Terrafame’s key strategic objective is to operate an environmentally sustainable, safe and economically viable mine. Thus, one of our most significant goals is to turn our mining operations environmentally sustainable and safe as soon as possible. The most important material environmental variables in Terrafame’s operations are water management and other local environmental impacts such as dust, noise and land use.
Environmentally sustainable mining operations require a proactive approach and looking beyond the next season. We continuously monitor the state of the environment both in and outside the mining area. We work in transparent and professional cooperation with the environmental authorities. Similarly, we communicate openly and interactively with people living in the vicinity of the mine in order to maintain good relationships with our neighbours. An effectively operated mine is the best way to handle environmental risks.
Water is one of the most important elements in our operations. It is needed, for example, in watering the bioleaching heaps to make metal production more effective.
For the operation of the mine and for environmental safety, in particular, it is crucial to purify the water and remove it from the area in a controlled manner. Our goal is to improve the mine's water management continuously by, for example, developing water purification technology and methods. All water is purified at the mine before it is diverted away from the area.
The best way to control the water balance is to keep the mine running normally. Active bioleaching heaps release heat, which evaporates a significant part of the water during the process. In addition, the ore binds water in the assembly phase in an amount equal to 10–15% of its mass.
Operational mine = less water to be purified = less water to be removed from the area.
Terrafame's mining areas cover 6,000 hectares (60 km²) of which 1,000 hectares is used for production. In practice, the mining area is wholly owned by Terrafame, as only a couple of square kilometres of the land is leased. There are no residents in the mining area.
The mine's environmental permit also contains the key principles and a preliminary plan for the reclamation of the mining land after the closure of mining operations. The plan is further specified as the mining operations proceed. Terrafame's deposits are estimated to last for several decades.
According to the land reclamation plan, the open pit will be allowed to fill up with water, and the areas will be landscaped by revegetation. The gypsum ponds and the bioleaching heaps will be drained, covered and landscaped.
As a by-product, the mining operations continuously create new top layer soil material, which can be used, for example, for landscaping during the closure of mining operations.
The impacts of Terrafame's mining operations on the environment and different species are monitored regularly in accordance with the environmental permit conditions. The monitoring programme approved by the authorities is carried out by an external body of experts.
In accordance with the obligations, the factors monitored at the mine include water and air emissions as well as other environmental impacts, such as the physical and chemical quality of the nearby watercourse areas, and the dust fallout, noise and vibration generated by the mine. The effects on different organisms are also monitored – with a special focus on the phytoplankton species, benthic invertebrates, aquatic plants, bats and southern wood ants. The fish stock and the impacts on fishing are monitored, for example, by fish sampling and keeping records of fishing and crayfishing.
Each year, thousands of samples are taken from the nearby watercourse areas, in addition to hundreds of air samples. Tens of thousands of analyses are made from these samples. In addition to the obligatory monitoring, Terrafame takes a large number of voluntary environmental samples from the mining area and the areas nearby.
We also follow and compile statistics of observations made by our neighbours on, for example, dust, odour, vibration and noise. This allows us to examine the size of the area generating observations and what is causing these observations. Furthermore, this helps us plan our improvement measures appropriately.