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In Northern Finland, Mining Encroaches On Environmental, Tourist Spots

Finnish Lapland, home to mineral deposits that one company called “the find of the century,” is discovering both the benefits and challenges of being a raw materials hotspot.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

With the government’s approval, companies from all over the world are coming to Finnish Lapland, 120 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, to mine newly discovered raw materials including gold, nickel, and uranium. So eager is the desire for these minerals that even tourist and conservation areas are being affected, and this has begun a slow swell of protest among the local population. For example, 53 tourism-related companies are challenging the rights of an Australian company to drill in a location where both gold and uranium content are high and vast amounts of carbon dioxide are released during excavation.

What’s the Big Idea?

Areas of Finnish Lapland were included as part of a European Union-founded ecological network of protected regions, but activists worry about their future. Eighteen-year-old Riikka Karppinen, who lives in the town of Sodankylä, refuses to accept conditions as they are: Her year-old battle with Finnish government officials and mining company Anglo American has been compared to David’s fight with Goliath. Meanwhile, Sodankylä politician Veikko Virtanen believes tourism and mining can coexist: The town is surrounded by mining companies, and the resulting income is improving the economy even as the mines continue to seep toxins into nearby bodies of water. 

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