our university r&d department just shared an EU report, where Finland and Sweden lead their EU-internal rating for innovativeness.
Nice to see that the North leads the way there! We know that the Arctic is at the forefront when it comes to noticing the changing climate, and people in the North, particularly those who live in close contact with the environment round the year, have proved their impressive adaptability to these changing conditions. Good that this tendency also translates into a national level. If countries in the Arctic can lead innovations towards a better life on our planet, so should anthropology from and on the Arctic aim to lead the way for innovative research on social and cultural diversity and the ways how human social groups thrive in a changing environment!
Of course as anthropologists doing fieldwork with a focus on qualitative long-term participation in people’s life, we may be skeptical of the methods of these ratings and reports that base solely on statistical indicators such as numbers of university graduates, share of budgets invested in research, numbers of registered patents and designs, level of broadband internet penetration throughout the country, and the like. We are used to looking beyond these numbers and explain the deeper reasons for the ways in which societies and cultures innovate. Innovation is nothing new. Indigenous and local people in the Arctic have applied innovations as long as they lived in that environment, and continue to do so. We can explain the principles of such processes. Let’s live up to this expectation:)
Our colleague Klemetti Näkkäläjärvi will give a lecture this Friday at 13.15 at the University of Lapland main building, with a title that would sound in english something like “rights and obligations of the Saami community”. Klemetti served as the speaker of the Finnish Saami parliament and has a PhD in anthropology. The lecture is going to be in Finnish (I see that this limits the listeners in this forum). Fore Finnish speakers outside of Rovaniemi, it will be possible to listen at https://connect.eoppimispalvelut.fi/saam0103/
If someone would go and comment on this here at the blog, it would be great.
The University of Oulu is strengthening their Arctic profile and have announced several jobs. Let’s hope they will hire anthropologists eagerly! It depends on how many good anthropologists will apply, so, dear colleagues – go for it!
Tenure Track Positions in Arctic Interactions Research, University of Oulu, Finland
Are you the new generation of premier Arctic scientists with ambition for strengthening your international experience? Do you want to make new discoveries that are vital for the sustainability of the Arctic environment and our whole planet?
We are now looking for excellent and enthusiastic scientists from various research fields to join our Arctic Interactions (ArcI) research community at the University of Oulu. ArcI is a multidisciplinary research effort aimed at creating understanding and mitigating global change in the Arctic by bridging different research disciplines within natural, social and technical sciences. This international and globally significant research hub will produce new discoveries and cutting-edge research that will help solve some of the most pressing societal challenges in the Arctic.
Our three main research themes (RT) include 1) Global change & northern environments, 2) Human-environmental relationship, and 3) Sustainable systems, resource use and development. Within these research themes we are offering tenure track positions in five different research areas:
• Biodiversity change and ecosystem health (RT1)
• Earth system sciences, ecohydrology and human societal resiliency (RT1)
• Cultural histories and traditional knowledge of resource use (RT2)
• Resource management in Arctic environment (RT3)
• Arctic architecture and environmental adaptation (RT3)
The tenure track positions are open to highly talented scientists with excellent potential for a successful scientific career. We invite strong candidates from various scientific fields, such as hydrology, ecology, biology, geography, geology, paleoclimatology, environmental sciences, environmental engineering, civil engineering, architecture, social sciences, archeology, cultural studies etc. Based on your experience and competence, you can be placed at the level of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Full Professor or Distinguished Professor. The positions include a start-up package for hiring a postdoctoral fellow and a PhD student.
What we offer
We are a dedicated and dynamic group of scientists working together towards a more sustainable and intelligent future. Our university’s long traditions in Arctic research and location close to the Arctic offer unique conditions for doing research. Currently, the ArcI community include 30 senior scientists with versatile expertise and background, which creates an inspiring working environment full of opportunities for wide variety of research. We foster a culture of collaboration, both within our university and with our international partner universities.
The City of Oulu is Northern Finland’s largest and oldest city, with a population of over 200,000. Oulu offers an easy-going living environment with good connections from anywhere. As the world’s northernmost tech hub, Oulu has a highly educated and innovative workforce, thanks to one of the biggest and most multidisciplinary universities in Finland.
How to apply
Please submit your application and relevant enclosures through our online recruitment system latest on February 28 2019. Please follow the links on the list of research areas to find individual position descriptions.
