MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Norwegian government confirms dumping of copper waste in fjord

Published by MAC on 2019-12-03
Source: The Barents Observer

Sami people threaten mass revolt

Norway greenlights copper mine with tailings to be dumped in Arctic fjord

Protests from the indigenous Sami people, local fishermen and
environmental groups were turned down by the government.

By Thomas Nilsen

The Barents Observer

30 November 2019

“Allowing this to happen with a protected national salmon fjord doesn’t
make sense at all,” said Silje Lundberg, head of Naturvernforbundet. The
organisation is the Norwegian branch of Friends of the Earth.

Lundberg said the planned dumping of tailings from the copper mine to
the fjord is equivalent to 17 lorry loads every hour of production. In
total, that sums up to two million tons of tailings every year.

The Norwegian government on Friday turned down the protests and gave
final thumbs up to Nussir mining company to start exploring the
resources, estimated to about 72 million tons of copper ore.

Located on the shores of Repparfjord, an hour drive from the town of
Hammerfest, the mine will be the northernmost on mainland Europe.

“Dumping of mining waste will kill every living thing on the ocean floor
in the immediate area and disturb spawning grounds over a much greater
distance. Scientists have repeatedly warned against dumping. This
decision shows conclusively that the government does not take the fight
to conserve ocean life seriously, and would rather prioritize short-term
profit over conservation and sustainability,” added Ask Lundberg.

Minister of Trade and Industry, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, previously said to
the Barents Observer that the mining indeed would have impacts, but he
assures it will be done in accordance with “very high environmental
standards.”

Øystein Rushfeldt, CEO of Nussir mining company, said “all mining has
negative consequences for the environment; use of land and other
effects, and it doesn’t matter if the tailings are placed on land or in
sea, it is always consequences.”

A 2017-report by the World Bank about the global need for metals for a
low carbon future said demand for copper is expected to jump by as much
as 50 percent over the next 20 years alone.

Electric vehicles, increased renewable energy sources and energy
efficiency all require significant amounts of copper to function.

Minister Røe Isaksen said the mine in Repparfjord “is needed for the
green shift to tackle climate changes.”

In Finnmark, Norway’s northernmost region, the mining project has
triggered controversies.

Although local municipality authorities in Hammerfest welcome the mine
for bringing new jobs and economic growth, the indigenous Sami people
have disapproved the entire project.

President of the Norwegian Sami Parliament, Aili Keskitalo, said the
Repparfjord mine just adds to a long list of projects with negative
impact on areas important for reindeer herding; “power-lines, wind
mills, roads.”

“The reindeer herding can’t bear this. Neither can the ecosystem in the
fjord,” Keskitalo said.

Although the appeal against the mining project was turned down by the
government on Friday, the final word might not yet have been said.

4,500 Norwegians have signed up for civil disobedience against the
project should it go ahead, including members of Nature and Youth (Young
Friends of the Earth Norway).

“This project is a serious environmental crime and that’s why 4,500
people have expressed their willingness to participate in civil
disobedience to protect the fjord,” said Gaute Eiterjord, head of Nature
and Youth.

He adds that the organization “now will go after the investors” to the
mining project and have them to withdraw the money “so that the mine
can’t be realized.”

 

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