Barents region news

How nature reserves and industrial facilities coexist in the Barents Region

31 December 2019

Mines and industrial facilities neighboring wildlife preserves is not something unheard of. This is especially true for the Barents Region, which is known for both its pristine nature and mineral riches. Let us look at some examples of such coexistence.

Tanamunningen Nature Reserve and Gamasnes Quarry

The Tanamunningen Nature Reserve, established in 1991 in the Tana River’s delta, the largest untouched delta in Norway, serves to preserve a resting and living area for wetland birds, such as seagull, goose, duck, and many others. The place is widely viewed as a perfect spot for birdwatching, which attracts tens of thousands of birds for feeding, nesting, mating and taking rest at seasonal migration periods – and thousands of tourists and amateur photographers willing to admire the sight.

The area is also used for the purposes of mining: there is an operational quarry (Gamasnes) not far from the reserve producing minerals such as quartz and quartzite. Studies show that Gamasnes is a very large deposit whose development may further expand the local economy, boost the province’s profits, and, eventually, create additional jobs in the area. 

Muddus National Park and Malmberget Mine

The National Park in Muddus (municipality of Gällivare, Sweden), established in 1942 and covering about 500 square kilometers, is one of the country’s popular recreational areas famous for its untouched, pristine nature. Home for diverse species of birds and animals, such as moose, brown bear, sea eagle, common crane, and whooper swan, it attracts thousands of tourists from both Sweden and abroad. The special importance of this preservation area was recognized at the EU level when it became part of the Natura 2000, a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species and rare natural habitats.

The same municipality, Gällivare, is famous for being rich in deposits of metals and minerals. One of such deposits is worked at Malmberget, a small mining community. Both the community and the mine became known throughout the world after 2012, when a huge 60-meter sinkhole appeared in the vicinity of the Malmberget residential blocks, the event owing to the mine’s operations.

Lapland Nature Reserve and Apatit Plant

The Lapland Nature Reserve, located at the Kola Peninsula, is the country’s oldest strict protected area. Throughout its history, its boundaries have been reshaped more than once, and it has been closed and re-opened several times. Founded as early as in 1930, it covers a vast surface of some 2.8 thousand square kilometers comprising of taiga, tundra and mountainous areas that are part of the magnificent Khibiny massif. The Reserve serves as a stage for a range of ongoing research projects, managed by the Academy of Science, aiming at better understanding the nature of the Russian Lapland and finding better ways to protect the Arctic wildlife. It is also partially open to public: visitors are admitted to designated trails and zones within the Reserve to study nature or simply admire the view. 

However, the Reserve has to cope with the environmental pressure from its residential and industrial neighborhood. Back in 1983, it had to cede 124 square kilometers of its territory to the city of Monchegorsk and its industrial facilities, this step owing to the expansion of mining operations in the region. Nowadays, the Apatit company extracts apatite-nepheline from its ore deposits at the foot of the Khibiny mountains, several dozens kilometers away from the Reserve, and produces fertilizers in the vicinity of the Reserve at a chemical plant.

Pyhä-Luosto National Park and Lampivaara Mine

The Pyhä-Luosto National Park located in Eastern Lapland (Finland) used to be this country’s major logging area until mid-1950s, when it was decided to restrict it to recreational use only; later on, in 2005, this territory was turned into a national nature reserve with a view to safeguard the pristine forest and associated fauna. Historically, it means a lot to the indigenous Sami people, who have inhabited the region for centuries and regarded it as a place where many of their sacred sites were located. Nowadays, these holy sites can be admired by visitors from throughout the world – along with enormous old-growth pines and abundant Northern wildlife.

Amidst the park, there is the Lampivaara amethyst mine, which is located not far away from the Luosto recreation centre. Europe’s only active amethyst mine, it happens to operate right inside the nature reserve. Owned by Arctic Amethyst Ltd., a relatively small corporation, its output is mainly used in the jewelry industry. The mine cooperates with the reserve serving as one of its tourist attractions, with visitors flocking to find amethysts by themselves as part of the tour program.

As we can see, it is not uncommon for mines and plants to operate in the vicinity of – or even amidst – nature reserves, thus creating an array of environmental challenges. In this light, the more important it is to find ways to cope with these challenges and mitigate the impact of the extraction and production upon the environment.