MAC: Mines and Communities

Two strikes and you're out? Beowulf again violates Swedish Minerals Act

Published by MAC on 2012-01-16
Source: Statement (2012-01-12)

Swedish Saami (indigenous) communities have finally had enough of the mining company, Beowulf.

After the British outfit twice violated Swedish mineral legislation in as many months, they are calling for  the company to withdraw from their territory.

Previous MAC article - Sweden: British Beowulf caught drilling illegally

British Beowulf reported again for breach of Swedish Minerals Act

Swedish Saami Council Press Release

11 January 2012

The Saami communities of Sirges and Jåhkågaska have today submitted a complaint to the Swedish Minerals Inspectorate claiming that Beowulf Mining has allegedly conducted unauthorized exploration drilling in the Parkijaure 2 area, in Jokkmokk of northern Sweden, without a valid work plan.

The company has already been reported by the Mining Inspectorate of Sweden to the Swedish Prosecution Authority for unauthorized exploration drilling in another nearby area - Kallak 1 - and the communities are now concerned that the company has once again performed exploration work without a valid work plan, this time in the Parkijaure 2 area.

"If it turns out that the company has undertaken exploration drilling without a valid work plan in in this area also, as many factors indicate, the company's credibility as a professional company is seriously challenged," says Jenny Karlsson Wik, Chief Lawyer at the Swedish Sami Association (SSR) and legal representative of the Saami communities.

Due to on-going issues with the company, the communities have now chosen to declare their opposition to Beowulf's mining plans in an open letter to Beowulf's management.

As such, the communities will not be participating in the Environmental Impact Assessment. - "Any mining developments on our lands entail major negative impacts on the reindeer husbandry in the area, which is our traditional livelihood," says Bengt-Åke Kuljok, Chairman of Sirges Saami community.

Beowulf has clearly demonstrated that they do not respect Saami rights. They have shown a blatant disregard for Swedish law and have spread misleading information to shareholders about the Saami communities' involvement in the company's plans. "There is absolutely no confidence in this company from the perspective of the Saami communities" concludes Jon - Mikko Länta, Chairman of Jåhkågaska tjiellde Saami community. SSR and the Sami communities have now turned to the Sami Council for support.

For further information contact: Jenny Karlsson Wik +46 72 202 12 00


Open Letter to Beowulf Mining Management and Board

11 January 2012

Jokkmokk - The Saami communities of Sirges and Jåhkågaska write to you in regards to your company's on-going exploration work in Jokkmokk municipality, northern Sweden, in central Saami reindeer herding areas.

In recent months, Beowulf Mining has consistently demonstrated a lack of respect for our rights through careless behavior and lack of control over its own exploration activities. The communities are greatly concerned over the impacts of a future mine. Beowulf's mining's recent behavior has increased these concerns. The communities therefore hereby declare that we do not intend to co-operate with your company in any exploration or mining plans on our lands.

Jokkmokk has a large Saami population, and several Saami communities are based in the area. Plans for mining at Kallak and nearby areas will, without doubt, detrimentally affect existing Saami land uses in the municipality. This not only concerns those Saami communities in direct proximity to the proposed mining site, but also those communities along the proposed ore transportation routes. The Saami communities will not simply sit by and allow this to happen.

We, the Saami, are a part of the whole that makes up our living environment. Our living environment consists of the surrounding cultural landscape, history, reindeer, language, our natural resources, and our place in this whole. Our goal is to manage our living environment, and our cultural heritage, in a responsible manner, so that we can proudly hand over a sustainable reindeer husbandry and living Sami culture to our children and future generations.

Respectfully,

Jon-Mikko Länta
Chairman, Jåhkågaska Saami Community

Bengt-Åke Kuljolk
Chairman, Sirges Saami Community


Open letter from the Saami Council

Dear Clive Sinclair-Poulton, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Beowulf Mining Plc.,

12 January 2011

The Saami Council writes to you in regards to our concerns over Beowulf Minings' current exploration activities and planned mining activities in the Jokkmokk area, in the far north of Sweden. We would like to take the opportunity to highlight the human rights violations associated with the activities.

As part of our work, the Saami Council monitors mining, wind power, forestry and other industrial activities in the Saami areas, seeking to ensure that indigenous rights are respected. We have been contacted by one of our member organisations, SSR - the National Swedish Saami Association - and the Saami reindeer communities of Sirges and Jåhkågaska. The communities have recently expressed their firm opposition over Beowulf Minings mining and exploration plans in Jokkmokk in an open letter to your management on January 11th.

There are three points we generally like to raise with companies who may not be aware of their international obligations.

