Mining company Nussir received government approval on Thursday for its controversial copper mine at Kvalsund in Finnmark. Plans to harvest rich mineral veins then dump tailings into the fjord below have environmentalists, local fishermen and the Sami community worried, and they’ve vowed to keep fighting against the project.
“I think today we have got the most important political clarification, that it is desirable to develop new mineral projects that modern Norway can accept when it comes to the use of the environment and land,” Nussir chief executive Øystein Rushfeldt told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Also known as the Norwegian Copper Company, Nussir discovered the copper deposits in the mountains above the Repparfjord last autumn.
The Minister of Local Government, Jan Tore Sanner, said the benefits of the project outweighed the negatives. “When it comes to environmental considerations, we have continued to show an overall assessment and we believe this is justifiable,” he said. The Norwegian Environment Agency (Miljødirektoratet) needs to approve discharge permits before work can begin on the mine.
Indigenous Sami reindeer herders oppose the mine, concerned about its scale and the potential impact on their animals. Fisheries organizations want to stop Nussir from dumping copper tailings into the Repparfjord below, which is known as the national salmon fjord (nasjonal laksefjord). Environmentalists warned they’ll do whatever it takes to hinder the development.
“Over the last year, we have gathered more than 200 people who are willing to break Norwegian law to stop the mining plans,” Nature and Youth (Natur og ungdom) leader Arnstein Vestre told NRK. “We plan to go to Kvalsund and protest. This is a broad movement by Nature and Youth, the Society for the Conservation of Nature (Naturvernforbundet) and local opponents who stand ready.”