MAC: Mines and Communities

Talvivaara postpones mining restart at Finland plant

Published by MAC on 2012-12-04
Source: Statements, Reuters

Poisonous leaks have continued

Talvivaara postpones mining restart at Finland plant

Terhi Kinnunen and Jussi Rosendahl


29 November 2012

HELSINKI - Nickel miner Talvivaara postponed the restart of mining in Sotkamo, Eastern Finland by half a year to mid-2013, raising concern over its future metals production.

The Finnish company, which pioneered a technique to extract nickel using bacteria, has been hit by a series of problems in the past year, including waste water leakage, production disruptions and the death of a worker.

Talvivaara halted mining and crushing operations in September for 3-4 months due to excess water in the mining pit, but said now it would not restart ore production until mid-2013 once water had been drained away from the pit.

Shares in the company fell 6 percent in Helsinki and in London by 1022 GMT, and one analyst said the company may face two flat years with its nickel production.

"It may be that production would not increase very much next year, and there is a risk it won't pick up even in 2014," said an equity analyst who declined to be named.

Earlier on Wednesday Talvivaara gave its production update for this year, forecasting around 13,000 tonnes of nickel after its metals production was halted in November for more than two weeks by a leakage of toxic waste water.

The company previously said it targeted 50,000 tonnes per year running at full capacity. In 2011 nickel production was 16,000 tonnes.

Talvivaara has cut its annual production target twice this year. The guidance for 2013 is due to come out early next year.

The company swung to an operating loss of 4.3 million euros ($5.5 million) in the third quarter due to production disruptions and weak nickel prices, and said it was considering new funding options, including convertible bonds and equity.

Analysts have said a share issue was the most likely option since the company's debt-to-equity ratio was already high at 141 percent.

"They are bleeding cash and debt maturities are approaching," said Fredrik Agardh, analyst at Handelsbanken.

(Editing by Dan Lalor and Louise Heavens)

Stop the mining boom! Activists interfere international mining conference in Espoo

November 2012

There is no such thing as socially and environmentally sustainable mining!

With the Northern mining boom the mining industry, famous for its chemical emissions, is threatening waters and ecosystems in various locations, where clean nature offers the most possibilities for local people. It is grotesque that the people involved gather to discuss the mining industry as a sustainable activity while every emergency dam in the Talvivaara mine is leaking poisonous waste water to Vuoksi waters.

The action is a protest against the industry and the state's attempt to legitimize mining by discussing its "sustainability". Protesters are reminding people that no such thing as "responsible", "sustainable" or "green" mining exists. The Talvivaara mine in Sotkamo, Eastern Finland is a clear example that the only green things caused by mining are the polluted swamps and waters.

The mining industry, famous for its chemical emissions, threatens the waters and other ecosystems crucial to everyone living in the surrounding areas. The action is arranged in solidarity with the Stop Talvivaara movement and all the people to whom mining industry causes suffering around the world.

The environmental activists feel that direct action is the only strategy left to make a difference since the Finnish government has decided to support mining and ignore the critical voices from the people completely. Thus, the public opinion has no impact in the parliamentary system. A revealing example of this is that the opening speaker for the two-day greenwashing conference is Heidi Hautala from the Finnish Green party.

The organising group of this protest, Hyökyaalto ("Tidal wave") demands immediate shutdown of Talvivaara mine and abandoning all other mining plans.

Talvivaara spill goes on! New leakage found in safety dam!

Stop Talivaara Press Release

27 November 2012

Since November 4, 2012 a cocktail of poisonous chemicals has leaked from the Talvivaara mine in Eastern Finland into surrounding rivers and lakes.

An investigation by the Finnish Environment Institute found high levels of aluminium, cadmium, nickel, uranium and zinc in the released waste waters. In a big demonstration led by people from Eastern Finland on November 14, 2012 about 1,000 people demanded  closure of the mine.

A petition with some 18,000 signatures was handed over to the Minister of Environment. The number of signatures is still increasing - as of November 18 about 20,000 people have signed. At the same time a small rally took place in Oulu.

Just on the first day of the disaster, over 220,000 cubic metres of waste water leaked from a gypsum waste pond at the mine in Kainuu. Some of the water spilled into an area outside the mine. Since then, the leakage continued for at least ten days.

