On April 16, 2013, the Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland granted the environmental and water management permit for the Silver MIne, as well as a permit for starting the operations and starting the work. (No 33/2013/1).

Decision of the Regional State Administrative Agency for permit No 33/2013/1  (in Finnish)

A decision of the Administrative Court of Vaasa 14/0205/5  (in Finnish)

The company's objective is to start up the mining operations under the existing environmental permit and to get the full production volume in early 2019.

Updating the current environmental permit and a planned increase in the permitted extraction volume.

In spring 2018, Sotkamo Silver Oy submitted an assessment report on the environmental impact assessment procedure, in accordance with the law. The report explores the effects of increasing the extraction amount above the limit in the current environmental permit and the introduction of new material-efficient pre-beneficiation at the Silver Mine, located at Tipasoja in Sotkamo. The aim is to increase the total extracted volume, including ore, surrounding rock and building stone up to 1.0 –1.2 million tonnes on average per year, and maximally up to 1.8 million tonnes.

After the contact authority has given its statement on the EIA report, the company will submit an application for updating the current environmental permit for a larger amount of excavation. The detailed content and schedule of the permit application is dependent on the contact authority's statement. The aim is to submit an application in the autumn of 2018. The current permit is valid until the new permit is granted and it becomes legally valid.

The assessment program (in Finnish)

The assessment report (in Finnish)

The EIA procedure ends with a statement on the EIA report by the contact authority, to be submitted by 1 July 2018.

 

Summary of the environmental impact assessment procedure

Sotkamo Silver Oy's Silver Mine, Sotkamo

The effects of increasing the amount of extraction and the introduction of new material-efficient pre-beneficiation will be evaluated in Sotkamo Silver Oy's project. The project includes increasing the amount of extraction, deepening the underground mine, introducing pre-beneficiation and extending the surrounding rock area. Additionally, to minimize environmental impacts caused by excess water, the assessment evaluates alternative discharge routes in addition to those defined in the present permit for the treated excess water of the mine.


Options to be assessed

Option 0, operation according to the current environmental permit:

Under the current environmental permit No. 33/2013/1 (16.4.2013), the total amount of extraction, including ore, surrounding rock and building stone, is up to 500,000 tonnes per year. The mining waste sites of the mine comply with the environmental permit. With proven ore reserves, the mine's operating time will be six years. The mine excess water is discharged after treatment to the Koivupuro in accordance with the environmental permit.


Option 1a, the introduction of new material-efficient pre-beneficiation:

The total amount of extraction, including ore, surrounding rock and building stone, will be maximally 1.8 million tonnes per year and 1.0–1.2 million tonnes on the average per year. Pre-beneficiation will be utilized before the ore is fed into the concentrating plant grinding mill. The option also includes extending the surrounding rock area and marginal ore area. The capacity of the concentrating plant can reach up to 600,000 tonnes per year. The excess water is discharged after several stages of treatment into Koivupuro, and cases for different concentration and stress levels for the water will be evaluated.


Option 1b, introduction of new material-efficient pre-beneficiation and
a new discharge path for excess water:

The operation corresponds otherwise to Opt.1a, but the mine excess water is passed after several stages of treatment partly or completely via a new discharge path to Olkilahti in Tipasjärvi. For excess water, different concentration and stress will be evaluated.

Consideration of the nearby Natura area

The mining concession covers no areas belonging to the Natura network, to other nature conservation areas or to nature conservation programs. The nearest Natura area, Vuoriniemi (FI1200604 SAC), is located about a kilometer away to the northeast, in the area between the Small and the Great Tipasjärvi. Hiidenportti National Park (KPU110019) is located to the south of the mining concession area, at the distance of 800 meters at the nearest. The projects that deal with Natura sites and their conservation values comply with the provisions of the Nature Conservation Act §65 and 66.

Effects on vegetation, animals and conservation sites are assessed to be minor as a whole, and no such specific effects have been identified that would require mitigation measures. The possible dewatering effect on the bog types in the vicinity of the mining concession area can be mitigated by the proper planning of the mining concession area’s run-off rainwater and/or by the protective structures for the bog areas. The adverse effects on bats can be mitigated by reducing the night-time illumination of the mining area in spring and autumn and by preserving trees that are considered to serve as potential daytime hiding places.

None of the project alternatives was seen to create a detrimental effect on the conservation criteria of the Natura area due to discharge/surface waters. The dust from the mining concession area is not expected to cause a significant adverse effect on nature reserve areas located close to the mining concession area, given their distance from the mining concession area and the distance of more than one kilometre from the actual mine planned. Consequently, none of the project alternatives was identified to create a detrimental effect by their discharge/surface waters on the conservation criteria of the Natura area.

However, the mine will not be located in a classified groundwater area, and the dewatering effect is estimated not to extend so far that it would have an adverse impact on the conservation criteria of the nearby nature reserve areas or conservation program objects. Indirect adverse effects resulting from the operation may be caused by dust or surface or groundwater emissions or other climate emissions. Noise will not cause adverse effects on vegetation or natural habitats.

Consequently, mining activities are not expected to cause an adverse effect on the occurrence of large carnivores on the level of their territories.

Steps in the forthcoming permit process

The company will submit a written update of the environmental permit application to the licensing authority, i.e. to the Regional State Administrative Office.

The environmental permit authority will communicate about the application with an alert. The authorities will issue a statement on the application. The parties concerned are allowed to make reminders and residents of the project area can make their views known.

After having heard the applicant about the statements and reminders, the licensing authority will decide on the matter.

The permit decision may be appealed to the Administrative Court of Vaasa, and its decision may further be appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court if it grants an appeal.