Director: Prof. Bjørn Kløve, Kvantum Institute, University of Oulu, bjorn.klove(at)oulu.fi
Vice Director: Prof. Jeffrey Welker, Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu,
Coordinator: Jouko Inkeröinen, Kvantum Institute, University of Oulu, jouko.inkeroinen(at)oulu.fi
The saga about the Northern migrant route for asylum seekers wishing to reach a European country recently got a new turn: Since April 2016 the Russian-Finnish border in Lapland is closed for third-country citizens. The international staff of researchers at the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi including me personally (a Swiss-Italian citizen) are deeply concerned by the new agreement between Finland and Russia about these new border-crossing limitations between Russia and Finland. It limits our possibilities to act as researchers in Russia, as well as it undermines the Euro-Arctic Barents Cooperation in general. For example, I do research among the Russian Sami people, and it has been essential in the past years to cross the border to reach the Murmansk Region for doing my research.
Many people seem to wonder: Why? How could it be that such a deal could happen?
I have been talking a lot with other people both in Finland and in Russia, and also read some materials about it. The most visible English language source of information on the topic is The Independent Barents Observer. In their article “Russia insisted on closing Lapland borders for third country citizens” they basically give this explanation: “Russia wanted to split Finland from the EU”, and this also seems to be a mainstream opinion in Rovaniemi, where I live. However, in my opinion, this explanation inadequately reflects the true situation behind the current border closure for third-country citizens. I would like to elaborate on this.
It has been conveyed also by the Finnish mainstream press (which I am going to criticise below) that the closure of the border was Finland’s initiative, and that Finland asked to include the EU/EEA+Switzerland countries into the list of allowed countries. However, what is not conveyed by any of the mentioned sources is the principle of reciprocity which is a basic principle of any bilateral negotiations (I worked myself in diplomacy before joining the Arctic Centre as a researcher).
In this case, reciprocity means an approximate balance in the amount of countries exempted by the agreed border restrictions. According to oral information by a Finnish border guard, during the negotiations Russia asked also to include several countries which it is on good terms with, exactly as Finland did. That are countries like Kazakhstan, Kryrgyzstan and some other countries, which are not producing refugees (although for some Western populists and their followers countries with a name ending on “-stan” may by default evoke such fears). In simple words: If Finland asked to include its friends, then Russia also wanted to include its friends. By all standards, it is highly unlikely that an unequal deal FIN+30 countries vs. RUS+1 country is possible, and in the end the Finns evidently opted for a deal only FIN+RUS/Belarus. As it is a common practice in international diplomacy to make agreements on equal terms, this sounds to me as a much more rational explanation than the simplistic explanation mode “it’s Putin, stupid!”. It must be said clearly: It was the Finns who rejected an equal deal with a higher number of included countries on both sides and thus heavily undermined Barents cooperation and European cooperation in general.
Instead of giving a balanced analysis explaining the reasonable arguments of all involved parties, both the Finnish tabloid Iltalehti and The Independent Barents Observer (which is even more disappointing given its declared “devotion for cross-border cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding“) adhere to a way of reasoning which long since has become a standard explanation for almost everything which goes wrong in relations between Russia and the West. This shallowness of reasoning is highly regrettable. Their statement that Russia insisted on such a deal because it wanted to tear apart Finland from the EU is not just shallow. By presuming that Finland would have had no other choice than agree with Russia’s demands it also wrongly presumes a limited sovereignty of this country. However, Finland is a fully sovereign country, and it could have simply withdrawn its initiative on closing the border if it did not agree with Russia’s legitimate demand for signing an agreement on equal terms. Unfortunately, it opted for the isolationist way.
A – what I would like to call a historical – decision was taken by the Supreme Administrative Court in Sweden at the end of February this year (source: The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC), case 2047-14). It is a decision made in a mining case concerning extraction of minerals in mid-Sweden, and since the decision was made in a Supreme Court will it have effects on the mining industry in all of Sweden.
The Norra Kärr – North Swamp – case
The case concerns the Canadian mining company Tasman Metals Ltd. that wanted to prospect for rare minerals close to the big (inland) lake Vättern in mid-Sweden at an area called Norra Kärr. Tasman Metals is prospecting for rare earth element and zirconium mineralization, that are primarily used in mobilephones. The mining company present the area as “mixed farming and forestry land, well serviced by power, roads and water allowing all year round access, plus the benefit of a skilled and well equipped community”. The Mining Inspectorate of Sweden – Bergsstaten – had granted Tasman Metals a concession license. That decision was appealed by different interests, and was therefore sent over to the Parliament. The (now running) Social Democratic Government decided that Tasman Metals should have the concession license that the company had been granted by The Mining Inspectorate of Sweden. A short summery of this process can be read in the newspaper article “The Government Opens For Mine” in Jönköpingsposten 6th of March 2015 (also see picture above). A concession license gives a mining or prospecting company the right to run mine(s) or hold permission to open mine(s) according to valid license(s).