The first concerns your company's direct obligations in regards to international law, which affirms that indigenous peoples' communities hold property rights to areas traditionally used. This position of international law has also been confirmed by Swedish law, most recently by the Supreme Court's ruling in the so called Nordmaling Case. Consequently, no industrial activities are permitted in Saami reindeer herding communities' traditional territories unless an agreement is reached with the relevant community.

This property right is protected by the Swedish Constitution, as well as of Article 1 of Additional Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights, in addition to other international legal instruments such as the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, the right to culture as enshrined e.g. in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 27, as interpreted by the UN Human Rights Committee, establishes that the right to culture prohibits any activity that renders it seriously more difficult for indigenous individuals to continuously pursue their traditional livelihoods, such as reindeer husbandry.

The second point concerns the obligations your investors and partners have to ensure that they are not complicit in breaching indigenous rights. For instance, companies and investors involved in Beowulf's projects risk breaching the Equator Principles (to which all reputable investments banks are now signatories), the OECD Guidelines (which apply to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries) and the UN Global Compact.

The General Policies of the OECD Guidelines underline, for example, that enterprises must contribute to economic, social and environmental progress with a view to achieving sustainable development, and respect the human rights of those affected by their activities consistent with the host government's international obligations and commitments.

The Saami Council respectfully suggests that if Beowulf goes ahead with its plans, the company - and all those partners and financial institutions involved - are in breach of the General Policies of the OECD Guidelines. As such, we may have to consider contacting the British Government to submit a specific instance (i.e. complaint) through the UK OECD National Contact Point.

The Saami Council has run similar successful campaigns in the past, targeting companies that do not respect Saami rights, by undertaking shareholder and investor dialogues, media campaigns and filing complaints with bodies such as the UN Human Rights Committee. We will act in the same manner if the mining plans in the Jokkmokk area continue.

Thirdly, the Saami Council also wishes to draw your attention to the fact that the principal position of Swedish law, as well as relevant international legal norms, has not been incorporated into Swedish mining legislation. Foreign companies investing and operating in Sweden commonly place a high level of trust in Swedish public authorities and regulatory bodies. This trust is often misguided. The Swedish mineral law and permitting processes have been heavily criticised by the UN for excluding Saami communities and not respecting indigenous rights, most recently in UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples´ report on the Saami people. In other words, complying with Swedish law is in no way any guarantee for Beowulf Mining, or its investors and partners, that they are not in breach of human rights.

Turning more specifically to the case at hand, we have several serious concerns over your company's current operations on Saami lands. First, your company's proposed exploration and mining operations are located on vital reindeer herding pastures that are essential for the continued survival of traditional Saami livelihoods. The proposed mine site is also located across a crucial reindeer migration route.

This migration route lies alongside the Parkijaure water reservoir for the nearby hydro-electric power station. The water reservoir has notoriously dangerous ice conditions and any exploration or mining activities in this area seriously threaten startling the reindeer off the migration route and onto the weak ice of the Parikijauri reservoir, posing enormous risks to both reindeer and reindeer herders.

Second, your company seems to have intentionally misled your shareholders on several points. You have personally stated to shareholders that the "the basic response [of the local people] has been positive". This statement blatantly disregards the existence of significant protest by local Saami communities. Moreover, in regards to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, your company stated on November 2011 that the Saami communities were being paid to assist in the EIA. This is simply not true.

There is no agreement between your company and the affected Saami communities. Moreover, the Saami communities have now unilaterally stated that they will not be participating in the EIA process. As you are aware, an EIA process requires documenting the local land uses, in particular the land uses of local Saami reindeer herding communities. We are curious as to how your company plan to undertake an EIA when the local Saami communities - the only people who can provide this information on local land uses - now refuse to participate in the EIA process?

Moreover, we respectfully suggest that you will likely encounter difficult in commissioning a reputable environmental consultant to undertake an EIA if the Saami community is not willing to participate. Several Swedish environmental consultants now have a policy whereby they only undertake EIA work if the Saami community chooses to be involved.

Third, we are troubled over the fact that your company was caught drilling illegally without valid exploration work plans at Kallak 1, in Jokkmokk. Moreover, we are seriously alarmed over the recent allegation that this may not be an isolated incident, but that your company may in fact have also drilled illegally at Pakkijauri 2.

We are concerned that if your company cannot deal with the simple bureaucratic process of an exploration work plan, you will be unable to manage the complex environmental and social impacts of a full-scale mine. We contend that these issues bring to light unprofessional practices and indicate that your company is not capable of operating in a responsible manner.

We hope that we have provided some clarity on the significance of the human rights breaches associated with the proposed mining activities of Beowulf Mining. Should you wish to receive any further information please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours respectfully,

Mattias Åhrén
Chief Lawyer
Saami Council

Cc: Board of Directors, Beowulf Mining

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