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Citizens' initiative to reform mining law heads to Parliament

Proponents of the initiative said municipalities should have more say when it comes to land use, among other things.

Koekaivauksia Juomasuon alueella Kuusamossa
A mine in the northeast municipality of Kuusamo. Image: Ensio Karjalainen / Yle

A citizen's initiative to reform Finland's mining law has received 50,000 signatures, meaning that the proposal now qualifies for consideration on the parliamentary floor.

The initiative seeks to make major changes to Finland's Mining Act which came into effect in 2011.

"On the local level, municipalities should have a better opportunity to have a say about land use in their area," says Jukka Leppänen, chair of the Pro Heinävesi movement and one of the two authors of the initiative.

He says the reformed law should also do more to protect valuable nature sites and waterways, as well as make provisions to ensure that more of the benefits stemming from minerals found in Finnish soil are returned to the municipalities and state.

The citizens' initiative also demands mining companies be required to demonstrate sufficient collateral up front for dealing with any potential environmental damage, for example.

"If we could create a fund system, for example, that would make it easier to clear up environmental accidents," Leppänen says.

The reform bid also calls on MPs to change the process by which mining permits are granted. As the law now stands, parties can be granted operational permits before they have been cleared for permits associated with Finnish laws on environmental conservation. If the amendments included in the citizens' initiative are approved by Parliament, companies would in future have to secure an environmental permit first.

"It feels as if there were clear, substantial mistakes in the renewed 2011 Mining Act, despite that fact that most of it hasn't even been executed yet in practice," Leppänen said.

"Triumph of democracy"

Just one week ago, Leppänen was unsure that the initiative would meet its 50K signature target within the six-month limit.

"Support levelled out for a bit, but then we launched an effective social media blitz that got people on board. I feel a deep sense of gratitude. This is a triumph of democracy, in a way," he said.

Finland introduced citizens' initiatives to the lawmaking process in March 2012.

The new form of direct democracy allows one or more Finnish citizens to propose the amendment or repeal of existing legislation. If 50,000 Finnish citizens sign on with their support within six months of submitting the proposal, the Finnish Parliament is then obliged to discuss it in plenary session.

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