– A mine requires investments of hundreds of millions of euros. Companies need to know what is on the horizon. In Finland, every process is predictable, says Riikka Aaltonen, senior advisor of the mineral policy at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

A more direct route for permit applications

Text: Jaana Ahlbland

Application processes for environmental permits for mining operations will be quicker and more straightforward in Finland, as the authorities take on the one stop shop principle.

Handling permit applications for mining operations will be streamlined in Finland through the establishment of a national permit authority. Different permit authorities are currently building electronic services so that companies applying for an environmental permit only need to contact a single authority, after which all authorities will receive information about the project at the same time.

– It may be possible to handle some permit issues side by side, which will make the process quicker. Having a shared platform for all authorities will also improve supervisory activities. This change will clarify the process, reduce the level of bureaucracy and, therefore, benefit companies, says Riikka Aaltonen, senior advisor of the mineral policy at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

Finnish mining legislation was reformed in 2011. No changes in legal guidelines are expected, but minor technical specifications have been made.

– For example, mine maps no longer need to be sent to the authorities every year, only when necessary and when mining operations are discontinued. The aim of these changes is to reduce the number of standards and regulations as defined by the Finnish Government, Aaltonen says.

Legislation under lengthy consideration

The reform of mining legislation has received both votes for and against. The previous act dated back to 1965 when the world was completely different.

– Back then, mining companies operating in Finland were mainly Finnish and owned by the state. There was not much discussion of the environment in the 1960s. The Mining Act was very powerful and overruled everything else, Aaltonen says.

The new act was ten years in the making. According to Aaltonen, the groundwork for the new act was done thoroughly; after all, acts are rarely reformed in their entirety.

– The aim was to include environmental issues, as well as the extensive abilities of municipalities and other parties involved to exercise influence. It is also worth mentioning that this new act pays much more attention to the rights of the Sami people than any other act.

Companies, show your face

The act defines minimum requirements, but this is not enough when planning mining operations. Companies need to show their face in order to obtain social and local acceptance.

– Companies need to open up their projects and allow people to study them. They should show themselves and what they do before anything else. Public events and presentations are important and draw a crowd. Nothing can replace face-to-face meetings, even though they cannot be required by law.

When mining legislation was reformed, the world changed a little unexpectedly from the authorities’ point of view.

– The Mining Act states that the authority must advertise permit applications and decisions in a regional newspaper. At the end of the 1990s, the newspaper still had a strong position, but what could be a similar channel now for reaching a large group of people?, Aaltonen ponders.

Comprehensive acts also benefit investors

According to Aaltonen, Finnish and Nordic permit processes are often considered to be complicated but, then again, they are also transparent and predictable. With regard to elimination, no single permit can have been shown to be unnecessary.

– EU directives form the large framework of regulation, including many environmental aspects.

Having comprehensive laws is also good for companies, as they are an indication of a stable society and operating environment.