Finnish mine stains river orange; company calls it an 'aesthetic problem'

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic

Workers halted the latest runoff of waste water from the nickel mine in northeastern Finland on Tuesday after the River Lumijoki near the mine turned red and orange. The discoloration extended several miles south of the mine.

The company blames a problem with sedimentation of iron at the Kortelampi neutralisation pond.

“The colour in the water is basically an aesthetic problem,” says the company’s communications director, Olli-Pekka Nissinen. “Iron and manganese are very effective at colouring water.”

The waste water release has been suspended until the reason for the discoloration is pinned down. Nissinen says that the heavy-metal content of the water has not risen and its pH levels are normal. The problem began Tuesday. Nissinen says that there was no sign of discoloration in water samples taken in the morning.

A chapter of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC) is skeptical about the firm’s explanations. It has already submitted water samples for analysis.

“According to reports from the field, the colour of the water corresponds to that during the gypsum pond leak last November,” says Janne Kumpulainen, head of the local FANC branch.

“I think the company’s downplaying of this is outrageous and follows its usual procedures when it thinks that there is no evidence to contradict its word. Our own samples have already been sent to a laboratory,” adds Kumpulainen.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.