Talvivaara – A Finnish Environmental Crime Company
This is a short text to help enlighten a worldwide audience about what’s happening in Finland – a Nordic country that is said to have one of the world’s most advanced democracies, lowest corruption rate, and a vast abundance of clean lakes and nature. Well, since Talvivaara mining company was founded this doesn’t seem to be completely true anymore. After reading this brief summary the reader is advised and encouraged to follow the links, news and other resources at the end of this article.
Officially, Talvivaara is a Finnish-based nickel mining business, but for many who have followed the case closer it seems to be just a moneymaking environmental crime company, leading a plot of full-blown uranium scam. Talvivaara, all through its operations, has ignored and overlooked the local people, their natural resources and Finnish environmental legislation.
The Talvivaara mining company was established in 2004 when it acquired the rights to mine sites at Sotkamo in Eastern Finland. The appropriate permits to commence mining were obtained in 2007, and metals production started late in 2008. In 2010 the company announced the commencement of uranium production as a “by-product” from its normal mining operations in Sotkamo. Talvivaara neglected to mention uranium in its EIA (Environmental Impact Assesment) statements, even though the company knew in advance that the process used in the mine separates uranium from ore. There was no mention of uranium mining to local municipalities or residents before the mine was already underway. Yet uranium reserves at the area have been well-known since the 1980’s.
Talvivaara gained access to uranium production through the back-door; their environmental permit was granted for Europe’s largest nickel mine, while later it “turned out” that the area is also a potential uranium production site with huge reserves. Now, Talvivaara has signed a deal with Cameco, a Canadian uranium corporation, and is carrying on plans to become Europe’s largest uranium mine as well.
During only its first couple of years in operation Talvivaara mine has systematically failed to follow its environmental permits, having consistently exceeded its permitted effluent levels, officially polluted four lakes beyond regular usage, and now spreads its pollutants to important water courses within a 80 kilometre radius from the mining area. This has all happened despite the fact that Talvivaara’s environmental permit was granted on the basis that pollutants would not spread beyond the mine.
There have been numerous pollutant leaks throughout Talvivaara’s history, including one major leak in 2010 from the gypsum precipitate pool (also containing uranium). This major leak was publicly announced by Talvivaara two days after the incident. Talvivaara company systematically overlooks the faults, harm and pollution it is causing and dismisses health and environmental claims. The environmental impact caused by Talvivaara’s operation is probably already irreversible – and if large-scale uranium production is allowed to proceed it would unleash a whole new set of dangers and toxins upon the Finnish wilderness and people.
Talvivaara company’s ignorant approach towards nature, Finnish environmental legislation, and local people have become widely known and publicly noted. This has already proven disastrous, and sets an unacceptable precedent for the future. Environmental effects resulting from Talvivaara’s activity strongly and unacceptably contravene both Finnish environmental protection legislation and Talvivaara’s environmental permit. All of this has been overlooked for years by the Talvivaara mining company itself, the local environmental agency, and sadly also by Finland’s ministry of the Environment.
In February 2011, Cameco Corporation signed a contract with Talvivaara to build a uranium extraction plant on the site of their Sotkamo nickel mine. It is expected to produce between 350 and 500 tons per year. Euratom and the European Commission have already granted their approval for the uranium processing facility.
The Finnish government has also granted permission to Talvivaara to start producing uranium. This approval was granted despite the fact that there are lawsuits raised, complaints, and police investigations concerning Talvivaara’s operation. For example, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (SLL) has asked the Supreme Court to overturn the uranium decision, as it violates Finland’s law on nuclear energy. There is also an ongoing police investigation concerning Talvivaara’s environmental impact report. Talvivaara’s Environmental Permit for uranium extraction and the general update of their Environmental Permit are now being processed by Northern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency.
