Several foreign companies are about to open mines in unique Finnish natural environment. Not even Santa Claus is left alone as Yara plans to build the huge Sokli phosphorus and uranium mine near Santa’s mountain Korvatunturi. Yara´s decision whether to put its plan into effect is expected this year.
The Sokli area is located in Eastern Lapland between the Urho Kekkonen National Park and the Värriö Nature Park near Korvatunturi, the home of Santa Claus. The area further includes the famous Tuntsa wilderness and three Natura Network locations.
THE PROBLEMS OF BEDROCK CONTAINING URANIUM
The Norwegian state is the largest shareholder of Yara International. On its homepage Yara advertizes its work for a cleaner Baltic Sea. Yet the company is now planning a phosphorus and niobium ore mining in Sokli.
The phosphorus ores in Sokli contain ten times the amount of radioactive material in uranium, thorium, radium of normal levels (STUK, Moilanen, 2010). In the niobium ores, the levels are even 200-fold. Yara intends to mine phosphorus ore 4-10 tons per year and to use this phosphorus ore to make fertilizers. There are concerns about the radioactivity levels of fertilizers (see EPA, 2013).
When covered by soil these radioactive materials are quite harmless, but during mining operations they are released into nature. Many uranium compounds are water soluble and spread easily with dust and drainage water into nature.
Here local inhabitants go picking natural products like berries and mushrooms, reindeer roam, ecotourists and fishermen wander in these still clean nature reserves.
WE WOULD ENDANGER THE LIVELIHOODS OF FUTURE GENERATIONS
The Sokli mining area is a central reindeer herding area where this age-old sami tradition is a major livelihood for many villages. Young families have made investments and built their future on reindeer herding. The prospective mine would destroy the traditional reindeer pastures contaminating the soil and some of EU’s last clean, natural state rivers.
WASTE WATER BASIN IN REINDEER HERDING WILDERNESS
The Yara company intends to build a huge waste water basin in the middle of the wilderness. From there waste water will be drained via Nuortti River to Russia and via the giant Upper Kemi River to Kemi Lake, to the mainstream of Kemi River and finally to the Gulf of Bothnia, which is the northernmost, still quite clean part of the Baltic. Mud will fill the basins and destroy the recently restored spawning areas of trout species.
SHORT TERM INCOME BUT LONG TERM DESTRUCTION
At best, the mines will be in operation only a couple of decades leaving a large part of Eastern Lapland a radioactive waste depository.
Decision makers must recognise these threats to nature, the economy and culture. The interests of mining companies should not be promoted in the name of employment.
The prospective Sokli mine area will be between 4000-6000 hectares (40-60km2).
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Uranium mining would severely harm Lapland´s unique tourism brand successfully built up by local people over decades.
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