Kylylahti was a medium-sized multi-metal mine in Eastern Finland. It was located in the rural municipality of Polvijärvi, which has about 4.500 inhabitants, situated 2 km from the municipality center. Kylylahti was an underground mine with a 113 hectares mining area positioned in the historic mining district of Outokumpu . The main production of Kylylahti was copper, zinc, and gold. With less volume, it additionally produced cobalt and nickel . The Kylylahti mine was founded in 1984 by Outokumpu Ltd Exploration. However, the mine did not start its operations until 2012, then owned by Altona Mining Ltd. By 2014, Kylylahti was acquired by the Swedish company Boliden Ltd. In 2015 the name changed to Boliden Kylylahti Ltd . At the end of the year 2020, the mine closed down .
Finland is known for promoting mining activities on its land. It is considered one of the most inviting countries for mining companies. With a simple announcement to the state, the government grants mining explorations. Furthermore, Finland offers laws to foment mining, such as low taxation, building infrastructure, and offering to help finance mining companies . The origins of the modern mining industry in Finland began in the early 20th century with the Outokumpu copper mine. At that moment, until the 1990s, most Finnish mines were operated by national companies. However, after the rapid boom in the early 2000s, the Finnish mining industry has not stopped growing and has become a global commerce where many foreign companies, and every time fewer local corporations, benefit from it . Today, the Finnish government continues to augment mining exploration, making mining progressively an important income source for the country .
The mining thrive in Finland has caused numerous conflicts. Most of these are associated with sustainability and acceptance of the local communities affected by the mine. Therefore, a lot of research has been done concerning how to obtain social licenses, and how to achieve coexistence between the livelihoods of the communities and extractivism . Two of the most known conflicts in Finland related to mining are the Talvivaara multi-metal mine case and the Outokumpu copper mine case. Both mines had very high environmental impacts .
The Boliden Kylylahti however, has been described as a low-key, socially unnoticed and invisible, project. Because of this, the first impression is that the Kylylahti mine was accepted by the local communities and the potential people affected by the mine . Nevertheless, because of the past experiences that the Finnish citizens had with the Talvivaara and the Outokumpu mines, certain concerns arose with the Kylylahti mine. Therefore, even if it seemed like a peaceful mining case, different worries and conflicts emerged.
The key external stakeholders of the Kylylahti mine, announced by the mining company, were the authorities, investors and business partners, residents of the surrounding area, local landowners and environmental organizations, universities, and finally, consumers . When the environmental impact assessment was launched in 2006, a survey was conducted on different stakeholders. This is when the different worries came to light. Some stakeholders presented their worry regarding traffic safety near the area of the mining project . Other worries include transportation increase, noise, and dust, among others . In the municipality of Polvijärvi, traffic is usually quiet. So, an increase of about 60 trucks a day was very significant. Many citizens expressed safety worries. Truck drivers were driving too fast, and some also complained that drivers did not stick to the agreed timetable. Therefore, many local people were scared to walk around the roads. Especially worried were the people living right next to the road. Besides permanent settlements, there were also resort villages and summer cottages in the surroundings, which impacted tourism as well. The mining company declared that the traffic problems were not their responsibility. According to them, it is the government that should provide safer infrastructure. Ultimately, a roundabout was constructed to make the area safer . Additionally, a bridge was built so that local people could use the same route they have been using for their outdoor activities. A further issue, which quietened down after the project started, was related to housing. Local communities saw the company as responsible for building new housing for miners, which the company always refuted .
The mining company, most recently Boliden Ltd., owned most of the land where the mine was located. This of course had an impact on previous landowners, who lost their plot of terrain and were only compensated by a small payment. There was no government aid . Furthermore, it was negatively seen that the company operating the mine was not local. It led to suspicions whether the project was going to be beneficial for the Finnish citizens, or if the only beneficial party would be the mining company . In fact, on Boliden’s webpage, the main information is only presented in Swedish and English, which is not received positively amongst the different Finnish stakeholders affected by the mine, especially the local community . Moreover, when a mine operation is planned, locals generally expect high economic revenues for their country, and in return, for themselves. In the case of the Kylylahti mine, the municipality tried to help local companies to take advantage of the different opportunities provided by the new project. They even tried to support small local start-up companies. Nevertheless, the mining company is such a big player, that smaller businesses almost did not have a chance to compete with them. For this kind of activity, it is necessary to have a minimum of equipment and machinery besides having the capacity to produce with the lowest cost possible. Therefore, local companies did not manage to succeed, which meant lower economic compensation for Finnish citizens .
Regarding environmental impacts, the main concern among the local people was the contamination of the Lake Polvijärvi. Citizens were worried about the ability of the Lake to produce sufficient process water. This worry emerged because of the bad reputation mining companies had in Finland after the case of the Outokumpu mine where wastewater polluted the groundwater and surface water .
Another concern was whether the company would clean up the mining site after finishing its operations, or if they would just abandon it. This is why in 2006 the movement Pro Polvijärvi emerged . Because of this movement, the mining company decided that instead of obtaining water from the Lake Polvijärvi, they would obtain the water from the old talc mine close by .
However, the conflicts did not stop here. In 2014 Boliden Ltd. obtained a permit for the expansion of the enrichment plant. The Luikonlahti mill was, since 2012, used for processing the minerals transported from the Kylylahti mine . This permit allowed the company to increase its production from 550.000 tonnes of ore to 800.000 tonnes. Additionally, the plant received a permit to increase the volume of the enrichment pool and build a new one nearby. This led the local people from Luikonlahti to start a new social movement in 2014 called Ei Kaavivaaraa, which was against the new environmental permit. Different protests were organized to claim their worries. The biggest fear was related to emissions and water pollution. The mining company answered by promising to reduce the environmental impacts by recycling water in the region . In the last years of the mine, the social movement was quiet, with no further protests.
The Kylylahti mine represents a case that shows how, even if it has not been noticeable outside the stakeholders affected, local conflicts can be reduced by allowing the company to work together with the rest of the stakeholders. Even if there were substantial social and environmental conflicts, as the local communities felt like they had a say and could participate in the decision-making, the mine was locally accepted. Besides offering jobs, the mining company listened to the local’s concerns, which facilitated the credibility, trust, and approval of the mine .