First the Fjords Then the Ocean: Nordic Mining plans to trash the sea and activists plan to stop them

Youth activists from across Norway are preparing this month to block construction of Nordic Mining’s Engebø garnet and rutile mine over the company’s plan to dump 250 million tonnes of waste into the neighboring Førdefjord. Nordic Mining is also pursuing licenses for seabed mining through its subsidiary, Nordic Ocean Resources AS. Finally getting the Engebø mine up and running will mean the company can turn its attention, and resources, to developing seabed mineral deposits.  

This is the second protest camp set up in Norway over the last year to oppose submarine tailings disposal. During the summer of 2021, activists blocked the construction of infrastructure for Nussir ASA’s copper mine on the banks of the Repparfjord in northern Norway. Following the protests, Aurubis, the largest copper producer in Europe, canceled a supply contract MOU with Nussir citing a failure to fulfill sustainability criteria. This is also the second time activists have used civil disobedience to stop Nordic Mining. In 2016 youth chained themselves to machinery to protest the company’s test drilling. 

Read the press release from Friends of the Earth Norway and Young Friends of the Earth Norway below.

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Young activists ready to stop mining facility to save Norwegian fjord

Norwegian environmentalists step up their effort to prevent dumping of mine waste in pristine Norwegian fjords. Young activists are ready for civil disobedience as Nordic Mining prepares to start construction by the Førdefjord in Sunnfjord in western Norway.

Last week, activists from Young Friends of the Earth and other environmental organizations set up camp on the shores of the Førdefjord in order to stop Nordic Mining’s Engebø garnet and rutile mine. The activists are ready to use civil disobedience to prevent the company from demolishing houses and building roads to prepare for the project. It is expected that Nordic Mining will start activities within the next two weeks.

– We have established a base by the Førdefjord and people are coming from all parts of Norway and abroad. The locals are very supportive and provide housing, food, and transport. More than four thousand people have signed up to participate in the civil disobedience action, said Gina Gylver, head of Young Friends of the Earth.

In 2015, Nordic Mining was granted permission to deposit a total of 250 million tonnes of mining waste in the Førdefjord, or four million tonnes each year. In 2020, the company received an operating license and the following year it was granted permission to release SIBX into the fjord. SIBX is a substance that is very toxic to aquatic organisms, and there is little knowledge about how it will be broken down in the fjord.

Friends of the Earth, Young Friends of the Earth, and twelve other organizations, have submitted complaints challenging the operating permit for Nordic mining’s mining project. While mining operations cannot start until the complaint is resolved, the company was granted permission in February to start construction of the processing plant.

– The government must withdraw the permits so that this environmentally harmful project can be stopped. The Førdefjord must be preserved, clean and rich in species as it is now, for future generations. The fjord has valuable spawning grounds for fish and is home to many red listed species such as coastal cod, sea eagles, and orca families. This is one of the few remaining fjords in Western Norway with an intact and fully functioning ecosystem, said Truls Gulowsen, head of Friends of the Earth Norway.

Norway is one of very few countries in the world that still allows dumping of mining waste in the sea. A few years ago, Chilean courts ordered an end to stop such disposal. Indonesia pledged not to grant new permits for submarine tailings disposal permits following pressure from communities and downstream users in the electric vehicle sector. Now only Norway and Papua New Guinea are allowing new projects that dump mine waste in the sea.

The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) is now assessing whether dumping of mining waste in fjords violates the European Union’s directives on water quality and mineral waste. ESA has stated that they are of the preliminary opinion that the permits granted for ocean dumping in the Førdefjord and the Repparfjord in the northern part of Norway are in breach of the Mineral Waste Directive and the EEA Agreement. There are many indications that the projects also contravene the EU Water Framework Directive. ESA is not satisfied with previous answers from Norway and in February published a public request for further information on how marine mine waste dumping will affect the water bodies in the fjord systems.

The Førdefjord is a designated National Wild Salmon Fjord, critical for the protection of wild salmon and an important seafood fjord for Norway and abroad. The Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, affiliated with the Norwegian Government, has advised against dumping mining waste in the Førdefjord, and the protests from the fishing, seafood and tourism industries, as well as environmental organizations have been strong and united. There is also great opposition to the mining project locally; 60 local businesses have signed a petition against the mining project. Sunnfjord municipality has also spoken out against the marine mine waste dumping. As well as a united national environmental movement, 34 international environmental organizations have reached out to the Norwegian Government requesting a stop to the plans of dumping mining waste into the Førdefjord.

Finally, the majority of the Norwegian population is opposed to ocean dumping. According to a survey conducted by Norstat in December 2021, 80 percent say no to mining companies being allowed to deposit waste materials in the sea, as planned in the Førdefjord and the Repparfjord. Only 9 percent support the projects.

For further information:

Truls Gulowsen
Head of Friends of the Earth Norway
+ 47 901 07 904
tg@naturvernforbundet.no

Gina Gylver
Head of Young Friends of the Earth Norway
+ 47 981 53 011
ginag@nu.no

Anne-Line Thingnes Førsund
Head of Friends of the Earth Sogn og Fjordane
+ 47 957 24 242
anne-line.tf@hotmail.com

Eiliv Erdal
Head of a local salmon river owner association
+47 905 21 997
e-erd@online.no