Environmental impact assessment programme for Terrafame’s water management published 26.8.2016 09:04

  • Opinions regarding the environmental impact assessment (EIA) programme for Terrafame’s water management may be submitted to the Kainuu Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (Kainuu ELY Centre) by 4 October, 2016
  • As part of the hearing phase, an open town hall meeting will be held at the Kajaani public library on Thursday, 8 September at 18:00 (coffee serving at 17:30)

On 23 August, the coordinating authority for the Terrafame environmental impact assessment procedure, Kainuu ELY Centre, announced the public notice regarding the EIA programme for Terrafame’s water management. After the notification, the EIA programme for the water management is available for public inspection for 30 days on the websites of the environmental administration and Terrafame Ltd. Opinions regarding the EIA programme can be submitted to the Kainuu ELY Centre by 4 October 2016.

The EIA programme is a plan defining the impacts to be assessed during the EIA procedure and the methods of the assessment. In addition, the programme includes information on the current water situation at Terrafame mine.

According to the EIA programme, the EIA procedure for Terrafame’s water management focuses on the assessment of the impacts of the purified waters, conducted from the mine into Lake Nuasjärvi, by comparing different load scenarios. The assessment is based on monitoring data as well as stream and water quality modelling. In addition to the current discharge point, two additional ones, located in Lake Nuasjärvi (tentatively Rimpilänsalmi and Petäisenniska), will be taken into account in the impact assessment. The examination of different load scenarios regarding the old water discharge routes will be added to the assessment: Kalliojoki-Kolmisoppi-Jormasjärvi-Jormasjoki on the northern route and Lumijoki-Laakajärvi on the southern route. Water management in the possible closure scenario of the mine is also explored in the EIA.

“The environmental impact assessment procedure for Terrafame’s water management, which is now underway, is an important step towards solving the water situation at the mine in the long run. In the EIA procedure, the water management solutions and their impacts will be thoroughly assessed in co-operation with different authorities and stakeholders. Thus, the procedure will provide a solid basis for our forthcoming environmental permit applications,” says Joni Lukkaroinen, CEO of Terrafame Ltd.

The EIA procedure proceeds from programme to report

The environmental impacts of Terrafame’s water management are being assessed in the procedure enacted in the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure.

The programme phase is followed by the second phase of the EIA procedure, where an EIA report shall be compiled based on the EIA programme and the opinions and statements submitted. The EIA report is an estimate on the environmental impacts of Terrafame’s water management solutions. The assessment report includes, among other things, the different alternatives to be assessed, the current state of the environment, the environmental impacts of the alternatives and their materiality, and the comparison of the alternatives. In addition, the report describes the means to prevent and mitigate harmful impacts.

The EIA report for Terrafame water management is estimated to become available at the turn of the year 2016–2017. The EIA procedure ends as the coordinating authority delivers its statement on the report to Terrafame approximately in March 2017.

Background information about the Terrafame EIA procedure

In April 2016, the Vaasa Administrative Court issued its decision regarding the appeals made on the discharge pipe into Lake Nuasjärvi and other issues related to Terrafame’s environmental permits. The Administrative Court changed the discharge pipe’s annual sulphate load quota from the 12,000 tonnes defined in its previous interim decision to 15,000 tonnes. It also confirmed the sulphate concentration of all discharge waters to 4,000 milligrams per litre (previously 6,000 mg/litre). For the old discharge routes, the Vaasa Administrative Court upheld the current sulphate quotas.

In addition, the decision of the Vaasa Administrative Court decreed that all permits be granted as temporary permits, valid until the end of 2018, so that the applications for the different permits have to be filed to the Northern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency by the end of August 2017.

Continuing the operations and development of the mine is possible within the limits of the decision of the Vaasa Administrative Court. However, with this quota, removing the excess waters from the area will take longer than what Terrafame’s goal has been.

At the same time, the risk level related to dam security must be kept higher than the target situation level. As it it not possible to empty the water storages at the planned pace, the sediments from the water management and the soil in the storage areas cannot be processed within the target schedule. Due to this, the water management drainage area will stay at its current size for several years, and the amount of water accumulated in the mining area from rainfall cannot be reduced.

Due to these reasons, Terrafame considers it appropriate, with regards to environmental impacts, to empty the excess waters stored in the mining area faster than would be possible according to the decision of the Vaasa Administrative Court. In practice, this means that Terrafame is preparing to apply the Northern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency for larger sulphate quotas than decreed by the Vaasa Administrative Court. According to the decision of the Vaasa Administrative Court in April, a sulphate quota larger than provided by the decision would have required an EIA procedure. This is why Terrafame launched an EIA procedure for water management.

In addition to the EIA procedure for water management, Terrafame is currently preparing another EIA programme regarding continuing and developing mining activities, or alternatively, their closure. The EIA programme for this other EIA procedure is planned to be published in October–November 2016.

Positive development in the water situation

There are still excess waters in the Terrafame mining area. However, the amount of excess waters has decreased from the about 10 million cubic metres in early 2016 to about 6.5 million cubic metres in mid-August.

“During the summer months, we have been able to utilise the larger sulphate quota, granted for the summer period by the Vaasa Administrative Court. At the same time, the rainfall has been lighter than the year before. Moreover, water evaporation from the bioleaching heaps has been strong due to the effective bioleaching process. Despite the fact that these factors have eased the water situation to some extent, the situation continues to be challenging,” Lukkaroinen says.

Town hall meeting in Kajaani on Thursday, 8 September, at 18:00

The EIA procedure is an open process, and citizens and other stakeholders have the opportunity to take part in it. Citizens and other interested parties may participate in the process by expressing their views to the Kainuu ELY Centre, which acts as the coordinating authority, and to Terrafame as well.

An open town hall meeting regarding the EIA programme will be held at the Kajaani public library on Thursday, 8 September, at 18:00. The event will begin with coffee at 17:30, after which the public will have the opportunity to express their views on the environmental impact assessment. Another town hall meeting will be held approximately in January 2017 after the EIA report for water management has been completed.

The EIA programme for water management is available from 23 August until 3 October 2016 for comments and statements in the following places:


Kainuu ELY Centre, Kalliokatu 4
Kajaani town hall, Pohjolankatu 13
Kajaani public library, Seminaarinkatu 15
Sotkamo municipal government office, Markkinatie 1
Sotkamo public library, Markkinatie 1
Paltamo municipality, Vaarankyläntie 7
Sonkajärven municipality, Rutakontie 28
and online at www.ymparisto.fi/terrafamevesienhallintaYVA

Opinions regarding the EIA programme may be submitted to the Kainuu ELY Centre by 4 October 2016 by email: kirjaamo.kainuu@ely-keskus.fi or by mail: Kainuu ELY Centre, PL 115, 87101 Kajaani, Finland, visiting address Kalliokatu 4. An opinion form, to be filled in and sent to the Kainuu ELY Centre, can be found at www.ymparisto.fi/terrafamevesienhallintaYVA.


Additional information and interview requests by email:
Terrafame Ltd., CEO Joni Lukkaroinen, joni.lukkaroinen@terrafame.fi

Terrafame Ltd. is a Finnish mining company producing primarily nickel and zinc by bioheapleaching at its mine located in Sotkamo. The aim is environmentally sustainable, safe and economically viable mining operations. Terrafame is owned by Terrafame Group Ltd., which is wholly owned by the State of Finland.

Article subjects: EnvironmentTerrafame