The Mozambican delegation’s visit to the Finnish Parliament: a discussion on the renewal process of the mining law

Public opinion in Finland towards mining:

Currently, there is a lot of pressure in Finnish civil society for stricter regulation of mining. For a good reason, people have risen to defend their own living environment. For example, during this parliamentary term, Parliament has already received two citizens’ initiatives calling for a reform of the Mining Act.

Some figures:

  • Kaivostoiminnalle RAJAT -initiative: 60 021 signatures
  • Kaivoslaki NYT -initiative: 58 068 signatures
  • Ei kaivoksia Käsivarteen -petition 37 200 signatures
  • Saimaa ilman kaivoksia – Facebook-group over 29 000 members

The interests and discussion regarding the Mining Act are clearly controverted, which has delayed the drafting of the law; different versions and suggestions about the Mining Act were not successful.

Finnish mining industry:

Finland’s mineral resources are somewhat abundant. Finland has very large reserves of iron, chromium and sulfur ore in terms of tonnage. Talvivaara in Sotkamo has the largest nickel deposit in Europe. However, we also import a lot of minerals and processed products from elsewhere.

The Finnish bedrock is a very favorable place to find so-called hi-tech metals. They are essential in new technology devices such as cell phones, flat screens, catalysts and solar cells.

There are about 44 mines in Finland and the industry field is growing. In the future, the need for minerals will increase: to fight against climate change, we will need to further electrify services and other areas of the society.

In addition, Finland is attractive for mining companies, mainly due to loose regulation.

General situation of Finnish mining policy:

The Finnish mining policy focuses on the rights of the environment, local people (permanent residents, leisure residents and recreational users), other livelihoods (eg nature tourism) and indigenous peoples. However, the mining policy is not sustainable:

• A mining permit for mining operations can be obtained practically anywhere in Finland. Up to more than a tenth of Finland’s area is reserved for mineral exploration or mining reserves.

• Mining reserves and mineral exploration permits have been creating uncertainty for the region’s people, nature and livelihoods for decades.

• Mining reservations have also been made

  • to nature reserves where they endanger biodiversity,
  • to the Sámi homeland, where they violate the rights of the Sámi,
  • and to the shores of our clean lakes Saimaa and Päijänne, which are important places for Finns to live and relax. Saimaa is also home to the Saimaa ringed seal, an endemic species of ringed seal in Finland. Drinking water is taken from Päijänne to the Finnish metropolitan area.

Currently, there is no mining tax in use in Finland, so transnational mining companies can extract minerals for their own use without having to pay tax to the Finnish society.

What has happened during this Parliament term:

During the government negotiations in 2019, the reforming of the Mining Act was decided. The Mining Act is one of the key laws governing mining and was last revised in 2015.

For sustainable development, the goal of the reform in the government negotiations was to improve the level of environmental protection, to ensure the operating conditions of the mines, and to improve local acceptability and influence.

From the MP’s point of view, the reform has progressed, unfortunately, slowly and is already clearly behind the schedule. The reform is in a hurry. I hope that the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, which is preparing the reform, and the entire government will bring the reform to Parliament as soon as possible.

The civil society has repeatedly expressed its concern that NGOs have a very limited role to play in the reform. Instead, the mining industry has been more strongly represented in the pre-reform working groups.

However, there are improvements to mining policy during this term also:

The reform of the Mining Act is seeing the finish line. Improvements are being made, and the most important are:

  1. Municipalities are given the opportunity to ban mining in their area. Currently, establishing a mine has needed only a provincial plan, but a valid municipal plan would be needed in the future.
  2. The regulation of mining reserves will be tightened. Currently, the reserves cause unreasonable uncertainty to the area’s nature, people and livelihoods.
    •  The duration of mining reserves would be halved from two years to a year.
    • For the first time, an area-based reservation fee would be imposed for a mining reservation, with the aim of limiting the size of the reservations.
    • The person making the reservation notification would be obligated to inform the municipality and, if necessary, the Sámi Parliament and the Kolts village assembly of the submission of the notification.
  3. In the future, the mining permit should provide the necessary provisions for the location of mining activities, taking into account biodiversity and other environmental impacts,
  4. and the guarantee for the cessation of mining activities and certain anomalous situations should be provided for at least 30 years.

The reform of the Nature Conservation Act prohibits the issuance of mineral exploration permits to national parks and nature parks. In other state nature reserves, the conditions of the permit are clearly being tightened. This is an important message for mining companies: mineral exploration cannot be carried out anywhere.

A mining tax will be introduced in Finland from 2023. 40 percent of the proceeds of the new tax would go to the state and 60 percent to the municipality where the mine is located. A more detailed tax model is currently being planned. The Greens believe that the tax should focus on the amount of material extracted, limiting the amount of activity that is harmful to the environment and ensuring that new mines are opened only when they are really needed.

So what happens next?

To combat the climate crisis, we need to electrify services and for that we need minerals. However, minerals are a non-renewable resource and their extraction poses major environmental and human rights concerns.

We cannot continue our current way of life, where we over-consume the Earth’s natural resources. The solution is a circular economy where the consumption of virgin natural resources is reduced.

For the first time during this government term, Finland has set a target for overconsumption. In the circular economy strategic program made in 2021, our goal is that the total consumption of domestic primary raw materials in 2035 will not exceed the 2015 level. The goal is a significant opening even on a global scale.

When it comes to mining minerals, it is clear that minerals once mined must be used for a long time. They should be used sparingly and recycled. The purchase of new products must be reduced by keeping them in use for a long time, repairing them, borrowing them and renting them out.