In the planned expansion of operations, Talvivaara seeks to heavily increase pollutant concentrations in the mine’s effluent; for example 40 times more sulphate (7000 mg/l) and 20 times more natrium (3000 mg/l). Environmental microbiologist Helvi Heinonen-Tanski from the University of Eastern Finland has said that “Talvivaara’s demands of 7000 mg per litre of sulphate emissions is absurd. Such amounts would kill freshwater fish and roe, preventing fry hatching. It would even threaten the drinking water quality. ”
In making the whole world aware of Talvivaara’s mining and uranium madness, Finland truly needs support and help from abroad. These disastrous plans for Europe’s largest uranium mine aren’t widely known – but the results surely will be.
Wherever uranium has been mined, the surrounding communities and nature have suffered. That is why uranium mining has been stopped nearly everywhere in Europe. It’s also not a secret that Talvivaara’s new partner, Cameco, is infamous for the leaking of radioactive waste into Lake Ontario and has been involved in US uranium weapons used in the Gulf War.
For the sake of future generations and chances for sustainable livelihoods in the region, Talvivaara’s environmental permit should have been revoked a long time ago. For the very same reason, Talvivaara’s plans to expand their operation and start large-scale uranium extraction need to be cancelled. And this is all the more important given that Talvivaara mining company has already proven itself to be incapable and unwilling to follow its environmental permit.
Here are few links in English about this little known but tragic disaster which has been allowed to continue in Finland for too many years already:
A few English websites:
Website of local resident with bits of English information
Blog with a few selected Finnish to English translated articles:
And finally, a chronological set of news in English from HS (Helsingin Sanomat – Finnish newspaper) and YLE (Finnish national broadcast network) detailing the history of these unfortunate events:
- Talvivaara nickel mine looks to listing on main market of London Stock Exchange
- Mining Sector Set for Record-Breaking Year
- Environment Minister Discloses Links to Government-Sponsored Mining Project
- Minister Denies Knowledge of Insider Trading
- Lehtomäki Explains Mine Share Purchases
- Value of Talvivaara shares linked with world price of nickel
- Talvivaara’s estimate on mineral resources rises by more than 50 per cent
- Environment Minister Cleared of Insider Trading Suspicion
- Talvivaara Signs Uranium Deal With Cameco
- Decline in nickel prices depresses Talvivaara mine outlook
- Talvivaara mine dismisses health and environmental claims
- State has ownership interest in Talvivaara emissions investigation
- Hacker group “Anonymous” threatens Finnish mining company
- Environment Minister faults lax supervision over Talvivaara mine
- Officials admit failures in oversight of Talvivaara mine
- Chemicals from mine contaminate lake – “Sea conditions” in inland lake
- Neighbours complain about dust and odours from Talvivaara mine
- Police investigation into emissions from Talvivaara mine
- Environment minister sees no wrongdoing in supervision of Talvivaara mine
- Talvivaara mine to stop waste water emissions into environment
- Government green lights Talvivaara uranium extraction
- Government votes to grant Talvivaara Mining Company permit for extraction of uranium
- Protesters picket Talvivaara Mining Company general meeting
- Salty water not to be removed from lakes near Talvivaara mine
- Sample collector dies at troubled Talvivaara mine
- Hydrogen sulphide frequent problem near Talvivaara mine
- Nelonen: Police investigate Talvivaara environmental impact report
- Sulphate emissions vastly understated in environmental impact study for Talvivaara mine
- Activists take Talvivaara uranium decision to Supreme Court
- Authorities delay Talvivaara uranium permit
- Demonstrators protest against Talvivaara mine
- Lakes near Talvivaara mining complex serving as drains for sulphate emissions – Two Finnish MEPs appeal to Commission over continued toxic emissions
- Dead birds found at Talvivaara mine
- Emissions from Talvivaara mining complex could hurt Sotkamo tourism – Higher sulphate levels found in lakes by Vuokatti resort
- Environment Minister lashes out at “arrogant” mining companies
- Indications of poisoning detected in dead birds found in Talvivaara