The Supreme Administrative Court issued its decision on Terrafame’s environmental permit matters: the mine’s operations may continue in a responsible manner and as planned 10.5.2017 08:58

The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) issued its decision on Terrafame Ltd.’s environmental permit matters today on 9 May 2017. In practice, the SAC’s decisions mean that Terrafame may continue the ramp-up and development of its operations with the aim of profitable business operations in 2018 as planned. The SAC retained the decisions issued by the Vaasa Administrative Court (VAC) in April 2016 mostly in force.

Key matters in the SAC’s decisions:

  • The SAC retained in force the VAC’s decisions regarding the requirement for Terrafame to apply for new environmental and water permits by the end of August 2017. This way, the now legally valid permits will remain in force without interruption until the new permits enter into force. Terrafame will submit new environmental permit applications in August 2017 in accordance with the decision issued by the VAC in spring 2016, after the ongoing EIA processes have been completed.
  • With its decision, the SAC maintained the sulphate quotas for the Nuasjärvi discharge pipe ordered by the VAC. Terrafame has complied with the emission quotas now enforced by the SAC since the spring of 2016 and has been able to substantially reduce the amount of water in the mine area.
  • The SAC retained in force the waste classifications made by the Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland. The leached ore and waste rock resulting from the production process are excavation waste, and the waste resulting formed at the metals production plant is primarily hazardous waste.
  • The SAC rejected the VAC’s decision regarding a mixing zone at the discharge pipe end and returned the decision to the Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland.
  • The guarantee to ensure waste management in accordance with Terrafame’s environmental permit rises to approximately EUR 107 million. Terrafame has already prepared to arrange for the guarantee.
  • The SAC did not cover the recovery of uranium in its decisions. The permit to recover uranium, in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act, is legally valid under the decision of the Vaasa Administrative Court. Terrafame has not made a decision on starting uranium recovery.
     

“The decisions issued by the Supreme Administrative Court mean that Terrafame will continue the ramp-up and development of its operations as planned. During its operations, Terrafame has achieved several key advances from the operational as well as the environmental point of view with regards to water management, for instance. However, the assessment included in the SAC’s decisions is largely based on the mine’s situation before Terrafame began operations, and, in our opinion, the assessment does not fully take into account the positive development achieved during Terrafame’s operations. Nevertheless, the permit process that has now ended has been a necessary process to clarify the issues and uncertainties surrounding the mine’s previous operations and permits,” says Joni Lukkaroinen, the CEO of Terrafame Ltd.

“The discharge pipe, which leads purified waters from the mine area to Lake Nuasjärvi, is central for the water management of the mine area. The SAC’s decisions enable the use of the discharge pipe for the management of the water situation in the future as well. It is prudent to note that the amount of excess water at the mine area has decreased below the target level as production has grown, and the quality of purified water discharged from the area has been good. In 2016, the sulphate and metal concentrations were clearly below the limits set for them,” Lukkaroinen says.

“Terrafame has two ongoing environmental impact assessment procedures, one of which concerns our production and the other for water management. We will submit the new environmental permit applications by the end of August 2017 after the assessment procedures. According to our estimates, Terrafame’s demonstration of ramp-up of operations and management of the environmental situation provide an excellent basis for looking into the future with confidence with regards to the new environmental permits to be applied for, as well,” concludes Lukkaroinen.

 

Background information

In April 2016, the VAC issued decisions on all of Terrafame’s key environmental and water management permit processes. At the same time, the VAC ordered that Terrafame needs to apply for new permits by the end of August 2017, or current permits would remain temporarily valid until the end of 2018. In this context, the VAC ordered Terrafame to apply for new environmental and water management permits from the Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland (RSAA) by 31 August 2017.

In April 2016, the VAC also issued a final decision regarding the Nuasjärvi discharge pipe and water emissions along the old discharge routes. In its decision, the VAC ordered stricter annual sulphate quotas (15,000 tonnes per year) than those ordered by the RSAA in its original permit decision. However, in its final decision, the VAC granted a larger monthly sulphate quota of 2,000 tonnes per month (interim decision: 1,000 tonnes per month) for the open water season.

 

Further information:

CEO Joni Lukkaroinen, tel. +358 50 590 0720, joni.lukkaroinen@terrafame.fi

Chief Sustainability Officer Veli-Matti Hilla, tel. +358 40 5699 906, veli-matti.hilla@terrafame.fi