Vast network of rivers, lakes and mountains in Finland, Sweden and Norway at risk from being exploited for rare earth and other minerals
Great stretches of Europe’s last wildernesses risk being damaged and polluted as the international mining industry gears up to develop northern Finland, Sweden, and Norway in search of uranium, iron ore, nickel, phosphorus, and valuable rare earth minerals, according to environmentalists.
The prize for British, Australian, Canadian and other companies is billion-dollar mega mines in Lapland, a region which covers all three countries and Russia, able to supply burgeoning industry in Asia.
But conservationists say the rush could bring permanent damage to the vast network of rivers, lakes and mountains which are home to many of Europe’s largest mammals, such as the lynx, wolf, bear and wolverine.
In addition, human rights groups argue that Lapland and Sami indigenous commuities who live by reindeer herding and fishing will be hit, along with the region’s tourist industry, which depends on pristine nature.
The polar mining boom, which mirrors the oil industry’s search for oil and gas, is heating up as climate change makes new areas and sea routes accessible and world prices of iron ore continue to soar.
So far in 2014, 349 applications for mining permits have been made, of which 243 have been for Finland. Over one-eighth of Finland, an area twice the size of Wales, has now been designated for mining and hundreds of applications for exploration licenses have been received by the government.
According to some studies, the Arctic holds over a fifth of the world’s untapped, recoverable oil and gas resources, as well as major reserves of rare earth, coal, uranium, gold, diamonds, zinc, platinum, nickel and iron ore.
Some of the biggest developments could be in sparsely populated Finnish Lapland where government is encouraging industrial development with tax breaks and state help. If, as expected, Finland contributes £200m to a railway linking the mining region with northern Norway and the the Barents Sea, dozens of giant mines are expected to open in one of Europe’s most ecologically fragile regions. Many would be close to skiing areas, national parks and wilderness areas.
Norwegian fertiliser company Yara International plans a massive 40-60 sq km open-cast phosphorus mine near Sokli in eastern Lapland between the Urho Kekkonen national park and the Värriö nature park. Billions of gallons of polluted waste water would have to be be drained, via pristine lakes and rivers, and millions of tonnes of waste would be created every year.
“Lapland has a very vulnerable Arctic nature. Mining will cause damage which would last at least thousands of years or not fixed at least until next ice age,” says Finnish biochemist Jari Natunen.
For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/03/mining-threat-northern-europe-wilderness-finland-sweden-norway