The proposed amendments to the Mining Act were first presented to the Finnish parliament on Sept. 8, 2022. This started a months-long battle regarding what the ruling government claims are necessary regulations to better protect the environment and increase the influence of local communities over mining projects while at the same time increasing business prospects. (Related: Sweden finds Europe's largest deposit of rare earth elements … but it will take over a decade to start mining them.)
"The reform of the Mining Act is part of a larger package. We are in the middle of a major energy transition that aims to achieve a more sustainable future," said Minister of Economic Affairs and Employment Mika Lintila. "We need critical minerals that can be processed into high-quality technological products. Improving self-sufficiency in minerals is a key objective both at the national and European level."
Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, a conservative and head of the parliament's commerce committee, noted that the need to reform the law arose as Finland needed to establish legal systems to ensure that it can produce the minerals needed for the country as well as for export to nations that are rapidly electrifying while at the same time ensuring that the quality of the country's environment does not degrade.
Finland is emerging as a key European nation for mining as well as processing metals necessary for the creation of batteries. It has received more than six billion euros ($6.386 billion) in investments this year, including from German chemical company BASF SE and French commodities company Trafigura. Both corporations source nickel and cobalt chemicals from Finland.
According to the amendments, if a mining company wants to begin operations in an area, it needs to get a mining permit. This permit will only be granted if a majority of the local residents approve of the mining company's proposal.
The amendments also force mining companies that currently have exploration permits to pass more prerequisites. The government claims these requirements strengthen the position of local property owners and reduce the harm experienced by local residents. Although, as a concession, the validity of exploration permits has been extended from 10 to 15 years.
The government noted that the amendments provide more consideration for the other sources of livelihood in the areas that could be affected by new mining operations and also provides more consideration of issues related to the environment.
These stricter regulations and higher fees for exploration permits and mining rights are expected to help weed out potentially unreliable operators and greatly benefit corporations that comply with the rules, claimed the government.
Exploration and mining permit applications can be rejected and existing permits can be withdrawn at any time if the government believes the activities could jeopardize national defense, the security of the national supply, the operation of crucial infrastructure or some other equivalent national security interest.
To ensure that national security concerns aren't jeopardized, the country's mining authority is required to seek the opinion of relevant security authorities, including the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Defense or the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service. If any one of these authorities raises concerns regarding national security, the matter will be referred to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy for a final assessment.
The mining authority can also refer exploration permit applications to security agencies, but is not required to do so.
The amendments were passed by the Finnish Parliament on Monday, Feb. 20. The law goes into effect on June 1.
Watch this clip featuring a massive, environmentally damaging mine in the Congo.