A joint research project of the University of Lapland, the University of Oulu, and the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) has translated its guidebook on mining into English. The guide provides recommendations for social impact assessment, for land use planning, and for the reconciliation of mining and other livelihoods.
Each mining project is unique in terms of its location, the extracted ores, and the method of implementation. However, the projectDifferent Land-Uses and Local Communities in Mining Projects (DILACOMI) has brought up issues that can be used to support socially more sustainable mining in Lapland and elsewhere in Finland.
As a result of the research a guidebook on mining was published in Finnish in autumn 2013. That book has now been translated into English. It is an introduction to environmental regulation and best practices supporting social sustainability. The project resulted in a new business idea because there is a need for more extensive assessment of social effects and for related reconciliation between local stakeholders.
The researchers of the DILACOMI project have recognized practices contributing to social sustainability in the Hannukainen mine in Kolari and in the Kittilä mines, but some improvement needs have also emerged. Based on the above-mentioned observations and other research, the authors of the guidebook have set forth recommendations on best mining practices.
The recommendations are quite generic and must therefore be adjusted to match individual situations. They concern mainly social impact assessment, land use planning, and the reconciliation of mining and other livelihoods.
Researcher Anniina Oksanen and Professor Kai Kokko have adjusted the recommendations made by the other researchers to environmental legislation and corporate self-regulation. An international background for the recommendations has been worked out by researcher Elise Lépy and Professor Hannu I. Heikkinen through an analysis of mining projects carried out in other countries.
Social impact assessment as a continuous process
Social impact assessment (SIA) is carried out as a single effort as part of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure in the planning phase of a mine. According to the researchers, to find out about the realized and concrete impact of a mine the SIA should be carried out with regular intervals up to the phase succeeding mine closure.
"Social impact assessment is not emphasized enough in the environmental impact assessment procedure and in the ensuing permit procedure", notes Leena Suopajärvi, a lecturer at the University of Lapland.
Examining the relation between the Mining Act and other environmental legislation has shown that in addition to the SIA and EIA procedures, the range of hearing procedures is wide, although each hearing phase serves an important purpose in the system. The researchers also assert that hearing procedures consume the resources of local residents and authorities, but it has not been easy to combine them.
"For example, an SIA follow-up study in subsequent statutory permit inspection phases could improve the sustainability of a mining project, and it is also implementable from the viewpoint of legislation", says researcher Anniina Oksanen from the University of Lapland.
The impact of mining on a local community
According to the researchers, the concrete advantages and disadvantages faced by the local community must be studied more delicately in the SIA than is done today. Especially, one should ensure that the varied interest groups of a local community are comprehensively represented in the SIA procedure and that the viewpoints of youths and women are considered.
"Mines affect the local community, but they also have wider and accumulative effects", Leena Suopajärvi notes.
Researcher Marika Kunnari notes that mining companies and authorities can promote the acceptability of mining in local communities e.g. by enabling the participation of all parties during the entire life cycle of a mine. Acceptability can also be promoted by identifying and considering the preconditions of mining related to the municipal economy, employment, and the environment and by identifying and considering the values that emphasize the fairness and credibility of mining.
The effects of mining on the municipal economy and land use
According to Professor Asko Suikkanen’s research, expectations related to the positive effects of mining on the municipal economy are often too optimistic. Professor Helka-Liisa Hentilä from the Oulu School of Architecture points out that mines and their land use needs are not an isolated patch in municipal land use planning.
"Land use plans concerning mining and its impact should be understood as part of strategic and comprehensive land use planning especially in municipalities", says Leena Soudunsaari from the University of Oulu.
The researchers maintain that smooth cooperation between municipalities and mining projects is of utmost importance in land use planning. Therefore, they recommend that the social and environmental impact assessment of a mining project be carried out through close cooperation between the parties also in the context of land use planning. The local community’s active participation is also important in terms of earning a social licence to operate.
"Viewing land use planning as part of the process of earning and maintaining a social licence to operate and as part of the policy of social responsibility serves all parties and the reconciliation of processes", Soudunsaari adds.
The impact of mining on nature-based livelihoods
Based on the investigations of researchers Sanna Hast and Mikko Jokinen, mining raises the greatest concerns among tourists, of whom 44% (in Ylläs) and 32% (in Levi) estimate that their willingness to revisit the area will decrease if mining activities are launched in Hannukainen or expanded in Kittilä.
"Tourists and seasonal residents consider it harder to reconcile mining and other nature uses than local residents do", Mikko Jokinen from Metla notes.
The researchers also say that local businesses, such as nature tourism entrepreneurs and reindeer herders, are worried about the reconciliation of various practices and about the future of their profession. On the other hand, in their view a continuous discourse and contact as well as possible compensation for lost land areas and impaired work conditions contribute to a common understanding.
Of nature-based livelihoods, reindeer herding and tourism were selected as targets of special scrutiny in the study. Teresa Komu wrote a study on the subject, and its empirical observations were turned into general recommendations for the reconciliation of mining and reindeer herding.
The DILACOMI research project
DILACOMI has been a joint research project of the University of Lapland, the University of Oulu, and the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) comprising individual projects carried out by research units and coordinated by the Faculty of Law of the University of Lapland. The project was launched the beginning of 2011 and it ended at the end of 2013. A final report on the project is now being written.
The project as a whole has been directed as a consortium by Kai Kokko from the University of Lapland. Researcher Mikko Jokinen has been in charge of the results of the Metla subproject, and at the University of Oulu the responsibility has been shared by Professors Helka-Liisa Hentilä and Hannu I. Heikkinen. The consortium was coordinated by researcher Anniina Oksanen from the University of Lapland. The project has had an extremely well-functioning and active management and steering group, and it has operated on ERDF funding granted by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes). Further information on the project and its collaborators is available on the project’s web pages and in the guidebook.
Kai Kokko, Professor of Environmental Law, firstname.lastname (at) ulapland.fi
Anniina Oksanen, researcher of environmental law, Coordinator, firstname.lastname (at) ulapland.fi
The project's web pages are at www.ulapland.fi/dilacomi