Ministry of Climate and Environment upholds permit for mining activities at Nussir and Ulveryggen

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Climate and Environment

The Ministry of Climate and Environment upholds the decision of the Norwegian Environment Agency of granting a permit under the Pollution Control Act, for mining activities at Nussir and Ulveryggen in Kvalsund municipality and disposal of tailings in the Repparfjorden.

After the Norwegian Environment Agency granted permit for the mining activities, a complaint was submitted to the Ministry of Climate and Environment.

- The environmental impacts of the mining activities have been comprehensively assessed. The permit is granted with strict conditions, and is environmentally acceptable, says Minister of Climate and Environment, Vidar Helgesen. 

The decision to grant a permit is upheld

It is the Sami Parliament, the Norwegian Society for Conservation of Nature, Nature and Youth and the Association of Norwegian Salmon Rivers who have raised the case against the Norwegian Environment Agency's decision to grant a permitunder the Pollution Control Act. The organizations arguethat there is a lack of knowledge about the environmental impacts, and that a permit thus cannot be granted. The Sami Parliament argues that it is irresponsible to grant a permit for mining activities because of  the environmental disadvantages, taken together with the disadvantages the permit will have for Sami culture, reindeer husbandry, and for the Sami fishing and its community.

The Ministry of Climate and Environment considers that the complaints do not give foundationfor changing the assessments previously made, and upholds the decision. The decision is final and cannot be further appealed. 

Zoning plan is approved

- The government aims to facilitate growth in the mineral industry. The planned mining activity in Nussir and Ulveryggen is one of the largest mineral projects in Norway and will have positive spillover effects for the municipality and the region, says Minister of Local Government and Modernisation, Jan Tore Sanner. 

The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation approved the zoning plan for Nussir and Ulveryggen in Kvalsund municipalitythe 20th March 2014. Mining in Kvalsund can create approximately 150 jobs in Finnmark.

An electric car needs three times as much copper as a conventionally produced car, according to a report recently published by the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO). We need minerals in the upcoming green shift and they must be extracted in a manner that is environmentally sound. The project in Kvalsund is an example of this, say Sanner and Helgesen. 

Consultations with the Sami Parliament have been undertaken

The disadvantages for the reindeer herding are mainlyrelated to land use and not to the pollution. The Ministry of Climate and Environment points to the fact that the consequences for the reindeer herding have been assessed by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation in the  zoning plan. It is a premise for the zoning plan that the developer, in consultation with the reindeer husbandry industry, agree on mitigation measures.

The Ministry of Climate and Environment has concluded that the permit granted under the Pollution Control Act is not in conflict with the rights that the indigenous Sami people haveunder international law. The Ministry has conducted consultation meetings with the Sami Parliament, but agreement on the matter was not reached. 

Low risk of harm to marine biodiversity

Studies show low risk of particle dispersion from the deposited masses. It is therefore unlikely that sea disposals will have negative impacts on the marine biodiversity and fish stocks in Repparfjorden outside of the disposal area. The Repparfjorden is a national salmon-fiord, but the salmon will not be adversely affected by the disposal site. There are conditions in the permit concerning maximum dispersion of particles, both vertically and horizontally, as well as requirements of monitoring the fjord. The monitoring programme will cover several aspects in order to screen the environmental condition.

The alternatives to sea disposal are not better

There is no scientific basis for claiming that deposits on land are better than deposits at sea. All three  landfill alternatives that were assessed in this case, would result in significant negative consequences for the reindeer husbandry industry.

- Each case is assessed on its own merits. In this concrete case, the sea deposit has been  considered as the best option, says Minister of Climate and Environment, Vidar Helgesen.

Strict conditions for discharge of chemicals

There are strict conditions in the permit for the discharge of chemicals, for the monitoring of these emissions and the effects they will entail. Leaching tests and calculations show low leaching of heavy metals from the tailings to the sea water.  The concentrations of copper and nickel in the water bodyare very low, as the metals are stronglybound to the tailings.

Facts:

  • The planned mineral project concerns the extraction of copper deposits in the mountains of Nussir and Ulveryggen in the municipality of Kvalsund.
  • Mining will result inlarge quantitites of tailings, which are planned deposited mainly in the Repparfjorden. In the zonal plan, the planned sea disposal siteis allocated an area of approximately 8 square kilometers.
  • Initiation of the mining activities requires an operating license pursuant to the Mineral Act.