In Finland, communities get strong say on uranium mining (Nunatsiaq News)

by Jim Bell
Nunatsiaq News
April 4, 2011

KITILLÄ, FINLAND — Visitors from Nunavut learned last week that in
Finland, it’s possible for municipalities to block uranium mines
proposed for lands within their jurisdictions.

“Municipalities can veto a uranium mine,” said Errki Kantola, an
official with Finland’s ministry of the environment.

But that’s only if there is a valid legal reason for doing so, such as
conformity with land use regulations.

Ultimately, no uranium mine may be established without the approval of
the Finnish cabinet, and within the approval and permitting process,
municipalities “play a major role,” Kantola said.

At the same time, uranium mining and the use of nuclear energy is a
subject of great controversy in the country.

A small Canadian firm called Scandinavian Gold Prospecting has
submitted a uranium application for an area within the Kittilä
district, but the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper reported recently that
the company may withdraw its claim because the Finnish government
objects to the size of the area covered by their claim.

“It is the one type of mine that many people don’t like,” said Anna
Mäkelä, the mayor of Kittilä.

The French company Cogema, owned by Areva is now exploring for uranium
in Finland, as are two small British firms.

Kantola and other Finnish officials said Finnish legislation puts
uranium mining in a category of its own, and that it’s governed by the
country’s nuclear energy act.

At the same time, most of Finland’s major political parties are
divided wthin themselves over nuclear energy and the use of uranium.
For that reason, most parties allow their MPs to vote with their
conscience on nuclear issues.

The only exceptions are the Green party and the right-wing populist
True Finns party, both of which are categorically opposed to uranium

The country generates about 30 per cent of its electrical power from
four nuclear reactors located within two plants.

A fifth nuclear reactor, at the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant, is now
being constructed by the French energy giant Areva. That project is
more than three years behind schedule and at least 50 per cent over

Agnico-Eagles Ltd. flew a large group of Nunavut residents, most of
them from the Kivalliq, to Kittilä, Finland this past week to observe
their gold mine there and to meet with local and national officials.

From: “Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit”

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