Exploration, claims and the EIA procedure

Under the provisions of the Mining Act, exploration can be carried out in the form of an activity that resembles everyman's right, or, alternatively, under an exploration permit.

Exploration is permitted on another’s land, but it is subject to the conditions laid down in the Mining Act. With regard to nature reserves, provisions and regulations laid down in the Nature Conversation Act are applied to them.

Exploration is commenced through conducting regional investigations, which are surveys in nature and may cover wide areas. Such investigations include bedrock, soil and geophysical surveys (for example, low altitude surveys), as well as various geochemical surveys ranging from regional to wide areas in scope. An exploration permit alone is insufficient to allow exploitation of a deposit, but the holder of the permit has the priority for a mining permit in the exploration area.

In the early phases of exploration, the environmental impact is usually minimal, and, for example, activities carried out during a uranium exploration phase normally give rise only to an insignificant environmental impact resulting from radiation. The radiation effect created by drilling differs only negligibly from that created by drilling a bore well or from other drilling activity related to exploration for ores or minerals. Drilling does not raise the level of background radiation.

A claim entitles the holder to analyze the quality of the deposit

A ‘claim’ refers to the right to carry out exploration for mining minerals in the area specified in the prospecting license in the purpose of analyzing the quality and extent of the deposit in question. In order to investigate the extent to which a deposit can be exploited, the claimholder is entitled, under the Mining Act, to carry out diamond drilling, excavate exploratory trenches, drain the area, perform test mining, and carry out ore dressing in a test purpose. With regard to uranium deposits, if the results of diamond drilling suggest that the deposit is sufficiently rich and of substantial size, test mining should be carried out. In such a case, the radiation effect depends on the concentrations, extent and location of the deposit in the test stope.

Test mining and dressing are subject to supervision by STUK. Test dressing of uranium requires a further permit as stipulated by the Nuclear Energy Act.

Environmental effect assessment

The environmental effect assessment procedure of mining projects is stipulated by the Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure (EIA) Act. The environmental Impact Assessment Procedure seeks to provide information on the environmental impact of a mining project and its alternatives. The information thus produced is helpful for the project responsible in the planning of the project; it provides the authorities with a power of decision in the matter with a foundation on which to base their decision-making; and it encourages participation of the various communities, residents and other stakeholders. This procedure is aimed at supporting the project planning process and at according a greater weight to the various environmental aspects. The environmental effect assessment procedure seeks to foresee potential, significant environmental effects, preventing them from occurring and mitigating them when they do occur. it also directs the necessary precautions in a direction where they address the right issues.

Detailed information on the environmental effect assessment procedure is available in a guide published in Finnish by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, entitled ‘Ympäristövaikutusten arviointimenettely kaivoshankkeissa’ (‘The environmental effect assessment procedure in mining projects’).

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