But the mine prospecting site at Norra Kärr is close to the big lake Vättern that is a water supply for the inhabitants in the area, and also a place for rare birds, as well as close to a Nature 2000 area, that is a type of area that is under special laws and can be seen as one that is on the step before the level of being a national park. So another appeal was sent to the Supreme Administrative Court, by five local groups belonging to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation – Naturskyddsföreningen – and Nature and Youth Sweden – Fältbiologerna – plus Visingsörådet and several private persons (SAC, case 2047-14, p.3, 4).
The Supreme Administrative Court decided that Tasman Metals had not presented any plan for land use for working plants – such as stone storage, sand magasins, clearing ponds and so on. The Supreme Administrative Court supported The County Administrative Board’s in Jönköping decision that the working plants will have a big effect on the surrounding environment at least 1 kilometer around the plants. And since Tasman Metals had not presented any survey about any milieu consequences caused by working plants what so ever, the Court decided to withdraw the company’s concession license (SAC, case 2047-14, p. 10). This mean that, at this point, Tasman Metals can for now not prospect for minerals at Norra Kärr.
Norra Kärr Case In Relation to the Kallak case
This decision taken by the Supreme Administrative Court might mean that, for instance, the mining prospect in Kallak outside of Jokkmokk in the north of Sweden, on the grounds of Sámi villages Jåhkkågaska Tjiellde and Sirges in the very north of Sweden, can be inquired against the Tasman Metals case. This means that Jokkmokk Iron Mines AB (JIMAB) – and the headquarters Beowulf Mining in England – that has prospected for ore at Kallak, must present a plan for all the activities for a mine in full-scale at Kallak. This means that not only the mine – as the pit in the ground – must be part of an activity plan, but also all of the working plants must be presented such as ponds, stone storage and so on, as well as the consequences for both the mine and the working plants in relation to the milieu in the area. For a longer survey over the Kallak case, and extractive industries in Canada and impacts on reindeer herding and hunting, see a summary here at an earlier blog post of mine.
An observant reader has already detected that I wrote “might mean” in the first sentence in the former paragraph, and that is because it says in the verdict 2047-14 that land use for working plants within extractive industries such as mining, must be part of an application for exploitation concession. This means that if a company has a plan for both mine and working plants and their consequences for the surrounding environment at the stage for a concession license, this verdict can not be used.
In the Kallak case Beowulf Mining wants to send their application for exploit concession back to the Mining Inspectorate of Sweden.
An exploitation concession is often also called concession license, and it gives the holder permission to start a mine. But the Kallak case is now handled by the Parliament after appeal. Beowulf Mining also wants to co-operate with Luleå University in order to “build a sustainable mine” as the director in Sweden for Beowulf Mining, Kurt Bugde put it when being interviewed by a local newspaper (see picture to the right).
It will be a matter for the courts how the verdict can be used in practice by the courts, but the verdict also sets pressure on the agencies involved in the mining application process, as to what type of presented plans from prospecting and mining companies that can be accepted. And the verdict is very important seen in the light of bankrupt and abandoned mines in Sweden.
Nature Devastation Caused by Abandoned Open-Cast Mines
Despite some question marks raised here against what impact the decision in the Norra Kärr case taken by The Supreme Administrative Court really will have, is it still extremely important, seen in the light of the problems with environmental pollutions and problems – from ‘small’ to catastrophic dimensioned as to nature devastations. Problems with ‘smaller’ pollution hazards and negative environmental consequences have been detected at the bankrupt Tapuli mine in Kaunisvaara in the county of Pajala owned by Northland Resources, and environmental catastrophic-like problems have been caused by abandoned mines in the county of Västerbotten because ot the Blaiken Mine and the Svärtträsk Mine.
The Tapuli Mine in Kaunisvaara outside Pajala in Sweden
In 2012-2015 has the level of the groundwater changed dramatically in the area around the Tapuli mine in Kaunisvaara outside of Pajala.
Northland Resources was, after a survey made by the County Administrative Board (CAB), already in February 2015 forced to deal with the problem of decreasing water levels and the drainage of the swamp Kokkovuoma that holds highly important environmental values. CAB suggested that Northland Resources should put down screens in the ground around the mine pit in order to limit the water leakage from the pit (Source: CAB, injunction, 2015-06-30, case number 555-2932-15 2521 116, p. 1,3).
If was also detected on a photo taken from an airplane that Northland Resources had dugged a 1,5 kilometer long drain outside the very mining area – that is, on ground that the company was not allowed to use. It was also storage waste from the the 1,5 kilometer long drain packed by the clearing pond, and outside the area of the very mine (Source: CAB, injunction, 2015-06-30, case number 555-8018-15 2521 116, p. 2).
