Mines threaten Europe’s natural beauty
by Martha Vasili
Large parts of Europe’s wild natural beauty are in danger of destruction as multinational mining companies are preparing to create a mining network in order to extract uranium, iron, nickel, phosphor and other minerals. The mining activities will take place in north Finland, Sweden and Norway although environmentalists agree that it could prove destructive for large areas of forest, lakes and rivers. Scientists argue that these areas are vital because they are the natural habitat for some of Europe’s largest mammals like lynxes, wolves, bears and wolverines. Moreover, human rights organisations claim that Lapland is an area where the locals make a living by herding reindeer and fishing that will be affected as well as the area’s tourist industry, that depends on natural beauty.
The profit for mining corporations from Britain, Australia, and Canada, that are involved in mining projects in Lapland is counted in billions of dollars. Until now, within 2014, there have been 349 applications for mining licenses, out of which 243 concern Finland. The government has already approved several prospecting licenses in an area larger than one eighth of Finland.
According to some reports, the Arctic hides more than one fifth of the world’s oil and gas reserves, as well as vast reserves of rare ores, such as coal, uranium, gold, zinc, platinum and nickel.
The consequences for the scarcely populated Finnish Lapland, where the government is encouraging industrial growth by low taxation and subsidization, are catastrophic. If Finland contributes, as expected, to a railroad connection with northern Norway and Barents Sea, it will attract the opening of many mines in one of Europe’s most ecologically sensitive areas. Many mines will be close to ski resorts, national parks and wild nature zones.
The Norwegian fertilizer company Yara International is planning a phosphor mine in an area of 40-60 square kilometers in Sokli, close to eastern Lapland in between the national parks Urho Kekkonen and Värriö. Billions of liters of polluted water in lakes and rivers have to be cleaned every year since there’s going to be millions of tons of waste polluting them.
“Lapland is a very sensitive Arctic nature. The mines will cause damage that will last for thousands of years”, reports Finnish biochemist Jari Natunen, to the Guardian. “Small mines will produce at least a few tenths of millions of tons waste and the bigger ones even more. The waste, rich in heavy metals, usually lasts for hundreds of year” argues Natunen.
While mines in Finland are allowed by the European Union, ecologists warn that the supervision and control of industrial activities is inadequate and the government often doesn’t supervise mining activities, because industry and authorities are closely related. The existing mines are already polluting the land where reindeer graze, with heavy metals such as antimony, copper, cobalt, nickel and chromium. “The number of mining licenses in Lapland is now so high that we are reaching a critical point, a point of no return”, reports Tero Mustonen, chief researcher on Arctic biodiversity and president of Snowchange Co-operative in north Karelia, in Finland. “Although the current prospects for the creation of mines are realized we will come to a situation where most areas will not be able to survive the consequences” says Mustonen.
Last year, the Swedish government announced that they want to triple the number of mines in the country. American and British mining giants have arrived in Kiruna, where there are plans for several mines. The British company Beowulf hopes to mine 10 tons of iron annually for 25 years. The local people’s opinions are of course divided, with some gravely concerned over the ecological catastrophe and some claiming that the area is in urgent need for investments.
There are currently more than 40 mines in northern Norway and it is expected that there will be around 70 in a few years, although the processing of waste has been highly controversial.
Original text in Greek: http://www.tvxs.gr/news/
Translation by Crisis Mirror