New environmental permit filed on schedule
Major work in permit process issues was the preparation of an environmental permit application covering all of Terrafame's operations. As background work to this, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures for water management and mining operations were also finalised. In addition, Terrafame filed a licence application for uranium recovery with the Government.
The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) issued rulings on all Terrafame’s key permit decisions in May 2017. These included the environmental and water management permit that covers all mining operations (including uranium recovery, RSAA decision No. 36/2014/1), an environmental permit for water emissions along the old discharge routes (RSAA decision No. 52/2013/1) and an environmental permit for the Nuasjärvi discharge pipe (RSAA decision No. 43/2015/1).
The SAC upheld the ruling issued by the Vaasa Administrative Court (VAC) in April 2016, according to which Terrafame should apply for a new environmental permit covering all operations by 31 August 2017.
The new permit process was prepared using two EIA procedures
Terrafame had already launched two EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) procedures in the autumn of 2016. The EIA report on water management was submitted in April 2017 to the Kainuu Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) acting as coordinating authority, and the EIA report on the continuation and further development of mining operations was submitted in August 2017.
The ELY Centre issued its statement on the EIA report on water management in July, and the statement on the EIA report on the mining operations in December 2017.
The environmental permit application covering all operations was submitted in August
The environmental permit application covering all operations was filed within the time limit prescribed by the SAC, i.e. at the end of August 2017.
The application filed in August is seeking a new environmental and water management permit for Terrafame’s multi-metal mine and metals recovery processes, including all auxiliary processes. The application covers current operations and incorporates new leaching, waste rock and waste areas to be constructed, as well as a partial increase in production capacity in respect of mining volumes and metals production.
The permit application proposed that the sulphate quota for the treated water discharge pipe should be 20,000 tonnes per year (currently 15,000 t/y). Thus, Terrafame wants to ensure safe water management in its area, even during years of heavy rainfall. During years of normal rainfall, the company’s sulphate emissions are under half of the quota applied for, as demonstrated by load statistics for 2017. The permit limit proposals for metals follow the current permits.
The environmental permit decision is expected in the first half of 2019. Terrafame’s current environmental permits, confirmed by the SAC, will remain in force until the new environmental permit is enforceable and final.
Progress in other permit issues
In addition to the environmental permit process concerning all operations, Terrafame also had separate permit issues pending with the Northern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency (RSAA). In January 2017, the RSAA granted an environmental permit for the new centralised water treatment plant, and in September, an environmental permit for the construction of a separate waste rock area. The RSAA also issued a permit decision on the final disposal of deposits from water treatment incurred in the past and located in various parts of the site. Following the decision, the goetubes including water treatment precipitate can be disposed of in their location by using an impermeable structure for the cover. This decision was a partial refusal, so the final disposal of the deposits requires further planning and a new permit process.
Terrafame also has an environmental permit application pending with the RSAA for a third hydrogen sulphide plant, as well as compensation cases related to the existing permit decisions. Decisions on these are expected during 2018.
Terrafame filed an application for uranium recovery with the Finnish Government at the end of October. There is an almost complete uranium recovery plant at the company’s industrial site with a valid environmental permit and a chemicals permit granted by the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes). Uranium recovery is also included in the new environmental permit application covering all operations.