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Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel firm to set up research centre in metals mine

A co-founder of the Finest Bay company says work on the tunnel could be done as soon as the beginning of 2025.

Pyhäsalmen kaivosalue ilmakuvassa syksyllä 2020
Pyhäsalmi mine is the deepest base metal mine in Europe and features a 100-km network of tunnels. Regular mining operations at the site are scheduled to end later this year. Image: Timo Nykyri / Yle

Finest Bay Area Development, which has plans to dig a tunnel connecting Finland and Estonia, has announced plans to establish a research centre at the Pyhäsalmi mine in Northern Ostrobothnia.

Kustaa Valtonen, Finest Bay's founding partner, said the firm signed an agreement about the project with the town of Pyhäjärvi last week.

"We will carry out various tests and pilots related to the tunnel's construction [at the site]," Valtonen said.

He noted that the mine is also suitable for training tunnel construction workers.

Measuring more than 1.4 km below the surface, Pyhäsalmi mine is the deepest base metal mine in Europe and features a 100-km network of tunnels.

Traditional mining operations at the site are scheduled to end later this year.

The town of Pyhäjärvi's mayor, Henrik Kiviniemi, said he was pleased that operations at the mine will continue, noting that the goal of the agreement was to minimise the negative effects of its shutting down.

Finest Bay Area Development, led by entrepreneur Peter Vesterbacka, considers the mine to be an interesting site to help the company carry out tests and other tunneling efforts, according to Valtonen.

He said that the training efforts will be done in cooperation with local educational institutions, local universities and polytechnic schools. According to the company,

Valtonen also claimed that once the site is set up the mine will create jobs for locals.

"It is still difficult to assess the employment impact at this stage, but yes, this will have some kind of employment effect locally," he explained.

Tunnel plans and promises

Finest Bay's Vesterbacka, is best known for his role in the success of the mobile game Angry Birds several years ago.

He has said the construction of the tunnel linking Finland's Helsinki area to Tallinn, Estonia would employ 30,000 people annually over the course of six years. Around 24,000 of those workers would come from Finland, according to the firm.

Valtonen noted that the tunnel project was not only an underground effort, as there are plans to construct skyscrapers and other buildings atop man-made islands along the tunnel's path.

Story continues after photo.

Rendering of buildings on artificial island on Gulf of Finland planned by Finest Bay Area Development.
Rendering of buildings on artificial island on Gulf of Finland planned by Finest Bay Area Development. Image: Finest Bay Area Development

"So the project will be a very significant employer, if it is implemented," Valtonen explained.

The topic of the firm's tunnel effort could even be raised during Estonian Prime MInister Kaja Kallas' visit to Finland on Friday, he added, noting that creating a tunnel linking the Baltic and Nordic countries is included in the Estonian's government programme.

Finest Bay plans finance the big dig and construction effort privately. In 2019, the firm signed a letter of intent regarding a 15 billion euro investment deal with Chinese investor Touchstone Capital Partners.

That same year, the firm also inked a deal with China Railway Group Limited (CREC), said to be the world's largest building company, to the construction effort.

Valtonen said that construction of the tunnel could be completed as soon as the beginning of 2025, if the tunnel's route is nailed down this year. Actual drilling of the tunnel is estimated to take more than two years.

Meanwhile, Valtonen said that an environmental impact study is underway in Finland and a similar one is being carried out in Estonia.

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