över planerad gruvverksamhet /Read the full story here
Gold, copper and platinum fever continue to pass over Finnmark. Test cores in Kvalsund had chief geologist Kjell Nilsen enthusing
This is Norway’s largest copper find…We’re talking about billions. With today’s prices, we have found values of between eight and ten billion kroner (1.25 bn Euros)
Other materials in a 6 kilometre ridge include platinum, silver and gold. Nilsen told Finnnmark Dagblad said Nussir ASA intends to apply for permission to extract the minerals and if successful, production might start in year 2011, he adds. This is an area of reindeer husbandry and herders have already expressed their concerns about mining activity, as reported in the Reindeer Blog and in NRK, where herder Berit Kristine Hætta stated that reindeer need peace in this area after calving, a claim questioned by a Nussir spokesperson.
Meanwhile, in Karasjok, Store Norsk Gull are drilling 15 test holes (in their search for gold) in Ráitevárri and Rivkkaoggi (the heart of the winter pastures in this area) and reindeer herders are not happy about it, as reported in NRK yesterday.
In a letter to the Områdestyret for East Finnmark reindeer herders Lars Larsen Anti, Marit Kirsten Anti Gaup og Samuel John L. Anti wrote that the company has made no attempt to dialogue with them
This has not happened, and, therefore, we require full stop of the business until Store Norske Gold have met with us and clarified their activities in the area. We demand direct negotiations and clarification from the company.
The reindeer herders are considering engaging a lawyer if activities are not halted.
(Map showing extent of one claim in Kvalsund – Wega Mining) At a public meeting in Kvalsund, northern Norway, a full frontal attack on reindeer husbandry was launched by one of the parliamentary representatives for Finnmark, Olav Gunnar Ballo. The meeting had been called to discuss the issue of mining in the region where the international mining company Wega Mining has applied for permission to expand mineral mining, with the support of the local mayor and the majority of participants. Wega owns 18% of Nussir ASA which has the permit to mine what is believed to be Norway’s largest copper deposits at Nussir and Repparfjord. Ballo criticised reindeer husbandry for being subsidised, not moving with the times and standing in the way of development. The clip has also been televised. Ballo’s comments gained a lot of media exposure. The head of the Sami Reindeer Herders Association of Norway (NBR), Nils Henrik Sara was shocked and alarmed at Ballo’s comments, especially as he is sitting in the national parliament.
Reindeer herder Mikkel Nils A. Sara stressed that reindeer herders were not against development…
Two Sami villages in northern Sweden have been denied compensation from the state-owned mining company LKAB for the time village representatives spent on planning for the relocation of Kiruna. The reindeer herding villages of Gaban and Leavas first turned to the government for money to make up for time spent tending to the relocation of nearby Kiruna instead of tending to their reindeer. After the government refused the request, they then turned to the LKAB mining company for 500,000 kronor ($82,000) to cover income lost due to the consultation process.
LKAB is funding the relocation of Kiruna’s city centre so the company can continue operating a lucrative mine which has created underground cracks that threaten to sink the city in the coming years.
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.
(pic from Barents Observer) In a press release from Vancouver, Centrasia Mining Corp. announced that drilling has started on its 100% owned, Tsaga Platinum Group Metals (“PGM”) prospect on the Kola Peninsula, Russia – adjacent to Lovozero and in a region of reindeer husbandry. The Tsaga property covers an area of 1,970 square kilometres and is adjacent to the north border of Barrick Gold Corporation’s Federova Tundra PGM deposit and Consolidated Puma Minerals Corp.’s East Pansky deposit, and Pana PGM’s North Reef PGM deposits.
IGE Nordic, the daughter company of mining giant International Gold Exploration unveiled their plans for the former gold mine of Biedjovággi, 40 km West of Kautokeino. IGE Nordic visited Kautokeino last week having meetings with the municipality and reindeer herders from the Ábborášša reindeer herding district in whose area the mine is to be redeveloped. In an interview with NRK Sami Radio, Frederic Bratt, IGE Nordic Director said,
Biedjovággi is one of our three highest priority projects
They could be up and running within months. 50 work places were spoken of, lasting 20 years, with estimates of three tonnes of gold available for mining. IGE were recently listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange and are active in reopening the Stekenjokk mine in Sweden (a Zinc and Copper Ore mine that operated between 1976-1988), which would have negative consequences for Vilhelmina Södra and Frostviken Norra Saami communities, according to Rebecca Lawrence of the Saami Council.
Henrik A. Sara, leader of the Ábborášša reindeer herding district said in the interview
We don’t want mining…we are aleady pressed for space in our district