|An example of a Norwegian fjord // Photo by Tore Paulsen via freeimages.com|
by Natalie Paris, The Daily Telegraph, December 16, 2015
Norway is in danger of losing its reputation as a country of unspoilt natural landscapes if a proposal to dump waste in one of its fjords goes ahead.
Nordic Mining is planning to deposit waste in the Førde Fjord, in the Sunnfjord region of western Norway, much to the concern of local tour operators, hoteliers, cruise companies, politicians and environmentalists.
The plans involve the removal of minerals from a nearby mountain and pumping 6.5 tons of heavy metal and 10 tons of chemical waste into a fjord every day for 50 years. The fjord is a spawning ground for salmon and cod and the proposed project has been called a “catastrophe for modern business” by the Norwegian tourist board for the area, Visit Fjordkysten AS.
“This whole matter is damaging to Norway’s reputation as an environmentally friendly nation,” said Christine Gaffney from The Travel Designer, a high-end Scandinavian tour company.
“Most visitors to Norway have the fjords on top of their list. Innovation Norway uses the slogan 'Powered by Nature’ in their marketing, and that creates a certain expectation. The fjord region is promoted, through pictures and articles, as a pristine, clean, safe, untouched and environmentally conscious destination.”
She said Askvoll and the western archipelago were particularly important as the culture and history of coastal fishing and farming communities here can still be seen today in local barrel-making, fishnet repair and boatbuilding businesses.
Hurtigruten, which runs cruises through the fjords, said several Norwegian authorities had announced objections to the project, including the Norwegian environment agency. “The Norwegian Western fjords have, on several occasions, been declared and awarded the world’s most beautiful destination,” said Daniel Skjeldam, Hurtigruten’s CEO. “We are worried that a subsea fill of such size would impair the value of this area.”
Vegard Heggem, an ex-Liverpool FC footballer who now runs a nearby salmon fishing lodge, said he is worried about how the mining waste will affect salmon stocks. “Two rivers, the Nausta and the Jølstra, run into the Førde fjord,” he told Telegraph Travel. “The salmon juveniles from these rivers have to swim right through the area where the dumping is planned when they go for their long feeding migration in the open sea.
“We are concerned about potential chemical and mechanical damage from the mining waste, reduced access to food [the salmon juveniles, called 'smolt’, start feeding the moment they live the river], shock waves from the blasts and so on.”
Hilde Solheim, director at Virke Reise, which represents Norwegian businesses, said: “The Fjords are the strongest brand in Norwegian tourism.
“Some severely endangered species of fish use the deep parts of the fjord, where the waste will be, as breeding grounds. These areas will be ruined forever.”
Norway’s ministry of climate and environment is currently preparing a case on the issue for the government to consider.
Nordic Mining denies that the environment will be harmed by its activities, however. Last month, it stated that the Norwegian environment agency’s claims regarding deterioration to the fjord’s ecosystem were based on “undocumented estimates and uncertain information”.
Ivar Fossum, Nordic Mining’s CEO, told Telegraph Travel that the waste deposits (tailings) will not prevent fishing in the fjords and that the waste would not pollute the food chain as the few additives in the deposits are biodegradable.
“The mine tailings will have limited and temporary impact on the benthic fauna in the disposal area, and will not damage the ecosystem or any of the registered breeding places in the fjord,” he said.
“The disposal area is limited to five per cent of the total sea floor.”
He said that the proposals had been subject to impact assessments going back to 2007 that verify that the disposal is a safe and sustainable solution.
This article was written by Natalie Paris from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.