From a permit authority perspective, it is typical to break down the exploration process into three separate stages. The first part is applying for a permit. The applicant must fulfil the requirements under the Mining Act in order to obtain priority for the site.
The next stage is the actual exploration undertaken during the permit term. This lasts up to 15 years.
The third or final stage is the expiring of the permit. In addition to the important privilege the applicant obtains with regard to the points mentioned above, reporting is also part and parcel of the deal.
Tukes is responsible for the collection of data
We have developed reporting in a purposeful manner since 2011. When the tasks of the mining authority were assigned under the new Mining Act to the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes), responsibility for the collection of data was also assigned to Tukes. Hundreds of millions of euros’ worth of research results are held in these exploration reports, and the management and gathering of data has been no easy job.
Up to this point, we have succeeded at building a base at the development stage which annually generates information for Finnish society.
The companies performing research can trust that they can return to the results sometime in the future, and this does not concern only the studies they have carried out themselves. All collected data is available for everyone to use.
As a result of the new Mining Act, a model was created in which the reporting covers the findings of the previous year. This means that even if the company were to confront insurmountable problems in continuing their exploration, the contribution they have made to our national heritage will not be wasted.
These companies are aware of the significance of their data, as the drill core archives and related reports have almost always been the driving force for each of their projects.
A digital route to reporting
The Geological Survey of Finland (GTK), which has studied the bedrock of Finland since 1886, has drilled approximately 1500 kilometres of drill core from the bedrock. The drill core is a sample from the rock that is about 5–8 centimetres in diameter.
During its active years, the state-owned mining company, Outokumpu, drilled approximately 1200 km of drill core, starting in 1951. Since only 2007, the international companies involved have already produced 2250 km of drill core. In ten years, investments in Finland’s bedrock have reached around the same amount as during a period of just over 130 years previously. The greatest investments were made in 2012. The companies invested nearly 90 million euros in Finland at that time.
The cores generated by these companies reinforces the research role of the GTK research centre and creates the foundation for GTK’s maintenance of geoinfo as stipulated in law, which is utilised by the entire geological prospecting sector. The five-year collaboration between Tukes and GTK has significantly enhanced knowledge of Finland’s bedrock. This is a question of a geoinfo cluster in which the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency receives the final reports and research materials compliant with the Mining Act, which are then forwarded to GTK. This data is further processed and refined later not only by the geological prospecting companies but also by GTK. GTK also maintains public archives on geoinfo.
A new development step in the accumulation of geoinfo is being taken in the Geotietovirta (Geo Data Flow) project, which harmonises the data relinquished and creates the basis for a data-secure digital route – hopefully more easily than at present – that hands the reports over to Tukes and subsequently to GTK.
Our job is to generate a workable foundation, whilst the researchers concentrate on acquiring information. In accordance with the target provision of the Mining Act, the purpose of the law is to promote mining operations and organise the use of the areas required by the Act as well as geological prospecting so that they are sustainable – socially, economically and ecologically.
Implementing the letter of the law necessitates the protection of both general and private interests. The data once collected should be stored and archived in order to avoid overlapping exploration.
Senior Officer, Mining
The author has worked in geological prospecting at Tukes for six years and prior to this at GTK for 10 years.
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