SMM2, 18 Feb: Norway has approved the Arctic Copper Project, which has been described as "the most environmentally destructive project in Norwegian history"
Local Sami herders and fishermen argue that the plan will exacerbate existing problems affecting their homes and livelihoods, such as climate change, oil spills and poaching. Oslo, Norway, approved the plan on Thursday.
As many as 66 million tons of copper are believed to be buried underground in Kvalsund, Finnmark. Finmark is the northernmost part of the European Arctic Circle.
Environmentalists worry that this will lead to mining and drilling projects in other vulnerable ecosystems in the Arctic. The Arctic has become the latest frontier in the rapid depletion of mineral and fossil fuel reserves.
Melting sea ice has allowed heavily polluted ships to enter their original habitats, and countries are coveting their precious natural resources.
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and current trends suggest that the Arctic will be ice-free as early as the summer of the 1950s.
This opens up business opportunities for resource extraction and cruise ships.
Nussir, the Norwegian mining company with full mining rights, said it would take advantage of the region's deep-sea ice-free ports, a major road and a "developing industrial zone" that has been built. The company says it is committed to minimizing interference with the way of life in its communities.
Norwegian Industry Minister Tobijoen Roy Isaksen (Torbjoern Roe Isaksen) also insisted that the project would make a positive contribution to local communities by providing new jobs and skills.
But Nils Mathis Sara, a reindeer herder, says the plan proves that Oslo is not taking their concerns seriously. He was shocked by the Government's decision and hoped that the Norwegian Government would hear their arguments.
Environmental groups worry that mining copper will destroy the land on which reindeer live in the summer.
A plan to dump mining waste into the coastline of Lipa Fjord threatens the spawning grounds of Atlantic salmon.
Silje Ask Lundberg, head of Friends of the Earth, said it was one of the most environmentally damaging industrial projects in Norwegian history. This decision makes it clear that governments do not take the struggle to protect marine life seriously and prefer to put short-term interests above conservation and sustainable development.
Activists say 2 million tons of heavy metal waste will be dumped into a fjord each year, the equivalent of 17 trucks an hour.
Earlier, mine waste dumped in the same fjord was lower than planned in the project approved today, resulting in a significant decline in salmon populations, which took 13 years to recover. Cod stocks have still not returned to their former spawning grounds.
Norway is the only country in Europe that allows mining companies to dump solid mine waste directly into the sea and is one of only five countries in the world to allow this.
Earthworks, an environmental charity, said the dumping of mine waste in the Rippa fjord in the 1970s "almost destroyed" the region's fisheries.
Critics are considering whether to take legal action, which could delay the project. The project has been awaiting government approval since it was approved by local officials in 2012.
About 2500 people took part in civil disobedience activities against the project.
The British government has been promoting mining in the Arctic, writing in 2014 that Norway's "rich mineral resources" offer "excellent growth opportunities".
Norwegian government approves the plan to mine copper deposits in the Arctic Circle
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