Young Friends of the Earth Norway set up a protest camp at Repparfjorden in Hammerfest municipality this summer to prevent the startup of a copper mine operated by Nussir and its CEO Øystein Rushfeldt.
Europe’s largest copper producer, Aurubis, decided to renounce the Letter of Intent the company had signed with Nussir not long after the protest camp started receiving media attention. The agreement covered 10 years and was worth some € 1 billion.
In its press statement, Aurubis said that after following the project for some time, it realized that certain social aspects of the projects have to weigh heavily and that they subsequently chose to terminate the agreement with Nussir.
Now, Nussir can go back to other interested copper buyers.
High North News spoke with Øystein Rushfeldt to find out how the project is faring after losing the agreement with Aurubis, and what he thinks about the protest camp.
“What we have tried to focus on lately, is the balancing between the need for minerals and metals, the environmental footprint, and then the transition to the green shift, for which these minerals are needed. We try to make environmental NGO’s, politicians, and other engaged individuals to see the larger picture here. If we go to extremes, where the idea that extraction of minerals and metals is an evil is prevalent, we end up at a point where reaching the EU Commission’s “Fit for 55” goal no longer is viable”, he says.
“Fit for 55” is the EU Commissions legislative package with which the goal is to reduce net climate gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030.
Several new interested buyers
How did Aurubis’ leaving the Letter of Intent affect the progress of your project?
“This has not been a problem to us, so we are quite relaxed about that. We have interested buyers and they have been there all along. When Aurubis was offered the Letter of Intent, it was in sharp competition with other actors.”
We try to make environmental NGO’s, politicians, and other engaged individuals to see the larger picture here
You have had all licenses granted and you have your house in order when it comes to formalities. Yet you are months behind schedule because of activists. Do you think the authorities are there for you?
“The authorities do their legal-bound duties, yet it is moving slowly, and it is confusing and very little transparent. They have also announced mineral strategies that are not followed. There is no genuine initiative, support, or assistance in any way. In reality, we rather end up with the opposite.
What are your licenses worth if you can be stopped in this way?
“The license is definitely valuable. Now that we have the final permit, this is the final document of a 10-year-old rather extensive process, and it has cost some € 30 million. The license is definitely valuable. It constitutes the values of the company along with the mineral deposit, we don’t have many other valuables besides those two. The license has been subject to all sorts of hearings, investigations, and inputs. It has been through all levels, all the way to the final level, which is the King’s cabinet. Even though some have tried during the recent election campaign to launch the idea that even if the license has been granted, it may be revoked, that is not really practiced in Norway. If you do not have a legal framework and democratic system around that framework that works. If you can just opt-out from decisions like that, just like a dictator who changes his mind the very next day after the process has been completed, then we would not have a functioning society.
What will you say to the activists?
“We believe there should be ample space for them to bring their message to the table. We believe this is good for democracy, that there are voices that want more, and want to push legislation in a given direction. I think makes sense. We want to have a good dialogue with Young Friends of the Earth Norway. Our emission license has been pushed far into a new direction when it comes to the spreading of particles. This was previously not an issue in deposit permits. It is the consequence of some organizations pushing their agenda quite hard.
Where goes the road ahead for Nussir?
“The company has existed for 14-15 years, and I have been active for more than 12 years. We have had many fine moments during these years in which things have gone well, and then there have also been periods when it’s been an uphill struggle. The project is mainly characterized by uphill battles. And we are prepared to see that continue until the moment we have built the plant and operations have commenced. The uphill battle will last from now and until the plant has been fully developed and set into operations. We are prepared for that. The demand for copper will only increase in the coming years when we are gearing up for a fossil-free society.
This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.