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Goldmine project steamrolls on despite residents' complaints

An Australian company is preparing to open a mine in south-central Finland within a few months despite local opposition.

Valkeakosken Kaapelinkulma, kultakaivosalue.
Full steam ahead at Kaapelinkulma. Image: Marjut Suomi / Yle

Some residents of the Kaapelinkulma area of Valkeakoski, 40 km south of Tampere, are up in arms over a mining project in an outdoor recreation area close to a residential district. It is proceeding despite two pending legal complaints.

Australian-owned firm Dragon Mining has clear-cut part of the forest, which is now dotted with piles of gravel and sedimentation basins under construction.

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Valkeakosken Kaapelinkulma, kultakaivosalue.
The company hopes to open the mine within a few months. Image: Marjut Suomi / Yle

Neighbours tell Yle the former woodland was popular among berry and mushroom pickers, joggers and nature photographers.

Two formal complaints about the venture are still being considered by administrative courts in Vaasa and Hämeenlinna. However the company still plans to begin operations around the turn of the year.

“We have valid permits and will proceed according to our own schedule,” says Olli Pajula, a project manager at the Finnish subsidiary of Dragon Mining. The company also has goldmine exploration and development projects in Lycksele, Swedish Lapland, and Hanhimaa in the northern Finnish municipality of Kittilä.

Dozens of houses nearby

Some 40 houses lie within a two-kilometre radius of the Kaapelinkulma site, including old farmhouses and newly-built homes.

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Valkeakosken Kaapelinkulma, kultakaivosalue.
Sedimentation basins under construction Image: Marjut Suomi / Yle

Local resident Ritva Taskinen tells Yle that she and her neighbours have been battling to stop or limit the mining project for years without success.

“The mining company really doesn’t care at all about us,” she says. “If the mine doesn’t contaminate the groundwater right away, it’ll just be a matter of time.”

Her neighbour, Milja Heiskala, agrees. She is particularly saddened by the loss of the wild mushroom and berry-picking areas.

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Kaksi naista seisoo puutarhassa.
Milja Heiskala (right) and Ritva Taskinen are worried about Kaapelinkulma's future. Image: Marjut Suomi / Yle

“I’d like to go see how it looks now, but I haven’t yet because it’ll just make me feel bad,” she says.

Butterfly conservation area logged

The mine site is about four kilometres from the centre of Valkeakoski, and only some 750 metres from the nearest home.

A year ago, police launched an investigation into whether Dragon Mining illegally logged part of the 65-hectare Kaapelinkulma site that was a conservation area for an endangered species of butterfly, the woodland brown.

Dragon Mining says the trees were cut down by mistake. According to the newspaper Aamulehti, it has hired the consulting firm Ramboll to monitor the butterfly population, as ordered by the Pirkanmaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre).

Meanwhile on Monday, police said they had launched a preliminary investigation into another Dragon Mining site in Orivesi, just north of Tampere. An inspection by the Pirkanmaa ELY Centre found evidence of improper waste disposal at the site.

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