More than 51,000 people have signed a citizens' initiative calling for the cancellation of plans to construct an open mineral mine in the municipality of Kolari, in western Finnish Lapland.
The list of signatures was delivered to the Kolari municipal council on Tuesday. Concerned citizens from around the country added their names to the initiative online (13,529) and physically at a local supermarket (37,529).
At that time a firm called Northland Mines Ltd had attempted to begin operations in the area, but went bankrupt and closed down not long afterwards.
However, Hannukainen Mining Ltd acquired rights to the mine in 2015, and the municipality of Kolari approve zoning plans for the open pit mine in 2017, which is when opposition to the venture revived a previous citizens' initiative.
The Hannukainen mineral mine has yet to acquire an environmental permit for the mine, and technical zoning plans for it are incomplete.
Excavations threaten commerce
Sponsors of the initiative want the Hannukainen mining project to be aborted and have called for the Ylläs region, popular with tourists, to be designated a nature reserve. The initiative also notes that environmental damage caused by mining activities will affect the region for years to come.
Travel agent Heli Kaulanen, a principal sponsor of the initiative, said she was a little surprised by the large number of supporters that signed it.
"I got messages from people all over Finland, cheering us on and saying we're on the right path. I'm very happy about that," Kaulanen said.
She said that the mine would be a massive threat to the Ylläs region's tourism.
"Lapland is gaining popularity among travellers from abroad. They come here for the peace and quiet of nature's beauty. If tourism can't cope with the mine, neither can the municipality," she said.
Old impressions die hard
Even though tens of thousands oppose the mine in Kolari, many residents – particularly some municipal leaders – support it.
"Kolari is an old mining region and people here have a rosy picture of what it was back in the day," Kaulanen said. "The mine was much smaller then and underground. Those days will never return."
Hannukainen Mining Ltd said it wants the mine to be operational by 2023.