Preparations for new environmental permit applications
Terrafame received several key permit decisions from the Vaasa Administrative Court in 2016.
When Terrafame began operations, the main environmental permit processes were pending in the Vaasa Administrative Court (VAC). These included the environmental and water management permit that covers all mining operations including uranium recovery (RSAA decision No. 36/2014/1), an environmental permit for water emissions along the old discharge routes (RSAA decision No. 52/2013/1) and an environmental permit for the Nuasjärvi discharge pipe (RSAA decision No. 43/2015/1).
Decisions made by the Vaasa Administrative Court in 2016
On 28 April 2016, the VAC issued decisions on all of the key permit processes. At the same time, the VAC ordered that the above-mentioned environmental and water permits would be valid until the end of 2018, or until new environmental permits have been given legal force. In this context, the VAC ordered Terrafame to apply for new environmental and water management permits from the Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland (RSAA) by 31 August 2017. Since the company has appealed against the VAC decisions on the permits, the process will continue in the Supreme Administrative Court, which is expected to give its ruling during 2017 at the earliest.
The sulphate quota set for the Nuasjärvi discharge pipe by the VAC was 15,000 tonnes per year, which was clearly lower than the limit specified in the permit issued by the Regional State Administrative Agency. In 2016, 13,600 tonnes of the quota was used, i.e., the quota was sufficient and enabled the reduction of the amount of water stored at the mining are, which was essential for safely implementing the ramp-up of the mine.
With a view to any future permit processes, Terrafame launched two EIA (environmental impact assessment) procedures in the autumn of 2016. The EIA procedure for water management reached the report preparation phase in 2016. We also submitted an EIA programme for the continuation and development of mining operations, as well as an alternative for implementing a managed closure of the mine, to the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for the Kainuu region for for comments. The new EIAs will be completed in the spring and summer of 2017, and Terrafame will submit them to the Regional State Administrative Agency for Northern Finland within the time limit prescribed by the Vaasa Administrative Court.
Other permit processes pending in 2016
In addition to the above-mentioned permit processes, Terrafame has a number of individual environmental permit matters pending with the RSAA. In March 2015, the previous mine operator filed an application with the RSAA concerning the final disposal of deposits from water treatment. The matter is being considered by the RSAA, and Terrafame expects to get a decision during 2017. The timetable for the final disposal of deposits depends on the timetable for the emptying of the water storage facilities.
In March 2016, Terrafame filed a permit application for a centralised water treatment plant. The plant’s processes were started and adjusted according to the trial operation report submitted to the RSAA in November and December. An environmental permit decision (No. 3/2017/1) was obtained for the plant on 4 January 2017, after which the plant was put into operation.
In October 2016, the company filed an application with the RSAA for the construction of a separate waste rock area to be located east of the quarry. The permit decision is expected in the spring of 2017, which would enable construction of the required water-tight structures during the summer of 2017 and use of the first parts of the waste rock area in late 2017.
In addition to the actual environmental permit processes described above, compensation cases related to both water intake and water emissions were pending at the RSAA in 2016. These processes were transferred from the previous mine operator to Terrafame in connection with the transfer of environmental permits and the related liabilities. Terrafame has settled the matter related to water-power compensations and also seeks to settle other compensation cases directly with the parties concerned where possible.