Lapland diamond plans cause cross-border pollution concern

The Tana River is one of the best salom rivers in the Barents Region.

Diamonds are forever, but what about the salmon in the nearby Tana River?


The Finnish Mining Authority (TUKES) last week granted Karelian Diamond Resources a reservation claim for exploration at three locations in Lapland, including an area in Utsjoki in Finland’s northeastern corner.

Chairman of the mining company, Richard Conroy says in a press-release he is delighted that these reservations were granted because all are considered to have potential for diamonds. “The Company’s exploration program is designed to find diamond deposits similar to the world class ones found in similar geology across the border in Russia,” Conroy says.

The reservations now granted makes it possible to apply for prospecting permit that could open for rock drilling and test mining. A challenge for the Utsjoki prospect, however, is that possible mining will take place in the river drainage basin of the Tana River, world-famous for its salmon.

The Tana River itself forms the borderline between Finland and Norway. Norwegians are not all happy about the possible mining boom in the region. Gunnar Reinholdtsen is leader of the regional branch of Naturvernforbundet, Norway’s Friends of the Earth, in Finnmark.

“Neither state, nor local authorities seem to have strong objections to the environmental impacts the mining industry suggests. A mining conference in Kautokeino last winter revealed similar conditions in Sweden and Finland – poor legislation, relaxed requirements for obtaining licenses and poor supervision. The development is of great concern for the local population here on the North Calotte. Environment and traditional way of life are steadily losing ground for destructive interference from the industry,” says Gunnar Reinholdtsen to BarentsObserver.

Wild salmon catch.

Professor Jaakko Erkinaro is a leading expert on salmon with the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute and is concerned about the diamond mining plans.

“Utsjoki in the Tana River with tributary streams rises thousands of salmon each year, it is very important for the salmon’s different genetically differentiated stocks in the Utsjoki area. This kind of project, the current plans, yes it sound like a cause of concern,” Jakko Erkinaro says in an interview with YLE Lappi.

The locals living on both the Finnish and Norwegian side of the Tana River expressed their opposition to the plans at a popular meeting in the village of Utsjok last week, reports NRK Sapmi.

The planned area for diamond mining and the Tana River are important to the Sami culture and businesses like reindeer herding and fishing. Member of the Sami Parliament in Norway, Beaska Niilas says to NRK Nordnytt that such mining is not acceptable. 


“It would be completely wrong to put our heirlooms at stake for some miserable diamonds supposed to make someone wealthy. We must say no right away. We can’t accept it,” says Niilas.    

Speaking to YLE Lappi, Chairman of the Board of Karelian Diamond Resources, Richard Conroy, says the company has respect for Sami interests and that they will discuss with them. He also assures that the diamond exploration and mining will be as environmental friendly as possible.