Collaborative Solutions to the Water Monitoring Challenges of the Sodankylä Mines

In early February, representatives from Sodankylä associations, clubs, and mining companies gathered at Kommatin Maja in Sodankylä to discuss challenges related to water monitoring. This meeting marked the initiation of a new collaborative water impact monitoring project among local stakeholders. The goal is to anticipate and prevent the water impacts of mining activities. The project, funded by the Nessling Foundation, will span one year.

While water is extensively studied, obtaining and understanding results can be challenging.

Previous studies revealed that existing information on water quality and the effects of mining on water is not easily accessible, especially in a form understandable to non-experts. Existing information is not always perceived as reliable either.

In this newly launched project, local stakeholders, in collaboration with mining companies, aim to develop solutions and practices to improve the accessibility and comprehensibility of existing information for the local community. Simultaneously, concrete questions and concerns are identified, requiring further investigation.

The project does not interfere with the actual water monitoring according to permit conditions but focuses on better utilizing the generated information and identifying information needs beyond monitoring obligations.

Can the water from Jeesiö river be consumed?

One of the tasks during the initial meeting was to define concrete questions to which participants seek answers. A long list of questions was compiled. The group pondered, for example, whether the water from the nearby river can be safely consumed during a power outage when tap water is unavailable. Concerns were raised about throwing river water onto the sauna stove and enjoying the steam without worrying about adverse effects. Questions were also raised about whether any substances harmful to nature or dangerous to humans accumulate in the reservoirs of hydroelectric power plants.

Xanthates used in mines raised broader concerns, and there was a perceived need for more information about them. Extensive discussions revolved around the interactions of various factors and changes in water quality over the long term. On one hand, information was sought about the historical state of the water in Kitis before various changes affected it. On the other hand, there was an interest in knowing the current water quality and how it is changing. Fish-related issues were widely discussed from both the perspective of fish and people. Concerns were expressed about the preservation, diversity, and reproduction of fish populations, as well as the safety of consuming fish and future fishing opportunities.

The project progresses by creating a common knowledge base

During the late winter, the project will focus on building a shared knowledge base for the working group. The plan is to invite experts to the group who can answer the questions presented, based on existing information, and possibly assess uncertainties related to monitoring data. The group is also interested in exploring ways of producing monitoring data, including familiarizing themselves with the collection and analysis of water samples. Long-term information production methods, such as collaboration with universities through various theses, were also considered.

The working group will continue to report on the progress of the project in the Sompio newspaper and during an open seminar held at the end of the year. The use of electronic communication channels will also be considered in the future.

Building a water monitoring model collaboratively with various local stakeholders

The water monitoring model is being developed collaboratively by local actors in Sodankylä, mining companies, and the municipality. The working group, which began its activities in February, includes representatives from Kersilö, Jeesiö, Sattanen, Rajala, and Vaalajärvi village associations, Sodankylä Fly Fishing Club, Sodankylä Fisheries Area, Lapland Recreational Fishermen Association, Sodankylä Church Village Fishing Water Joint Stock Company, Sompion Nature Friends Association, Sattasniemi, and Oraniemi Reindeer Herding Cooperatives, Sodankylä Municipality, Boliden Kevitsa Mining Ltd, AA Sakatti Mining Ltd, Rupert Resources, and Kemijoki Ltd. The group may be supplemented as needed. External experts from research institutions and the Regional State Administrative Agency (ELY Center) will be invited to support the work.

The collaboration process, planning, and implementation are overseen by Akordi, acting as a neutral party. Akordi provides tools and expertise to local stakeholders for reconciling different perspectives, creating a shared knowledge base, and finding solutions accepted by all parties.

Read more on the project page

This article was published in Finnish in the Sompio newspaper on March 8, 2023.