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Finland concerned about Sydvaranger pollution

Waste with chemicals from the Sydvaranger mine in Kirkenes are dumped directly into the fjord. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Emission of chemicals in the mining waste is dumped to the same fjord as salmon in the common Norwegian, Finnish Neiden / Näätämö river migrates.

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Environmental authorities in Finland will closely monitor the situation with emissions from the iron-ore mine in Kirkenes, reports YLE Lapland. The Sydvaranger mine recently got continued permission from Norway’s Climate and Pollution Agency to use the chemical Magnafloc 1707 in its production. The waste from the production is dumped directly into the fjord outside Kirkenes.

Finland’s Näätämö river (Neiden river on the Norwegian side) is connected to the fjord system, important for back and forth migration of salmon. Näätämö is one of the most important salmon rivers in Finland.

“Effects on the salmon stocks in the Näätämö river is important. We need to know if there are any effects, this is a common concern we have with the Norwegians,” says Matti Hepola, Deputy Director of Lapland Regional Environmental Centre interviewed by YLE.

Hepola is also Finnish chair of the joint Finnish-Norwegian Transboundary Water Commission.

“In our last meetings with the Norwegians, we have got pretty good information about the discharges from the mine. The mining company is currently conducting an environmental impact assessment, indicating that the main environmental effects are on the Norwegian side,” says Matti Hepola.

Norway is one of five countries in the world allowing dumping of waste from the mining industry into the sea. The others are Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey and Papua New Guinea.

The Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency says they will follow the situation, but is not very concerned.

“We have obtained a lot of new knowledge showing that the chemical Magnafloc 1707 is not acutly toxic to marine life with the concentrations in question and it does not either accumulate in the food chain,” says Signe Nåmdal, department director in the agency in a comment posted on their portal. She concludes that the mining’s benefits for society are substantially greater than the environmental drawbacks.