Finnish Sami defend themselves against ore mining

STP appeals to Finnish government to refuse mining concession (Press Release)

Today, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) sent an appeal to Krista Mikkonen, Finnish Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, demanding the Finnish state not to allow ore mining in the Hietakero area. The territory is located in Enonteö in the wilderness area Tarvantovaara, the border region with Norway and Sweden. Finnish Sami reindeer herders, who have been living in the region for centuries, had started an online petition on this matter. Yesterday, the petitioners handed over 37,200 signatures to the ministry.

"For the Sami, reindeer herding is much more than just a form of agriculture," explained Yvonne Bangert, STP expert on indigenous peoples. "It is closely interwoven with the Sami culture and plays an important role in their society. However, reindeer herding and ore mining cannot exist side by side". Further, mining projects also affect other economically and culturally important activities such as fishing, berry harvesting, gathering of handicraft materials and crop plants, hunting, and nature tourism.

The Dutch exploration company Akkerman Finland OY discovered copper, nickel, and cobalt deposits during test drilling – and the exploitation of these resources would bring jobs. "But it would also cost jobs, for example in animal husbandry and tourism," Bangert criticized. "In addition, there will be the expected destruction of the environment and the impairment of the traditional way of life of the Sami – which is already under threat due to climate change."

Bangert hopes that the government in Helsinki will listen to the concerns of the indigenous population. "It is not yet too late to refuse the concession for the exploitation of raw materials," she stated. "Actually, with regard to the rights of the Sami guaranteed by the Finnish constitution, this should be the only correct outcome."