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A sustainable mining in the Arctic

Published: 14 October 2016

Opportunities and challenges of sustainable mining in the Arctic, were the topics during two days at the House of Science in Luleå. It is the host nation for the Arctic Council, the United States that have chosen to locate Conference Best Practices for Mining and Sustainable Development in the Arctic, to Luleå

– We are very excited to host this workshop in the Arctic in the city of Luleå because of its long standing association with the mining industry and the presence of Luleå University of Technology, a leading academic institution on all aspects of mining, especially in the Arctic, says ambassador Mary Burce Warlick, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources.

The Arctic Council was founded 20 years ago. The Arctic Council has eight member countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States. In addition, six organizations representing Arctic indigenous peoples have status as Permanent Participants.The Arctic region is also called the country below the Great Bear (the familiar constellation that is visible from the North Pole all over the year) and maybe that gives a picture of the areas involved. The Arctic Council is working for a responsible development of the region.

– I think that a general challenge to sustainable mining in the Arctic is that we are talking about areas that are highly environmentally sensitive and not so populated, with long distances and high costs when it comes to developing mining. During this conference, I hope we will discuss the social aspects of mining. I myself come from the purely technical side of mining and wish to discuss it from a more holistic perspective, says Pär Weihed, director of the Centre of Advanved Mining and Metallurgy (CAMM) at Luleå University of Technology.

The chair of the Arctic Council rotates between the member states and held by the United States 2015-2017. Previous workshops during this period have been in Reykjavik on Iceland, Nuuk on Greenland, Helsinki in Finland, and now it takes place in Luleå.

– From my point of view, the challenges of pursuing a sustainable mining vary from country to country but if I think of Finland and Sweden an important question, is the use of land. There are many other than the mining industry who are interested in the land in the Arctic, such as reindeer herders, tourism and forestry. Then there may be conflicts that we need to find common sustainable solutions to, says Riikka Aaltonen, Senior Adviser Of Mineral Policy at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment for the Government of Finland..

–I believe that a key challenge is to develop a sustainable mining industry so that it is sustainable both environmentally and economically. Therefore it is very important to develop new technologies for mining, said Joseph T. Figueiredo, Program Manager for the US Department of State's Bureau of Energy Resources Energy Programs Office.

Mr. Phil Hopwood, Global Mining Leader, Deloitte showed on different challenges and trends in the mining and minerals market. He gave his views on the main challenges for the market in terms of sustainable mining in the Arctic. Two of them were:

– Infrastructure and courage to believe in the development of the assets available in the Arctic. The forecast on the market look good to meet that challenge, he said.