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17.11.2015 8:00

Mines and socio-economic changes

The increasing mining industry in Northern Finland and the Barents region pulled up questions about the well-being of workers, the possibilities of welfare promotion as well as the reshaping the mine area’s living conditions.

The mines within the research were FQM Kevitsa Mining Oy in Finland, Stjernoy Sibelco in Norway, Aitik Boliden in Sweden and Vostochni in Russia.

The net migration was positive in Sodankylä and Boliden but negative in Kirovsk. As for the educational structure of population, the development for those who completed upper secondary education was positive in Sodankylä and Boliden but negative in Alta. Regarding those who completed a higher education degree, the development was positive in every mine municipality. In regard to the industrial structure, the development of the mining sector was positive in Sodankylä and Boliden but negative in Alta. The employment rate is positive in Boliden but negative in Alta and Sodankylä. The development regarding the unemployment rate was positive in each mine municipality.

The positive themes highlighted in the interviews included good and stable jobs, the mine companies’ joint social programmes with municipal operators, and co-operation with the Sami people and reindeer breeders. Some of the negative themes that were highlighted included workers’ issues with the lack of housing, the failures in recruiting women for mining work, and issues related to nature conservation.

As positive challenges for the future, the interviewees mentioned stable and relatively well-paying jobs and technological advancements in mining work. Reductions in the number of jobs, difficulties recruiting skilled workers, co-operation between the mine and local community, infrastructure or condition of the public roads, and issues related to multiculturalism were mentioned as negative future challenges.

Mining industry has a positive effect on the municipality’s economy due to the increasingly diverse foundations the mines’ employment effect for people of different ages and with various educational backgrounds, the investments brought by the mines, and the development of educational opportunities for the mining sector.

In development ideas the interviewees mentioned, among other things, co-operation and dialogue between the local community and the company and employment opportunities in different countries in the Barents Region, such as Russian workers’ opportunities to seek employment in the mines in other countries.

According to the researchers, mining projects in the Barents Region should carry out multi-phase evaluations of the environmental and social impact of the mine’s operations throughout their life cycle, taking into consideration issues related to the social licence to operate before the mine’s opening, during its operation and after the end of its operations.

In the MineHealth project the focus was also set on increasing the work ability, social and health well-being among the mine workers. The areas of inspection were cold and vibration exposures and its significance to the miners own experiences of their own and their family’s well-being as well as the mine area’s possibilities to produce welfare services to meet the needs.

MineHealth project was funded partly by European Social Fund (Kolarctic ENPI CBC) and partly nationally. Project partners were Umeå University, Northwest Public Health Research Center Kirovsk, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health Oulu, University Hospital of North Norway Tromso, Lapland University of Applied Sciences (LUAS), Norut Alta as Tromso and Sintef Nord as Tromso.

The report Socio-economic Challenges in the Mining Industry - Four Cases from the Barents Region by Leena Viinamäki (ed.), is released both in English and Finnish by Lapland University of Applied Sciences and available free of charge on http://www.lapinamk.fi/en/Employers/Publications.

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Boliden AB, Aitik Mine. Photo: minehealth.fi

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