Opening Remarks by Minister Hautala at Conference on Socially and Environmentally Responsible Mining

Opening remarks by Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala at Conference on Socially and Environmentally Responsible Mining in Espoo,
27 November 2012

Organised by University of Eastern Finland, Ministry of Employment and Economy, the Academy of Finland, the Institute for Natural Resources, Environment and Society, Gaia Group

Dear participants,

- As we all know, a global mining boom has taken place since the beginning of the century with no foreseen slowdown of demand. It provides considerable risksas well as great opportunities.

- As it happens, Finland is in the middle of hectic discussion on responsibilities in connection to Talvivaara nickel mine in Sotkamo, North-east Finland. Therefore this conference and the toolkit for responsible mining, launched today, could provide us advice and expertise on how to better address environmental and social challenges, also for Talvivaara’s future.

- One cannot overemphasize the need of the mining sector actors to conduct an open and truthful dialogue with local people, environmental activists, media representatives and other stakeholders. This can provide a way to correct mistakes, improve processes and achieve better results.

- One of the four thematic areas of the Development policy programme of Finland is responsible management of natural resources.

- We note that the majority of the world’s poorest people live in countries with abundant natural resources. It can provide opportunities for those communities but also involves many risks to be tackled. As regards to management and use of natural resources, the rights of the local population must be guaranteed. The people affected by the mining operations must have a say how the extractive operations are planned and carried out.

- People affected by mining often feel deep injustice as the benefits seem to be reaped by a few. Norway is a country which has experience in sparing revenues for future needs, and this experience is today invaluable for many developing countries. Also Finland still has to decide on mining revenue funds, or mining tax which would benefit local people.

- The importance of accountability, openness and transparency of all parties - governments and enterprises alike - operating in the natural resource and extractive sectors cannot be stressed enough. There are currently several initiatives at local, national and global levels with different scope to increase accountability and transparency.

- Recent globally relevant and country-based initiatives, such as the EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) has shown its potential in enhancing transparency and through that knowledge for transformation of societies more broadly.

- We welcome also initiatives that would cover renewable natural resources. In Finland we have experience especially on forestry sector and this experience would be useful to share.

- Finland supports EITI and will be a member of its Board in 2014-2015. We support the additional transparency of the initiative with the view to permits, contracts, licenses as well as with appropriate linkages to national public financial management. Reporting with more current data and project-by-project/company-by-company-basis is most welcomed, as the potential to prevent tax avoidance and transfer mispricing, which is a globally relevant development issue

- I note that our guests here today are more advanced with their own EITI-processes than we here in Finland. Kyrgyzstan is an implementing and compliance country. Australia has announced that it will pilot EITI.

- At the national or country level the sustainable, resource-efficient and democratic management of natural resources should ensure that the revenues collected from natural resources benefit the country of origin and are dispersed throughout the population. In doing so, we need to keep in mind that these resources are non-renewable and the benefits should be extended to the future generations too.

- At the local and community level the high principles of global initiatives must be made concrete. The mine brings along investment, development and job opportunities, which are often welcome and needed. At the same time, however, any mining will have environmental and social changes no matter where it occurs. Therefore it is necessary to take into account the human rights and aspirations of affected communities. This means provision of safe, healthy and respectful workplaces as well as avoidance or minimization of harm to the environment, as well as compensations when things go wrong. Finally, when the mine closes, it needs to leave positive legacies behind.

- The negative impacts can be minimized by using best possible legislation and standards in implementation. Finland is supporting several of its developing country partners in this. For instance, jointly agreed frameworks and best standards can help to prevent conflicts and environmental disasters.

- Therefore I welcome the toolkit "Environmental Security, Mining and Good Governance within Wider Europe Initiative" which is funded by the Foreign Ministry of Finland and authored by Gaia Consulting, Zoï Environmental Network and experts from Kyrgyzstan. The new toolkit provides an area-based locally adapted tool for environmental and social impact assessment and conflict prevention.

- The project has been a good example of a successful cooperation between private and public sectors. Creating public-private - and public-private-people -partnerships for investments and new cooperation models that promote development is an important part of our development policy.