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Trading fjords for profit


The beauty of Norway's fjords is under threat. Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr under a Creative Commons Licence

On 17 April, the Norwegian government approved a controversial mining project in the Førde fjord, which will involve depositing almost 6 million tonnes of mine tailings on the bottom of the fjord every year over a period of 50 years, suffocating it.

The climate and environmental minister, Tine Sundtoft, gave her approval for the project despite the fact that using a fjord or lake as a waste-disposal site is highly controversial. Norway is one of only 5 countries in the world allowing the practice. Even Canada has actively forbidden it, and many countries steer away from it because of the environmental impacts.

The mine planned in the Førde fjord will leave a whole mountain top blown off, crushed and dumped in the water. The Førde is also a national salmon fjord, and contains large stocks of cod and ling.

The approval from the government sparked nationwide actions and strong reactions. In the village of Vevring, situated beneath Engebø Mountain where the mine is planned, locals openly cried after hearing the news.

The environmental movement, locals and marine researchers are seriously concerned by the government’s decision. Putting profits above the value of fresh food and nature shows a lack of respect, and destroying a fjord so a mining company can profit out if it is unacceptable.

The local protest group is now working hard to stop the mine. In Oslo, Young Friends of the Earth Norway (YFoEN) gathered more than 70 people outside the royal palace, ready to meet with environmental minister Sundtoft.

The protest was organized in less than an hour, with many rushing at the last minute to get to the palace. The minister seemed shocked by the gathering of people protesting against the mine, even though she should realize by now that most people in Norway do not want mining waste in their fjords.

YFoEN has publicly threatened using civil disobedience to stop the mine. Since 2013, there has been a list of individuals willing to break the law to stop the mine being built. Now, the list has grown from 600 to 850 people (at the time of writing). The message to the government is clear: ‘People are going to fight this – you’re going to have a hell of a time ruining our precious fjords.’

Most Norwegians don’t understand why the fjords should be used as a dumping site for toxic waste. The fjords have a strong place in the Norwegian culture, as do fishing and hiking.

The mining company responsible for the plans, Nordic Mining, has applauded the government’s decision. The CEO, Ivar Fossum, is looking forward to exploiting the mineral possibilities in Engebø Mountain, despite the fact that both his company and his plans for the Førdefjorden deposit site have been widely criticized for years.

Since Friday, most of the people fighting against the mine have reconciled themselves with the thought that illegal actions will take place before long. More people are joining the ranks of activists every day.

Luckily, there may be some other options. Following the minister’s decision, all affected parties have three weeks to send a complaint to Prime Minister Erna Solberg and King Harald. There is a small hope that the King will veto the case, stopping the plans. In addition, there is talk of filing a suit with the European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority.

Still, even with these legal tricks to try, illegally stopping the mine from being built seems like the only plausible option.

Young Friends of the Earth are planning civil disobedience actions as a last resort to save the Førde fjord from destruction.  Tina Andersen is a member of the central board of Young Friends of the Earth Norway (Natur og Ungdom).

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