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Finland: Exploration for transition minerals used in electric vehicles threatens the livelihoods of the reindeer-herding Saami people

This story includes comments from mining company Akkerman Finland.

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Article
13 July 2020

How miners’ hunt for metals to power electric cars threatens Sámi reindeer herders’ homeland

Author: Thomas Nilsen, Arctic Today

...The Sámi families...in Tarvantovaara wilderness area fear the world’s hunger for metals to ramp up the green economy will destroy their indigenous way of life...Studies made by the Geological Survey of Finland show findings of nickel, copper, vanadium and cobalt, all being minerals highly demanded in the production of electric vehicle batteries...

For Minna Näkkäläjärvi, the battle to save her part of Lapland has just started. “It’s not possible for reindeer husbandry and mining to co-exist in the same area,” she says. “The grazing land and migration routes vary from year to year depending on natural conditions,” she explains...Sámi traditions may vanish too if reindeer herding disappears. The Sámi peoples...are the only Indigenous peoples in the European Union...

In February 2020, the Finnish branch of the Dutch-based Akkerman Exploration made a notification reservation. The reservation was approved by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency in April. Jan H. Akkerman, Managing Director of Akkerman Finland OY, says more early-stage exploration studies are needed and that no decision is yet taken on whether or not to apply for an exploration permit...Akkerman welcomes dialogue with local stakeholders and makes clear that a decision whether to apply for an exploration permit or not will be taken after all have had a chance to present their opinion and submitted possible complaints.

For Minna, the assurance that no mining will start without dialogue is not soothing. “Nobody ever asked us before they started geological surveys in the mountain. If mining is approved, we have no rights to appeal according to Finnish law.”...When the mining reservation became known, Minna started a website collecting names for a petition calling on a permanent ban on mining in the municipality of Enontekiö. After two weeks, more than 6,000 people had signed...“We as a people, can’t take the risk that the encroaching mining companies lay waste on our lands and leave us with toxic, barren wastelands,” she states...

The Sámi Parliament has appealed against the mining reservation...“The appeals might not have any impact because the Supreme Administration Court in 2013 decided that under the Mining Act, reindeer herders, reindeer-herders cooperatives and the Sámi Parliament have no right to appeal on reservations in the Sámi homeland. This right is reserved to competing companies only.”...

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Article
2 July 2020

Finland violates the rights of the Sámi people by allowing mining companies in Sámi homeland

Author: Christina Henriksen, President of the Saami Council

The Saami Council echoes the concerns of the Ergon Sámi siida in the North Western Enontekiö area and other Sámi communities regarding the news of a Dutch-owned mineral exploration company Akkerman Finland Oy attempting to enter the Finnish side of Sápmi, without the indigenous Sámi rights holders, such as reindeer herding siidas, being officially separately informed about the reservation...The Sámi rights holders receiving information regarding the reservation decision on their pastures in practice only through a newspaper announcement is not acceptable, and this practice does not comply with international legal framework on the rights of indigenous peoples, says Christina Henriksen, the President of the Saami Council...It is unacceptable that, in the Sámi homeland in Finland, the process in the Mining Act of making a reservation for an area is a mere formality, and by doing so pose a threat to the Sámi languages, culture and livelihoods, and the existence of the indigenous Sámi people, says Henriksen...

The North Western Enontekiö area faces heavy pressure from various mining interests and other large-scale interventions and plans, such as tourism, infrastructure, wind power etc. This is one of the rare areas on the Finnish side of Sápmi, where the key elements of traditional Sámi reindeer-herding, for example the year-round traditional siida system, have been preserved and are still maintained...The Saami Council urges Finland to seize the opportunity to implement the UNDRIP, by ratifying the ILO Convention No 169 and making necessary amendments to the inadequate Mining Act, to make sure that the principle of free, prior of informed consent is included...

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