Northland Resources was charged for several crimes in connection to these issues, but the attorney Aino Alhem dismissed the cases, arguing that no one could show that Northland Resources was NOT allowed to build a clearing pond outside the mining area. Alhem also dismissed the case because the period of limitation for the 1,5 long trench had passed. Finally Alhem meant that she must proof that the increase in the level in the groundwater had occurred after Northland Resources had been notified of the lowering water level, and that she could not (NSD, “Fler åtal mot Northland konkursbo läggs ned” [“Several Charges Against Northland’s Bankruptcy Estate are Dismissed”], 16th of March 2016 (in Swedish)). Within two years – from summer of 2014 till summer of 2016 – had the water level increased 16 meters. Northland Resources had estimated a few decimeters decrease. Still Alhem dismissed the charge against Northland Resources even though the mining company was obliged by CAB in February 2015 to deal with the problems with sinking levels of the groundwater.
In this messy process did even the county governor of the county of Norrbotten, Sven-Erik Österberg, step in and decided that every decision concerning the Tapuli mine should go through him, and not the County Administrative Board as the normal way of procedure is. Österberg argued that he had taken that decision in order to make a quick handling of the case easier (NSD, “Misstänkta miljöbrott i gruvan anmäldes inte” [“Suspected Environmental Crimes in the Mine was Not Reported”], 13th of March 2015).
Besides this there are now issues with the clearing pond at the Tapuli mine. The County Administrative Board is worried that the pond is too small for the amount of water it holds, and that it might start to leak water into the Muonio river (source: Norrbottens-Kuriren, “Konkursboet vill ta av miljonerna på banken” [The Bankruptcy Estate Wants to Take From the Millions in the Bank”], 11th of April 2016, see picture below).
In all such ponds heavy particles sink to the very bottom. But much of such heavy particles are heavy metals since the water that has been pumped up of the mines contains of heavy metal. Because when extracting minerals or stone from the ground, many other metals and minerals follow along. If the pond at the Tapuli mine starts to leak heavy metal, that will go directly into the Muonio River. The mine has permission to let some water – so called process, mine and drain water – from the pond seep over to the Muoino River (source: CAB, injunction 2015-06-30, case number 555-8022-15 2521 116, p. 1). But the hazard lies in, as just mentioned, that the mine starts to leak heavy metal that probably is part of the heavy sediment on the bottom of the pond – and then that leakage will most certainly go directly into the Muonio river. And the Muonio river runs into the Torne river that runs out into the Gulf of Botnia. The Kanuisvaara village has a their water catchment in Kanuisvaara.
What can be the consequences of a mine leaking heavy metal can be seen in the hazardous environmental consequences of Blaiken mine and Svärtträsk mine in Sweden.
Riksrevisionen – Swedish National Audit Office (NAO) – also tried to force the Swedish Parliament to straighten up the legislation around mine waste as in a suggestion that mining companies from the very start should in their financial plans include costs for waste management. NAO did that with references to the Tapuli mine in Kaunisvaara outside Pajala, as well as Blaiken mine and Svärtträsk mine in the county of Västerbotten. The Parliament said no. This was revealed in the small article “Gruvavfall ska inte granskas” – “Mine Waste Shall Not be Examined” – in the newspaper Norrbottens-Kuriren on the 16th of April this year (see picture to the right). The Parliament’s reluctance to straighten up the legislation shows, according to me, that the Parliament is more prone to support the mining business in Sweden rather than thinking in long terms of the environment. The life length of a mine can be 15 years. A sustainable environment is a long term work, longer than 15 years. But the Parliament gave The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency – Naturvårdsverket – the assignment together with The Mining Inspectorate of Sweden to mold together a long term strategy for management of mine waste and to examine the Swedish State’s and the mining companies costs within mining industry and to evaluate the after-treatment of closed mines. But still no law paragraph that puts the responsibility for after-treatment of mine waste on the mining companies has been discussed. The Swedish National Audit Office, NAO, monitors the environment in Sweden.
Since NAO used Blaiken mine and Svärtträsk mine as examples in their suggestion to straighten up the legislation of responsibility for management of mine waste, let’s look what have happened in those two cases.
The Blaiken Mine and Svärtträsk Mine Cases in Sweden
Swedish tax payers are the ones that have to pay for that. ScanMining, that abandoned the Blaiken mine in 2007, had put aside only 3 million SEK for a clean-up of it. Lappland Goldminers bought Blaiken with the intention to turn it into a zinc mine, even though it was attended as a gold mine when it was started up. Lappland Goldminers’ attempt did not work out.