The operator of the mine tried for weeks to close the leak. On November 8 it announced that it had blocked a leak at its gypsum pond. Only half a day later a new leakage was reported. The same thing happened again - with an "all-clear" message on November 14th, when it was announced again the leakage was eventually blocked. But, a week later the safety dam was reported to be leakingain. It is estimated that over 10,000 kilos of nickel and unknown amounts of uranium escaped the mine.

According to the Kainuu Employment and Economic Development Centre the gypsum pond was not supposed to be used for storing waste waters, and no special permit as issued for the purpose.

On November 8, Minister of Environment Ville Niinistö called the leak a "serious environmental crime". For years, local people had accused Talvivaara to have extracted hundreds of tons of uranium a year without permission.

For several days the Talvivaara company was not able to locate the site of the leak. Since the beginning of the catastrophe, the mine has discharged hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of toxic effluent into the nearby environment. According to a local newspaper some 4,000 cubic metres of waste water escaped the Talvivaara mine per hour. Greenpeace called it "Finland's biggest chemical catastrophe in history".

The mine has leaked heavy metals like cadmium and nickel into its surroundings and nearby lakes. The uranium concentration in the effluent has risen by 100-200 times its normal level in the bottom and surface waters. Military and civil helicopters were in operation to plug the leaks in the waste water dam.

"Helicopters are used to dump neutralizing calcium into the waste water, as well as moving concrete and patching material to leakages" explained the news company YLE. Some 150-200 people were busy trying to block the leaks and build a safety dam, said Talvivaara Head of Communications Olli-Pekka Nissinen. Also soldiers from the Kainuu Brigade and local volunteer fire fighters were involved to the rescue activities.

According to the Finnish authorities, "pollutants in nearby waterways are at levels that may cause the death of fish and affect plants and bottom-dwelling organisms". Although the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority claimed the released uranium would not pose a threat to either environment or humans, they at the same time admitted it was a potential health risk if it made its way into drinking water.

Chair of the parliament’s Environment Committee Matti Korhonen said on November 14 that authorities should prevent the mine resuming operations.

On November 13, 2012, it was reported that STUK had detected uranium levels in water samples at 350 microgrammes per litre, while the recommended limit is 100 microgrammes.

The company's operation at the Talvivaara mine were shut down after the disaster. Though the company appealed to the authorities to receive permission for re-starting the business, officials stated this would not happen soon. First investigations have to be undertaken to understand the causes of the catastrophe and to investigate any violations of law committed by the company.

Such an inspection by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) and Kainuu centre for Economic Development,Transport and the Environment (KAIELY) took place on November 19, 2012 - a delegation of independent observers was prevented from joining the inspection.

On November 22, People's Movement for the Lakes and Rivers revealed a new leakage found in the safety dam. According to them, Talvivaara Mining Company Plc started emergency liming with help of two helicopters dropping the lime from 300-500 kg containers.

People's Movement for the Lakes and Rivers reported again the Lumijoki river carrying a foul stench and a strong odour of sulphur out into the terrain; the colour of the flowing water below from the dam was described as alarming as ar the beginning of the gypsum pond leak: brownish dark yellow...

Eventually the government admitted the new leak. People's Movement for the Lakes and Rivers criticized the government's perspective of a "stabilized situation", as it was obviously since the beginning that the "safety dam" and the "back-up pond" wouldn't provide a "stabilized situation".

Media release:

Background information

Eastern Finnish Talvivaara is Europes largest nickel open cast mine. Since 2008 the mining is has been in operation 24 hours a day and moved more than 30 millions of tons of soil. In an area as big as 60 square kilometers, mining, crushing, chemical treatment and extraction takes place. Besides nickel, large amounts of uranium, copper and cobalt are produced.

In February 2011, the Canadian uranium mining company Cameco made a contract with the Talvivaara operator to construct a uranium extraction facility with a capacity of 350 tons uranium per year.  During recent last years, particularly in summer 2012, a movement against the uranium mine was established in Finland.

However, the catastrophe in Talvivaara prompted an unexpectedly large number of people to demonstrate to stop the operations and an extension of the mine.

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