No Arctic Railway to Lapland
Wellcome to Finland, comrades!
I think that we have been able to create something very important when we started to come together to talk about Arctic ideas, problems and co-operation. This northern peace of earth is very special and there are many threats to its nature, indigenous people and peace.
At the moment we have a very heated debate about so called Jäämerenrata, Arctic railway. First our formal minister of transport and communications Anne Berner wanted to start a project in order to make a railway connection through Lapland to the Arctic sea.
This idea was justified with very familiar arguments like economic growth, increasing jobs and opportunities etc. Very soon it came clear that this project would never be a productive. There is not enough demand for this connection to make it profitable.
At this point the Sami people who were against this plan from the beginning. Thought that the project would be silently put aside. They had been strongly protesting environmental threads, damage to their culture and traditional way of life. They were wrong.
A known business person Peter Vesterbacka, former marketing chief of mobile gaming giant Rovio, who earlier had loose an initiative with Chinese-funded train tunnel from Espoo to Tallinn, started to promote for this train connection instead. Now he had found Chinese money also for this Artic railway project.
If the attitude regarding rights of Sami people to their land were hardly considered when planning was made by Finnish government, this case was even worse. Westerbacka had obviously not spend a minute thinking about this aspect and ended immediately to full conflict with Sami community.
The main problem is that proposed railway – which would link Rovaniemi with the northeast coastal city of Kirkenes in Norway – is that it is planned to run across ten different reindeer herding areas. This would risk the reindeer herding in Finnish Lapland.
Now it is still unclear whether Vesterbacka will try to continue with the project or is he going to call it off. But it is sure that there is a great interest towards natural recourses and strategical points of Lapland. In past mainly Soviet Union and USA were looking for these, but now the interests and ambitious of China are raising all the time. Arctic politics are global politics.
Communist party of Finland has long been demanding that Finland should ratify ILO Convention 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. It would also help to prevent these attempts to take over the natural resources of Lapland by super powers and multinational companies. Sami people should always be able to take the final word on these issues.
Many international mining companies are heading to Lapland. Gold, nickel and chrome are the main targets of the companies now, but we all here know that there is something even more interesting hiding in the ground of Lapland. Black schist of Lapland is rich in uranium and that will be very important for both nuclear energy industry and weapon industry. Consequences for the local nature would of course be devastating.