Right now, the Førdefjord in western Norway is a clean, beautiful fjord, bursting with life. It is a designated National Salmon Fjord, a valuable ecosystem that provides sustainable livelihoods and vital food resources for generations: the epitome of the healthy and productive ocean environment that the Norwegian government is promoting as part of the Our Ocean global conference in Oslo on October 23-24.
So why is the Norwegian government pushing a mining project that would dump 250 million tonnes of waste, including chemicals proven toxic to aquatic life, into the Førdefjord?
That is exactly the question Friends of the Earth, Norway, allied environmental organizations and local communities have been asking since Nordic Mining began development of the open-pit garnet and rutile mine near the western Norway town of Vevring nearly a decade ago. Earlier this month, these same groups once again sounded the alarm, calling on their government to halt the permitting process for Nordic’s project given significant changes to the mine plan.
Nordic received a discharge permit to dump mine tailings in the fjord in 2015. But activists say that this permit is no longer valid as it does not reflect the dangerous cocktail of chemicals the mining company is now planning to use. They are demanding Nordic not be allowed to use the discharge permit to apply for an operating license.
“The operations outlined in the operating license application differ so fundamentally and in so many areas from the original application for a discharge permit that it represents, in practice, a completely new plan. This is unacceptable,” said Silje Ask Lundberg, leader of Friends of the Earth Norway.
One of the new chemicals, SIBX, is toxic to aquatic organisms and should be kept out of all bodies of water. SIBX also has the ability to “transport” toxic heavy metals, such as cadmium, into marine organisms. A Danish study from 2016 states that trout exposed to SIBX ended up with 10 times more cadmium in their gill tissue.
Nordic’s dangerous mine isn’t the only example of the Norwegian government’s willingness to sacrifice fjords and local communities to mine waste dumping. The government granted the final permit for the Nussir copper mine in February, disregarding Sámi Indigenous opposition and demonstrated negative impacts on the fjord.
Norway cannot lead ocean protection abroad while polluting its fjords at home. Our Ocean is billed as an opportunity for the global community to meet the challenges facing a threatened ocean by balancing production with sustainable use. In order to make good on that global commitment, the Norwegian government must first clean up its act at home.
Banner photo credit: Wim Lassche