Mining companies from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom are gearing up for projects in the Lapland region that stretches across the northern parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway. Receding polar ice caps have made it possible to access deposits of uranium, iron ore, nickel and rare earths.
However, environmentalists are creating opposition to the plans, and 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, The Guardian reported.
So far in 2014, 349 applications for mining permits have been made, of which 243 have been for Finland. Over one-eighth of Finland, has now been designated for mining and hundreds of applications for exploration licenses have been received by the government.
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 £200 million to a railway linking the mining region with northern Norway and 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 fertilizer 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.
Mining in Finland is governed by EU pollution laws but conservationists warn that supervision and control of the industry is poor and government has often failed to monitor or act because the industry and the authorities are closely and intimately linked.
Further west, work to relocate Sweden’s most northerly town, Kiruna, to make way for what will be one of the world’s biggest underground iron ore mines is expected to start next year. All 23,000 people, 3,000 buildings, schools, churches and hospitals will be moved a few miles east but already the company LKAB has said it wants to make the mine bigger.
Last year the Swedish government said it planned to limit the number of mines in the country.
Australian, American and other mining giants have descended on the Kiruna region where several mega mines are planned. One, by British mining company Boewulf, hopes to mine 10 Mt of iron ore a year for 25 years, providing hundreds of jobs.