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Municipality approves Terrafame uranium extraction

Councillors in Sotkamo have voted to approve uranium extraction at the Terrafame mine. The permit still requires approval from central government.

Terrafamen kaivosalueen rajalla.
Terrafamen kaivosalueen rajalla. Image: Pasi Peiponen / Yle

Terrafame, the state-owned firm now running the mine that previously went bankrupt under the Talvivaara name, has taken a step towards getting official approval for its plans to extract uranium.

Councillors in the municipality of Sotkamo, in northern Finland, voted by 21 votes to 6 to approve the firm's plan to extract uranium. The plan still requires approval from central government.

"Sotkamo municipality views it as more appropriate to recover the uranium and use it than to treat it as waste, which would in any case have to be dealt with via some sort of process," said chair of the council Anne Lukkari.

The company would only be allowed to extract uranium from a certain area, and security and safety would be safeguarded as a condition of the municipality's approval. Terrafame is aiming to get approval to start recovering uranium this year and begin production within two years.

Terrafame was founded by the state to rescue the troubled Talvivaara mine after a string of environmental crimes, waste water leaks and cash flow problems led to the firm's bankruptcy.

The company was at the centre of a scandal in 2016 when it emerged that it had received state funds approved by the Prime Minister Juha Sipilä shortly before awarding a contract to a firm with links to Sipilä's family. The Parliamentary Ombudsman cleared Sipilä of wrongdoing after an investigation.

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