Tags: Finland | gold | exploit | Lapland

Report: Gold Rush in Finland Creates Protests

Wednesday, 14 Nov 2012 07:44 AM

By John Morgan

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Mining companies are descending on the far north of Finland to exploit huge new deposits of gold and other minerals, a development that Spiegel Online describes as creating “Klondike in Lapland.”

The Finnish government is encouraging prospectors by helping locate the deposits and granting mineral rights at cheap prices. But the exploitation comes with a price — gold, nickel and uranium miners are encroaching into tourist and conservation areas, Spiegel Online reported.

“The cost to the environment will exceed the profits from the gold mines,” claimed the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation in a statement.

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An estimated 40 companies, including multinational miners such as Anglo American, are conducting hundreds of exploration projects. Geologists have described the ore deposits in northern Finland’s Lapland as among the richest in the world.

“The extent of the mining operations is gigantic and pollution is inevitable,” said geologist Matti Saarnisto. He said Lapland’s waters are in danger of being contaminated by toxins such as arsenic and cyanides that are a by-product of the mining operations.

Popular resistance is growing. Spiegel Online said 53 tourism companies are protesting against a huge gold mine where Australian firm Dragon Mining is staging test drilling in full view of a popular ski resort. And Lutheran Church bishops joined the fray with a statement that northern Finland should not be reduced to a “colony” by international miners.

Meanwhile, some local government leaders are pushing ahead with the development on economic grounds. “We can’t produce maps fast enough,” said Veikko Virtanen, a local politician in Sodaykyla, a Lapland town that is essentially surrounded by mining claims. Virtanen said he is confident there is room for mines and tourism to co-exist in Lapland.

Reuters reported that a Finnish nickel miner apparently managed to stop wastewater leakage that had halted production at a mine in eastern Finland last week. But some environment damage had occurred, Reuters said.

The Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported that a new survey of residents in the affected regions revealed a lack of confidence in official supervision and environmental regulations. There is a strong local mistrust there of multinational miners, and the respondents are strongly in favor of increasing domestic ownership in mining operations, the newspaper said.

At the same time, the survey showed Finns believe continued mining is necessary for the economic vitality of the region.

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