Environment Minister lashes out at “arrogant” mining companies
Minister of the Environment Ville Niinistö (Green) is accusing mining companies of arrogance. In his view the worst problems affecting mining in Finland could have been averted with the right technology.
“Very many product development companies have been in touch and said that there are solutions to these specific problems in the mining industry. Many of the mining companies have been so arrogant that they have not taken environmental planning as an important consideration.”
Niinistö also says that foreign companies are operating in Finnish Lapland, which have not respected the rule of law.
“There has been unauthorised drilling and other things”, Niinistö says.
However, neither the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (TUKES), which supervises the mining industry, nor the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment in the region have any information about illegal drilling. There is one case which is being investigated as a suspected case of illegal sample taking.
The Ministry of the Environment is considering the possibility of lowering the threshold for using coercive measures, such as conditional fines or mandatory shutdowns.
Niinistö says that officials have told him that the Talvivaara Mining Company, which runs the Talvivaara mine in Sotkamo in the Kainuu region, will get its emissions down to a reasonable level by the end of the year. Possible administrative measures against the company are up to the Kainuu Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, and not the Ministry of the Environment. The centre says that no deadline has been set for Talvivaara, and the company has managed to reduce its emissions as required by the authorities.
Talvivaara’s environmental permit needs to be renewed and the permit, which is expected to come in November this year, will stipulate reasonable limits to emissions.
Niinistö is also calling for a monetary penalty fee to be imposed on mining companies that violate the terms of their mining permits.
“If the resources of supervisors are spent on companies with environmental problems, the companies should pay. Companies that operate in a proper manner are also suffering”, Niinistö says.
He notes that environmental protection is one of the few areas in which those neglecting their obligations do not have to pay for their neglect. In Niinistö’s view the amount of the fee would depend on the costs that are incurred.
Talvivaara has received numerous reprimands for the environmental damage caused by its emissions. The Kainuu Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment has conducted over 100 inspections at the Sotkamo mine.
The recent mining boom has raised concerns over how the activities of the licensing and supervisory officials can be guaranteed.
The heads of the Regional State Administrative Agencies of the north have sent an appeal to the Ministry of the Environment. In the letter, the heads of the agencies note that mining is growing so fast that the situation has become unsustainable.
Niinistö says that he has spoken with the Ministry of Employment and the Economy about the resources available to mining supervision authorities, and about the need to upgrade the level of supervision.
“My task is to make sure that officials have the resources, but [Minister of Economic Affairs Jyri] Häkämies (Nat. Coalition Party) is the one who decides on them. It isn’t easy”, Niinistö says.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Indications of poisoning detected in dead birds found in Talvivaara (3.5.2012)
Large number of dead birds found in process liquid pool at Talvivaara mine (30.4.2012)
Sulphate emissions vastly understated in environmental impact study for Talvivaara mine (28.3.2012)
Sample collector dies at troubled Talvivaara mine (16.3.2012)
Chemicals from mine contaminate lake (8.11.2011)
Environment Ministry to scrutinise leaves of absence taken by civil servants for short-term work at mining companies (30.4.2012)
Mining raises emotions in Finnish Lapland (10.4.2012)