Signs of poisoning have been detected in the dead birds found in the Talvivaara mine area in Sotkamo in the Kainuu region. According to preliminary studies by the Finnish Food Safety Authority (EVIRA), the birds showed signs of aspirating or swallowing a toxic substance.
A more detailed microscopic and chemical study is to be done later. There were no signs of violent trauma.
Talvivaara has come under fire in recent months for sulphate emissions which have sharply exceeded permissible levels.
A total of 30 dead birds were found recently in the process solution pool at the mine, and the laboratory studies found indications of poisoning in the respiratory and digestive tracts of a number of the birds.
EVIRA researcher Marja Isomursu estimated that more detailed results would be available after several weeks.
Police in Kainuu are also waiting to hear the exact cause of death of a Talvivaara employee who died in March near the Talvivaara Sotkamo Oy metal extraction plant. It is considered possible that he may have died from inhaling toxic gas. The final results are expected in a couple of weeks.
The Green League newspaper Vihreä Lanka reports that the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (TUKES) also wants more information on the deaths of the birds and how they relate to the substances in the pool.
The Talvivaara mine has until the end of the year to fix its emissions to a reasonable level, says Minister of the Environment Ville Niinistö (Green).
In an interview with the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE), Niinistö said on Thursday that closing down the mine could be a possibility at the end of the year if the company does not get its emissions under control by then.
Niinistö feels that the Talvivaara mine has caused unreasonable harm to local residents.
The Finnish state owns about nine per cent of the Talvivaara Mining Company.
Minister of International Development Heidi Hautala (Green), who is also the minister responsible for state ownership steering issues, emphasises that the supervision of Talvivaara is primarily a matter for environmental authorities.
Hautala also praised the Talvivaara Mining Company’s new CEO Harri Natunen, who has started to solve the environmental problems. “I hope that the goals are sufficiently ambitious”, she says.