In 2019 the mining company Nussir ASA received a concession from the ministry of trade, industry and fisheries for a copper mine in the mountains Nussir and Ulveryggen, and a sea tailings deposit in Repparfjord/Riehpovuotna in Hammerfest, Finnmark . When the concession was given, both environmentalists, the reindeer herding community, environmental authorities and the fishing community voiced their concerns and showed resistance against the mining project. The concession was given despite clear environmental expert advice, among others from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research about the consequences the mining tailings will pose for marine life in the fjord. The Nussir mine will pose a threat to local reindeer herding districts 22 Fiettar and 20 Fálá. For generations the planned mining area has been used by the Sami people for the traditional livelihood of reindeer pastoralism. The Kvalsund area is also of importance to coastal Sami fisheries and culture.
The long-term consequences from the tailings of the previous copper mining between 1972 and 1987 are still present. Now there are plans to deposit ten times as much mining tailings in the fjord. The Norwegian Institute of Marine Research has especially voiced their concerns about the coastal cod that spawn in and around the deposit site. Repparfjord is a national salmon fjord and should therefore have special protection. In the fjord there is wild salmon, coastal cod and trout. The reports from Nussir ASA are not in compliance with the reports of experts such as the The Norwegian Institute of Marine Research and the organization Protect Sápmi. The mining tailings are a mix of rock masses, dust and chemicals. Today only three countries globally allow the use of sea tailings deposits. Among those, only Norway and Papua New-Guinea are planning new projects.
For generations Sápmi has been exploited through colonialism and repression by the Norwegian state. The indigenous Sami people have had their lands expropriated, and their languages and culture have been under pressure from the authorities through the process of Norwegianization. As a result of this, reindeer grazing areas are already under significant stress. In addition to this comes other industry and infrastructure projects such as roads, cabins and power lines. The sum of this impact together with the Nussir mine poses an existential threat to the Sami traditional livelihood of reindeer pastoralism in the area. The reindeer herding community is also on the frontlines for the impacts of climate change. The rights of Sami reindeer herders to exercise their culture through the livelihood of reindeer pastoralism is protected by article 27 of the UN International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. Additionally, a term of the concession is an agreement between the mining company and the Sami reindeer herding community. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stress the importance of companies respecting the concept of Free, Informed and Prior Consent preceding activities affecting Indigenous Peoples cultures, traditional lands or self-determination. Neither Norwegian authorities, nor the mining company Nussir ASA, have received consent from the Sami people to establish the Nussir Mine. The Sami Parliament – the democratically elected body of the Sami people in Norway – have on multiple occasions almost unanimously stated strong opposition to the project.
The organization Protect Sápmi contributed with a report on the consequences for reindeer herding in the area, commissioned by the Sami Parliament. The report states that construction of the mine has the possibility to halve the reindeer population in the area, and that in the worst case, half of reindeer herders in the affected districts could be forced out of business.
The overall consequences of the planned Nussir ASA copper mine will be incredibly damaging for the marine environment of the fjord, and for the already precarious reindeer herding districts.
People have been protesting the mine both locally, across Sápmi and across Norway for years. This summer the resistance has been greater than ever, and activists have gathered in a protest camp for almost three months to put the project on the agenda for the Norwegian elections September 13th. This have succesfully mobilized hundreds of people, united different communities in the fight, and stopped Nussir ASAs attempts of starting groundwork and construction. In addition, Nussir had an important memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the German copper producer Aurubis, to buy all the copper concentrates from the mine for at least a decade. Recently, Aurubis terminated the MoU due to the lack of environmental and social sustainability in the project. This is a huge breakthrough, and an important step towards stopping the mine once and for all.
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