The Nussir Case and the Battle for Legitimacy: Scientific Assessments, Defining Power and Political Contestation
This chapter investigates the process of opening the Nussir copper mine in Kvalsund, Finnmark County, Northern Norway, and the efforts that have been made to legitimize it locally. Particular attention is paid to the way both scientific and lay knowledge influence political decisions in relation to the recently approved mine, with a tailings depository in a nearby fjord. The aim is to explain why conflicts persist over the project’s knowledge base, despite formal requirements for a comprehensive and participatory assessment process having been followed. Through interviews, document analysis and a review of media coverage, the chapter concludes that local acceptance of the mine is represented by the municipal council approval of the developers’ assessment program (AP), although this acceptance is not shared by all, as controversy around the environmental impacts of the project persists. After the municipality approved the company’s zoning plan (that followed the AP), the decision-making process shifted to the national level, rendering the local dialogue less relevant. Further, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process did not contribute to local legitimacy, as there was little local involvement in its production, while the content of the EIA is virtually inaccessible to local residents due to its sheer size and technical jargon. An EIA process with more local participation and incorporating local knowledge would not have avoided the conflict over the monetary and non-monetary valuation of the Repparfjord area, but it could have resulted in a knowledge base that was less controversial, more legitimate and therefore provided a more solid basis for future operations. However, this would have required local politicians to admit that the decision to open the mine was primarily a matter of politics, and not a technical matter which can be resolved to the satisfaction of all solely through the production of scientific knowledge.
KeywordsArctic mining Environmental impact assessment Environmental governance Boundary work Social license to operate
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