Out of sight, out of mind

March 6, 2018

“The world is hungry for mineral resources, there are hundreds of millions of people to be brought up to a decent standard of living, but it requires raw materials. Norway must seize the genre to secure the world’s access to valuable minerals – and so we may have to withstand some waste in the fjords. ”

– Trond Giske, Norwegian Minister of Industry (2009 – 2013)

Throughout our short history of existence, we, Homo sapiens, have both disturbed and destroyed ecosystems. If we knew how many species we already have exterminated, and the repercussions of our interference, we would perhaps give more thought to the environmental consequences of our actions, in our everlasting hunt for progress and economic growth. No matter how much we possess, there seems to always be a strive for more, and we never stop. Once we experience something comfortable, its hard to give it up, and few of us are willing to have less, so others can have more, be they human or non-human. But it is not a comfortable taught that we are doing any harm, so we close our eyes to the uncomfortable.

The increase of mining along the Norwegian coast leads to a desire to exploit the fjords as a dumping site for mine waste. It’s cheap and simple, and most of all – it keeps the waste out of sight.  Mining itself has a large negative impact in the environment. The most tangible impact comes in the form of noise and dust, intrusion on the landscape, and the emission of pollutants into the air and surrounding watercourses, lakes and groundwater. The mining industry is also a major consumer of energy and water. However, the most significant environmental aspect of mines is linked to the management of mining waste.

Norway is one of five countries in the world that still allows dumping of mining waste in the sea, and the only one that plans for new seafills. In 2015 the Norwegian government approved the plan to mine Engebø mountain in south-west Norway for rutile, a titanium mineral used for pigments in toothpaste, food, paint, plastics etc. This mountain has among the world’s largest prevalence of these specific minerals. Over the anticipated 30 year life of the mine, it is planned to dump 250 million tonnes of waste from its operations into the adjacent Førde Fjord, one of the country’s most important spawning grounds for cod and salmon and a site where whales and porpoises congregate.

In the process of making the decision on whether to allow these plans, there were listed both positive and negative consequences. All the negative consequences on this list concerns the environment, while all the positive consequences are economic. The winning argument is that this new mine will put up to 110 people to work for several decades, and bring economic growth to the local communities.

Førdefjorden is one of Norway’s 29 National salmon fjords, and is under special environmental protection. Its home to species listed as highly threatened.  When we dump millions of tons of sand and fines in our fjords, it leads to destruction of the ecosystem, and extinction of species at the bottom of the immediate area. Some of the chemicals emitted by the mining waste are toxic. Finely divided waste most likely to spread with the currents and affect a much larger area.  Both larger fish and the benthos will be affected when dumping mine waste in the fjord.

”Yes, several species are likely to be exterminated locally in this fjord, but it is not like they don’t exist elsewhere.”

– Jan Tore Sanner, Norwegian Minister of Local Government and Modernisation, 2015

In this study I want to critically care for Førdefjorden. I want to know more about the environmental consequences of dumping mine waste it to the fjord, and about the alternatives. I want to know more about the inhabitants of this fjord, and I would like to tell their story. It seems to me that it is easier to dismiss species we don’t know, and rarely or never interact with.

 

Kari
Readings:

Haraway, Donna ‘Tentacular Thinking: Athropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene’, in e-flux #76, September 2016 http://www.e-flux.com/journal/75/67125/tentacular-thinking-anthropocene-capitalocene-chthulucene/

Turpin, Etienne, ed. (2013), ‘Introduction’ in Architecture in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Design, Deep Time, and Philosophy, Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, Michigan Publishing, 2013. http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/architecture-in-the-anthropocene/

”Marinbiologisk tilleggsundersøkelse i Førdefjorden”, Nordic Rutile AS, DNV GL – Report No. 2014-1193, Rev A, Doc. No.: 18BHORT-10, 2014-09-15.

https://www.sgu.se/en/mineral-resources/mines-and-environmental-impact/

http://www.nordicmining.com/engebo-project/category317.html

https://forskning.no/forurensning-miljovern-geofag/2011/11/gruvedriftens-dilemma

https://nu.no/saker/gruver/fakta-gruver/2015/05/10-fakta-mot-dumping-av-av-gruveavfall-i-sjo/

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