Sami Parliament fights Norwegian government over mining rights

Mining in Sami areas

The Sami Parliament demands that all companies engaging in mining activities in northern Norway pay a special fee compensating regional Sami communities. The Norwegian government wants it otherwise.

The mining law adopted by the Norwegian Parliament last week has spurred major reactions in the Sami Parliament. The elected Sami body has long demanded that the law opens for a special mining fee, which is to compensate affected Sami communities.

The Norwegian government and parliament wanted it otherwise, however, and adopted the law without including the Sami demands.

Parliament disobedience

The Sami Parliament does not intend to accept the new legislation. Parliament President Egil Olli now says that the Sami Parliament in any case will collect the fee from the mining companies.

-The time when it was possible to come and exploit our values and leave only waste is past, President Olli says to NRK. –If one is to exploit the mineral resources, one has to create benefits for the local population and the people in Sami areas, he adds.

Government reaction

Meanwhile, both legislators and cabinet ministers in Oslo react to what is perceived as Sami disobedience with national legislation.

Helga Pedersen, Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, says the Sami Parliament will have to abide to the legislation adopted in Oslo.

-The Sami Parliament has no right neither to demand negotiations with the mining companies, nor to collect taxes from them, she underlines to NRK. She stresses that the Sami Parliament will have to act within the frames of the powers granted by the legislators in Oslo.

Ms Pedersen, who is also deputy leader in the powerful Labour Party, argues that the new mineral law does sufficiently well protect Sami communities from exploitation by mining companies.

Over the last years, Sami power in the northernmost Finnmark County has got a boost from the Finnmark Act. That law grants the Sami Parliament a high level of control over land issues in Arctic Norway.