The President of the Republic of Finland has approved a bill passed by the Finnish Parliament to amend the Finnish Mining Act. This enables that exploration and mining permit applications will gain priority over competing applications prior to the completion of a Natura assessment or an environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure.
The approved amendment to the priority provisions of the 2011 Mining Act is welcomed as the initial wording of the Act secured the applicants priority over the application area only once the filed permit application fully satisfied the extensive requirements set out for a permit application, including, for example, a requirement to supplement the application with a Natura assessment document and/or an EIA report (including the reasoned conclusion regarding the EIA report).
In practice, the 2011 Mining Act forced, for example, exploration permit holders to commence any Natura assessment and EIA procedures well before the expiry of their exploration permits to secure their right to the exploration area, which resulted in leaving out the results of the final exploration phases from such environmental assessment procedures. As the newly approved amendment allows the mining permit applicants to secure their right to the area of interest even without the above-mentioned Natura and EIA documents, the applicants may now make use of the exploration period in full, complete their ongoing exploration campaigns and use of all of the gathered exploration results during their Natura and EIA procedures.
Furthermore, to avoid submitting vague and duplicate information to the mining authority during the application process, this amendment enables applications to be filed without certain environmental related information, provided that such information will be included in a subsequent Natura assessment and/or an EIA report.
Although the amendment facilitates the activities carried out by exploration and mining companies, the landowners and other stakeholders’ interests and rights will be fully respected as the passed amendment emphasises the mining authority’s responsibility to ensure that only those applications containing all mandatory documents and supplements may proceed to the public review stage.
The amendment will take effect on 1 May 2019 and will be applied to all applications regardless of their lodgement date.
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