Last summer though, was a survey made by Environmental Sciences at University of Umeå presented – here summarized in an article from the Swedish State Television’s homepage – that estimated that Blaiken leaks led, copper and especially zinc – that is highly toxic – into the lake Storjuktan, to levels that have never been seen before in Sweden. 22 square kilometers of the bottom sediment of the lake is dead because of the heavy metal waste covering it. And now the costs for a clean-up of Blaiken has been estimated to 200 million SEK, according to The County Administrative Board in the county of Västerbotten , one of the two northernmost counties in Sweden.
Toxic leaking abandoned mines are also a known problem in North America, as the sad history of the giant mine shows, studied by our colleagues Arn Keeling and John Sandlos.
It is great that the historical decision in the Norra Kärr-case has been taken by the Supreme Administrative Court, since it will put a lot more pressure on mining companies that want to come and prospect as well as start mines in Sweden. Earlier was not full-scale milieu consequence descriptions a must for mining companies to present from the beginning. Instead such a plan could be presented much, much later in the prospecting process. But after Supreme Administrative Court’s decision in the Tasman Mental AB case such a description must be on the table from the very start.
Arctic Voices: Expectations, Narratives and the Realities of Living with Extractive industries in the Far North(Edited by Emma Wilson and Florian Stammler ) is the name of a new special issue.
It has been ages ago that we ran a conference session “People and the Extractive Industries” and a doctoral course in Rovaniemi in December 2013 in our Uarctic Thematic Network with some very good presentations on local perceptions and impacts of extractive industrial development in the Arctic. Out of this we thought we could publish a good volume as a special issue in some journal. It was mostly thanks to my colleague Emma Wilson that this actually happened, and “only” two years after the initial conference and course took place, we now have a full special section of a dedicated extractive industries journal, volume 3 issue one of “The Extractive Industries and Society”. I think that’s not too bad a turnover time for an entire publication process from scratch to published, including numerous editorial tasks, reviews, improvements, corrections, and negotiations with the journal and the authors. We ended up bringing together a whole set of really interesting papers, including on Greenland, on Norwegian extractive industrial settings, on Arctic Russia, on the Canadian Arctic, so we sort of reached the aim of “circumpolarity” at least to some extent with this collection. All of the articles in one way or the other address the relation between large scale governance and local situations on those places where big industry meets local livelihoods. That’s why we called the publication “Arctic Voices“. Many of the articles are open access, so we hope and aim for a wide distribution of the collection. If you have problems accessing papers, please let me know. And of course comments and discussions on any of the topics raised are warmly welcome!
Please also see the comments to this post, interesting!
Surely most of us have followed the terrible news about drowning refugees desperate to
reach Europe – and many may have thought that “well all that’s what the poor people have to cope with there in the South, Sicily, Turkey, Greece.” But guess what: some refugees have opened the Arctic route for entering Europe. Colleague Patty Gray just alerted me to this article in the New York times, entitled “Bypassing the Risky Sea, Refugees Reach Europe Through the Arctic” by Andrew Higgins, check it out. As sad as it is that these people have to travel all the way up to the Arctic where they hardly intend to stay – this is probably an amazing case study for an ethnography of cross-border relations! As Anna Stammler-Gossmann has written, Arctic Russian border crossings like this were used by shuttle traders to bring car tyres, coffee, and clothes to Russia.
Now it’s people, and different from the southern European borders, they don’t need criminal people-traders to bring them. They can cross the border themselves! To be honest, several times already I was annoyed by this practice at the border that you are not allowed to cross it on foot. Therefore the poor refugees have to buy bicycles in the closest Russian town, Nickel’, just to cross the border and then get them confiscated by the Norwegians! What’s that good for? Above all, my cyclists’ heart hurts when I see all these nice bicycles piled up. But maybe someone doing an ethnography of this new migration route would identify this as modern-day resource distribution – but from refugees to one of the world’s richest countries – Norway.
ArcticAnthropology is proud to present a guest blog from Ben Corwin on life, migration and relation to the environment on one of the Arctic’s northernmost human settlements: Svalbard.
Ben Corwin is a Senior at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA. He is majoring in mathematics and biology with concentration in environmental studies. Though Williams College offers no classes specific to the Arctic, he has taken courses in geology and environment policy and conducted independent work and travel in numerous Arctic and high alpine regions. The first trip Corwin took to Svalbard was at the end of middle school when his grandfather was lecturing at UNIS. In 2013, he came back to study patterns of recreation and immigration on the archipelago under a grant from the Williams College Center for Environmental Studies. Some of his insights from this trip are below.