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Gold mine to shut down after court denies appeal

The Orivesi gold mine was denied an environmental permit after a nearby lake's fish and crayfish populations were decimated.

Image: Antti Eintola / Yle

Finland's Supreme Administrative Court has rejected an appeal by the Australian company Dragon Mining. The firm had earlier decided to discontinue its gold mining activities in the municipality of Orivesi.

Previous rulings from the Vaasa District Court and regional authorities denied the mining company an environmental permit, citing significant damage to the surrounding waterways caused by the mine's operations. The fish and crayfish population of Lake Ala-Jalkajärvi was destroyed, for example.

Dragon Mining appealed the earlier decisions because it wanted to continue its operations, while the local government ELY Centre petitioned for a temporary environmental permit in order to wind down the operations in a controlled fashion.

The Supreme Administrative Court dismissed both appeals, saying Dragon Mining had not applied for an environmental permit to wind things down, but in order to continue mining.

Dragon Mining will now be responsible for submitting a plan within six months of the decision coming into effect, detailing how the surrounding waterways and land will be protected and waste will be handled. Once this plan has been submitted, the regional authorities will make a decision about closing the mine.

Illegal dumping ground under investigation

The gold mine in Orivesti began operations in the 1990s. The Finnish steel manufacturer Outokumpu was the original owner, but gave up its mining activities in 2003. The mine was reopened in 2007 under the current ownership.

Orivesi produced some 17,000 kilos of gold concentrate during these two periods. The ore was processed at a plant in Vammala, 80 kilometres southwest of the mine.

The mine has made headlines several times since Dragon Mining took over the operations. For example, in October 2018, the local ELY Centre discovered an illegal dumping ground in the area. The rubbish collection point contained oil barrels, explosive boxes, plastic materials and scrap metal. A police investigation into the infraction is still in progress.

Dragon Mining announced in the spring that it would be discontinuing its operations at the Orivesi mine. The company said at the time that the ore reserves at the Orivesi mine had already been almost exhausted.

"Mining of ore will continue as planned at the company's other mines in Valkeakoski and Huittinen, and at the ore processing centre in Vammala. The [court] decision will not have any effect on the company's production plans," said Dragon Mining's mining manager in Finland, Petteri Tanner.

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