This is the Fjord Lawsuit

Friends of the Earth Norway and Young Friends of the Earth Norway are suing the Norwegian government over the granting of permission for dumping of mining waste into Førdefjorden on the country’s western coast.

In May 2022, the government approved the final permit for Nordic Mining’s open-pit rutile and garnet mine, which would allow the company to dispose of up to 170 million tonnes of tailings waste into the designated National Wild Salmon Fjord. The fjord is critical for the protection of wild salmon and an important seafood fjord for Norway.

A clear violation

Friends of the Earth Norway and Young Friends of the Earth Norway believe that the Ministry of Climate and Environment’s approval of the discharge permit and the Norwegian ministry of trade and fisheries approval of the operating license is a violation of the Norwegian waste regulation chapter 17 on the handling of mining waste.

NWR chapter 17 is the Norwegian transposition of the EU’s mining waste directive (MWD). The discharge permit from 2015 did not include a waste management plan, which is a clear breach of the mining waste directive and the Norwegian waste regulation, and should according to the Norwegian pollution control act void the discharge permit. Further, the organizations argue that the failure to produce a waste management plan early in the process has led to a project that has not sufficiently considered waste prevention or minimization in the choice of design and methods for mining.  

Failure to prevent deterioration of the ecological status of the waterbody

The Norwegian water regulation is the Norwegian transposition of the EU’s water framework directive. The discharge permit is given on the basis of

A) overriding public interest – The organizations will argue that “overriding public interest” is interpreted wrong in the Norwegian transposition of the EU’s water framework directive.

B) No significantly better environmental option – there is a competing mining company that has applied for mineral rights and operating license with a different project without sea dumping and with full reuse of mining waste.

Negative consequences for biodiversity have been underestimated:

Dumping of mining waste will according to the state’s own marine expert advisers at the Institute of Marine Research and the Directorate of Fisheries have serious negative consequences for Førdefjord.

No proper examination of waste utilization:

The mining company has not done a thorough examination of the possibility of reusing waste from the mining process. The organizations argue that the zoning regulation plan (for waste deposit, both storage on land and waste deposit in the fjord itself) and the discharge permit has major deficiencies.

Key reasons Naturvernforbundet and Natur og Ungdom are suing the state:

  • The mining company has received all important permits; there are no more administrative appeal options.
  • The mining company has not sufficiently investigated how the project can be designed in a way that provides maximum waste minimization and avoids the need for submarine tailings disposal.
  • The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Surveillance Authority has identified several shortcomings in the Norwegian transposition of the EU Mining Waste Directive.
  • There are several indications that the submarine tailings disposal is unnecessary and thus illegal according to the Norwegian pollution act.
  • Sufficient legal protection for nature depends on the courts hearing cases on questionable administrative decisions that have an impact on the environment.