Perspectives on sustainable mining in Finland

The economic, social, and ecological sustainability of mining has been a subject for discussion in Finland, in the EU, and around the world. All these aspects of sustainable mining can be important in view of the sustainable management of central government finances.

In the 2010s, the ecological sustainability of mining and environmental protection have played a significant role in the government programmes and policy programmes: the Finnish mineral strategy published in 2010 and the Sustainable Extractive Industries Action Plan, completed in 2013. As a rule, the experiences gained especially from the Sustainable Mining Network, which is based on self-regulation, and the mining responsibility system developed by it have been positive. Strategies and action plans that are nearly ten years old do not necessarily steer the activities any longer and should therefore be updated or renewed. Circular economy solutions to implement the circular economy policy objectives can be promoted in mining by, for example, piloting, public procurement, and the productization of materials.

In Finland, efforts have been made to improve the added value of battery minerals and industry. This is also the key objective of the state-owned Suomen Malmijalostus Oy, which has made the state again a significant owner in the mining industry.

To be able to conduct successful operations, a mining company must achieve the approval of the local community, i.e. the so-called Social Licence to Operate (SLO). In connection with the ongoing reform of the Mining Act, operating models that contribute to achieving the local community’s approval will apparently be given more consideration in binding legislation.

Mines have previously been abandoned and closed in Finland using methods that do not meet modern environmental and safety requirements. A number of regulatory reforms related to the environmental responsibility of mining activities are currently underway. The Hitura mine, which went bankrupt in 2015 and on which more than EUR 21 million of budget funding has been spent, is currently being closed down using new methods. The closure of Hitura may serve as a benchmark in, for example, the reformation of regulation related to assessing the adequacy of securities and the subsidiary liability. In view of the state’s liabilities, it would also be desirable that the reform of the Bankruptcy Act would proceed as regards environmental responsibility under public law.

The publication is not an audit report and does not include recommendations by the National Audit Office. The NAOF interviewed a large number of experts in the mining and minerals industry and also received information from mining companies and experts in writing. The publication will be used to assess the audit needs of mining activities and the mining policy.