Jyrki Hämäläinen, GTK
Jyrki Hämäläinen, GTK

Extractive sector

International framework

The development of seabed mining operations is part of the EU’s long-term blue growth strategy, which supports the growth of the marine and maritime sectors as a whole. Other sectors of blue growth include aquaculture, coastal and maritime tourism, blue biotechnology and marine energy. According to the strategy, seas and oceans are important engines of the European economy that hold significant innovation and growth potential.  Within the EU’s integrated maritime policy, blue growth promotes the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy, which aims for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

National framework

In the context of maritime spatial planning, the extractive sector is related to the use of seabed minerals. So far, extractive operations in Finland’s marine areas have been related to the small-scale extraction of materials, such as marine sand and gravel, for municipal construction, for example. A permit is required for marine sand extraction in accordance with the Water Act. In addition, a building permit or an environmental permit may be required for the storage and further processing of marine sand.

The Ministry of the Environment is preparing a report on the use of marine sand and mineral reserves (Exploitation of sea sand and mineral reserves in Finnish sea areas – recommendations for sustainable use, draft 10.9.2020). The report provides guidelines on good practices to promote the sustainable use of seabed sand, gravel and mineral reserves and manage the adverse impacts arising from such operations.

If operations related to mining minerals are started in marine areas in the future, in addition to the extraction of materials, such operations will be guided by the Mining Act. For example, seabed minerals, such as iron and manganese deposits, may become critical raw material reserves in the future. The Mining Act also concerns mining operations extending under the sea from a land area, for example.

The Territorial Surveillance Act provides for seabed exploration and survey operations in Finland’s territorial waters. Permission from the Defence Forces is required for geological or geophysical studies to examine the seabed or its internal shape, structure or composition. The permit requirement also applies to the systematic measurement and recording of the topographic shape of the seabed.

The Act on the Exclusive Economic Zone of Finland provides for extractive sector operations in the Finnish exclusive economic zone. As in territorial waters, the Water Act applies to the extraction of materials, and the Mining Act applies to the search for and use of deposits containing mining minerals in the exclusive economic zone. In addition, the use of – or operations aiming at the use of – the seabed and its internal natural resources (e.g. mining minerals, rock materials and other inanimate deposits) in the exclusive economic zone require permission from the government.

Sources

Territorial Surveillance Act (755/2000)

European Commission: blue growth https://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/policy/blue_growth_fi (23 September 2020)

Mining Act (621/2011)

Act on the Exclusive Economic Zone of Finland (1058/2004) 

Blue growth strategy (COM(2012)0494)

Water Act (587/2011)

Ministry of the Environment (2020): Exploitation of sea sand and mineral reserves in Finnish sea areas – recommendations for sustainable use, draft.