Plans for opening a mine near my neighbourhood are in the works. What can I do?

I heard a reservation notification has been made in my area. What does it mean? Will a mine be opened in my neighbourhood?

A company that makes a reservation notification is planning on applying for an exploration permit from Tukes. A reservation notification initiates a 2-year period, during which the company surveys the area to see if it has potential for exploration. A reservation notification or an exploration permit do not authorise the company to open a mine. Several permits from the authorities are required for opening a mine.

An exploration permit is not a mining permit

The reserved area is often large, since the company making it does not know where precisely the suspected ore deposit is located. A significant number of reservations do not result in exploration.

The purpose of exploration is to locate and explore a deposit containing mining minerals by means of geological, geophysical, and geochemical investigations and sampling. A deposit refers to such a concentration of mining minerals in bedrock that has financial value for mining activity.

In practice, an operator doing exploration takes samples of soil and bedrock by means of, for example, exploratory drilling, for the purpose of analysing the size and quality of a potential deposit.

An exploration permit does not authorise exploitation of the deposit, but it gives the permit holder a privilege for a mining permit. A mining permit gives authorisation to exploit the deposit, but the operation must be granted an environmental and water permit by the Finnish environmental administration.

In 2019, Finland had 44 operational mines. These were opened in accordance with previous mining legislation.  On average, only one in a thousand exploration operations results in opening a mine. In practice, opening a mine takes 15–25 years from the time significant signs of an economically useful ore deposit are first discovered. 

Tukes grant permits based on the Mining Act

Tukes operates in accordance with the Mining Act (621/2011) and considers statements, i.e. complaints and opinions, submitted by different parties and all relevant legislation in each specific case. Tukes observes the legal principles of administration.

The stages of receiving a mining permit from Tukes are:

1. Reservation. Valid for up to two years. A reservation gives the holder a privilege for preparing an exploration permit application. A reservation does not permit the holder to conduct exploration operations in the area.

2. Exploration permit. In most cases, an exploration permit authorises the holder to conduct exploratory drilling in the area. While processing permit applications, Tukes requests statements from:

  • the municipality
  • the ELY Centre on nature conservation
  • the regional museum of the area
  • the Reindeer Herders’ Association if the area is a reindeer herding area
  • the Sámi Parliament of Finland if the area is in the Sámi Homeland
  • all other relevant authorities

Before a decision on a permit application is issued, Tukes will provide an opportunity to the landowners of the area to lodge complaints.

3. Mining permit. A mining permit authorises the holder to exploit the deposit. For mining permits, Tukes usually requests statements from: 

  • the municipality
  • the ELY Centre
  • the regional council
  • the Finnish Heritage Agency
  • The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority

And additionally:

  • Metsähallitus (if the planned mine is on government land)
  • the Natural Resources Institute Finland Luke
  • the ELY Centre for Kainuu (for dams)
  • the Reindeer Herders’ Association if the area is a reindeer herding area

Before a decision on a permit application is issued, Tukes will provide an opportunity to the landowners of the area and future neighbours of the possible mine to lodge complaints.

How to influence the process at different stages

You can express your views at several stages of the application process. These stages include processing the exploration permit application, conducting the environmental impact assessment, and processing the various of applications required for opening a mine.

Influencing the processing of an exploration permit application

The Tukes website includes the Mining Register Map Service. The map is updated every two weeks with current information on applications related to exploration and mining. 

The Tukes website also includes  information on all applications that are in the hearing stage. In this stage, all material related to the applications is available online. In the hearing stage, you can lodge complaints and express your opinions on the proposed operation and the information presented in the application. Decisions on applications are also available on the Tukes website. Instructions for lodging an appeal are always appended to decisions.

Exploration usually requires permission only from the mining authority (i.e. Tukes), so you can influence the outcome of exploration applications at the hearing stage.

Environmental impact of mines is assessed in the planning stage

As a private person you can also express your views during the environmental impact assessment. The assessment is aimed at ensuring that all environmental effects of the mining operation are identified, and that measures are taken to reduce or eliminate the effects. The party planning the operation is responsible for the organisation of all necessary environmental surveys and covering their costs. The process is guided and supervised by the ELY Centre of the region, which is always the contact authority in environmental impact assessments.

The assessment ensures the environmental impact of the project is assessed at the planning stage, which means the impact is assessed before any decisions are made. The results of environmental impact assessments are always considered when decisions on mining permit applications are made. The environmental impact assessment is not a permit and making the assessment does not automatically mean that the permit for the project will be granted. 

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has published a guide for the environmental impact assessment procedure for mining projects in Finland

The different permits required for a mining projects all have hearing stages 

Mining operations always require permits from several different authorities. For each application, a notice will be posted, and a hearing will be organised. These provide citizens influencing opportunities in the several stages of setting up a mining project. In addition to the different mining-related permits granted by Tukes, opening a mine requires several other permits as well. The most important one is the environmental and water permit, which is issued by the appropriate Regional State Administrative Agency.

Participate in land-use planning in your municipality

The municipality is responsible for land-use planning, and opening a mine usually also requires decisions on land use. The processes of land-use planning also include hearing and participation stages, during which citizens are requested and expected to express their views and opinions on land use to aid in the preparation and decision-making processes.