Proposal Ready for New Mining Law

Friday, October 10, 2008

Finnish municipalities are to be given the right to refuse permission for the establishment of uranium mines in their territory. A working group preparing changes to Finnish mining legislation proposes that prospecting for uranium would remain legal, but that actually setting up a mine would require the consent of the municipality where it is located.

Finland's current mining law is about 50 years old. The law needs updating, because the present version was drafted at a time when mining was practised mainly by state-run companies. Now most mining companies are foreign, global players.

The aim of the old mining law was primarily to shore up Finnish industry and to secure the availability of raw material. The new proposal pays more heed to environmental protection, the rights of land owners and others, and giving greater say to local authorities.

Prospecting Unrestricted, Permission Required for Setting up Mine

The proposed new law would seek to address the controversy over uranium prospecting and mining by stipulating that establishing a uranium mine would require the consent of the municipality where it is to be located. However, no permission would be required for prospecting for uranium.

Kari Väyrynen, the municipal mayor of Salla in Finnish Lapland, feels that this is wrong. "A municipality should be allowed to decide on searching for uranium as well, as tourism is a growing business for us."

According to Väyrynen, it is difficult to remove the damage to the image of the community that is caused by uranium mining.

"It does not matter what the truth in the matter is what is important is how people experience it. Uranium is seen as something bad, and it truly hurts the development of tourism", he emphasises.

Environmental Obligations for Gold Panners

The working group is also taking issue with gold panning. Under the proposal, gold prospectors will be expected to clean up after their exploration more thoroughly than before. There is also a proposal requiring the paying of a deposit as a guarantee that all damage to the environment will be fixed.

The Association of Gold Prospectors says that the planned rules would have a disastrous impact on panning for gold in Finnish Lapland.

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