Barents region news

How nature reserves and industrial facilities coexist in the Barents Region

30 December 2019

To mitigate the environmental impact of human activity, new preserves and national parks are established worldwide. It is not uncommon that they are located in the vicinity of operating plants and/or mining operations. This is true for the High North, too.

Stuor Muorkke national and park Suorvva Dam

The Stora Sjöfallet (or Stuor Muorkke in Sámi) National Park, which is located 200 kilometers north of the Arctic circle in the Swedish province of Norrbotten, was founded as early as in 1909 following the example of Yellowstone National Park in the USA. The national park covers 1,278 square kilometers. One of the key area's natural treasures were five large waterfalls (of which only one survived to our days) – this is exactly why the whole place used to be referred to as “the Niagara of the North”.

However, the area seeming promising in terms of both mining and generating hydroelectric power, the economic considerations outweighed the environmental concerns, and, starting from the early 1920s, the National Park has seen some groundbreaking changes. Its large parts were turned into industrial zones, and a huge dam in Suorvvá, inside the Park's boundaries, was erected to supply the extracting and production facilities with electricity. Despite the fact that most of the mines in the area are presently out of operation, some serious irreparable damage has been done to the preserve. The worst part is that, after the dam level was raised several times, there is but one waterfall of five left – a mere shadow of its former glory itself. The whole story is still regarded as a reminder of how easily an ecosystem can be harmed.

Lomsdal-Visten National Park and Akselberg mine

The Lomsdal-Visten National Park is located in the Norwegian province of Nordland. This strictly protected area covering more than 1,000 square kilometers preserves numerous fjords, rivers and streams, as well as mountains and boreal forests that are home to a diverse and abundant wildlife community. The area also has considerable cultural and historical importance, as it bears the marks of human presence dating back to the Mesolithic period.

Not far from the preserve, a marble quarry owned by Brønnøy Kalk AS operates. It accounts for extracting around 2 million tonnes of calcite marble per year, used in part to produce eco-friendly paper. Under this technology, marble is used instead of clay, thus helping to save energy. This way, Brønnøy Kalk AS intends to compensate the damage done to nature.

Martimoaapa National Park and Metsä Fiber factory

The Martimoaapa-Lumiaapa-Penikat protected area is located in the municipalities of Simo and Keminmaa. This 134-square-kilometer protected area is home to about 100 bird species, as well as bears, lynxes and wolves.  The area is open to visitors who can practice birdwatching using watchtowers that have been bссuilt specifically for this purpose.

The preserve neighbors the city of Kemi, which hosts several factories producing cellulose, paper, and other materials derived from wood. One of the major cellulose producers, Metsä Fiber, intends to build a bio-product plant in this city in the near future.

Managing both the environmental protection and the use of natural resources is one of the toughest challenges faced by the present-day society. 

Kivach Nature ReserveKhavchozero mine

The Kivach Nature Reserve, one of the smallest country's protected areas, is located in the Republic of Karelia (Russia). However, by Western European standards, it is not that small: it covers some 110 square kilometers. The Reserve’s key landmarks are the Kivach Falls, one of the most impressive sights of the region, and adjacent taiga forests. For more than 40 years, it has been used by researchers to study bird migration, as well as for the purposes of eco-volunteer training.

There are operational mining facilities in the area neighboring the Kivach Reserve. One of them, the Khavchozero mine, is used to extract porphyrite, which is further processed to make mineral insulation, a material that sees a wide use in construction. The other one, the Viksha mine, is expected to become fully operational in 2025. Owned by Polymetal Int, it will work a large platinum and palladium deposit located beneath the area.