The proposed Act includes provisions concerning the rights and obligations of parties engaged in ore prospecting, mining and gold panning, both during their operations and as termination measures are taken, including aftercare.
While securing the preconditions for mining and ore prospecting more effectively than before, the new Act takes account of environmental issues, citizens' fundamental rights, landowners' rights and municipalities' opportunities to influence decision-making. The Act reconciles various public and private interests and thereby, as a whole and insofar as possible, takes due account of the various competing interests.
The right to ore prospecting, mining activity and gold panning
It is possible to engage in ore prospecting in the form of prospecting work, and this is comparable with rights of public access. However, an exploration permit is required if the activity poses any risk to people’s health, general safety or other industrial and commercial activity, or any deterioration of values concerning the landscape or nature conservation. Without exception, an exploration permit is required for uranium prospecting.
It is possible to grant priority with respect to a reservation in a manner corresponding to the current practice: a reservation grants the holder priority when applying for an exploration permit, forming the basis of the right to exploit a deposit. Exploitation of gold deposits in the soil through panning in an area owned by the State requires a permit for gold panning.
The consideration of a permit is based on a comprehensive approach, on the one hand taking account of the needs of prospecting and mining, whilst on the other considering factors such as the status of landowners and private parties sustaining damage. Moreover, impacts of activities on the environment, landscape, land use and safety, the economic use of natural resources and nature conservation, radiation safety and the reconciliation of user needs in different areas need to be taken into account.
Regulations included in the permit can be used to reduce and limit the damage caused by operations to public and private interests. Activities based on the permit cannot be launched before the permit is legally valid and the required collateral has been deposited.
Exploration permits and gold panning permits are issued for a fixed term but exploration permits, renewed at regular intervals, may be valid for a considerably longer period than at present, i.e. up to 15 years. The maximum validity of a gold panning permit is no longer subject to restrictions. In the main, a mining permit is valid until further notice.
The Government may grant a permit to utilise an area in the possession of another party for mining activity, if the mining project is required for some public need. The procedures for establishing a mining area involve the claiming of rights to land use and of other rights to the areas for the holder of the mining permit, the determination of compensation, and conducting the required measures of land subdivision.
Mining safety is based on requirements set on the mining activity operator’s management system, and advance supervision based on a mining safety permit.
Increase in compensation to landowners
As is currently the case, the holder of an exploration permit, mining permit and gold panning permit will be obliged to compensate in full for any damage and harm caused. Furthermore, the licence holder will continue to pay annual compensation to owners of land in the prospecting area, mining area and gold panning area, and the amounts of such compensation will be revised.
For the first four years, compensation for an exploration permit area totals EUR 20 per hectare. The compensation will increase gradually after the fourth year. Compensation for gold panning totals EUR 50 per hectare. The claim fee paid to the state (EUR 6.75/ha) will be abolished.
The mining permit holder has to pay the landowner an annual excavation fee, totalling EUR 50 per hectare and a further excavation fee totalling 0.15 per cent of the value of mining minerals excavated and exploited during the year.
Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) - the mining authority responsible for permit consideration
Mining authority duties will be transferred from the Ministry of Employment and the Economy to the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency Tukes. The mining authority is responsible for granting permits and supervising compliance with legislation. Mining authority duties will be handled at the mining unit established by Tukes in Rovaniemi.
The new Mining Act takes account of other key legislation applicable to ore prospecting and mining activity, including the Environmental Protection Act, the Nature Conservation Act, the Act on the Protection of Wilderness Reserves, the Land Use and Building Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and legislation applicable to the Sami Homeland, the Skolt area and reindeer herding area. The aim has been to reconcile the Act with other legislation, in order to form a consistent entity.
The Nuclear Energy Act is also amended in connection with the adoption of the new Mining Act. Permit applications concerning a uranium mine under the Nuclear Energy Act and Mining Act are handled jointly and are decided on in a single decision by the Government. The granting of such a permit requires, inter alia, that the mining project activities are in line with the overall interests of society, that the municipality in question has given its consent, and safety requirements are being complied with.
Previously granted mining rights for gold panning will be terminated after a transitional period of nine years. Under the new Act, holders of rights have the prerogative to apply for a gold panning permit for the corresponding area. Starting in July 2020, gold panning will be permitted in the Lemmenjoki National Park based on traditional methods only.
For further information, please contact:
Anja Liukko, Senior Legal Advisor, MEE, tel. +358 10 606 2078
Pekka Suomela, Chief Inspector of Mines, MEE, tel. +358 10 606 3727