Supreme Court to review disputed mining permit
Published: 18 Sep 2012 08:35 GMT+02:00
Updated: 18 Sep 2012 08:35 GMT+02:00
Sweden's Supreme Court (Högsta domstolen) gave hope to environmental activists on Monday when it announced it would review a the validity of a permit allowing mining company Nordkalk to open a limestone quarry in Gotland's Ojnare forest.
- Forestry firm halts work at disputed mining site (02 Sep 12)
- Police block activists at disputed mining site (28 Aug 12)
The decision came as a surprise to Nordkalk, but renewed hope among environmental activists that their efforts to block the quarry, to be located near Bunge on the northern end of the Baltic Island of Gotland, may yet succeed.
Specifically, the court will review a previous decision by the Land and Environmental Court of Appeal (Mark- och miljööverdomstolen), which ruled that Nordkalk had permission to build and operate the quarry.
"What significance does this legally binding permit decision have when it comes to considering the permit issue?" explained Supreme Court clerk Christina Ericson to the TT news agency.
Nordkalk hadn't expected to have the case reviewed, pointing out that the previous ruling had already come into force.
Speaking with Sveriges Radio (SR), company spokesperson said the ruling didn't change anything in terms of the preparations Nordkalk was making with respect to clearing trees around the planned quarry site.
However, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket), which filed the complaint, welcomed the Supreme Court's decision to review the case.
According to the agency, no valid permit can be issued before an assessment is carried out examining how the quarry would affect two nearby areas with Natura 2000 designation as EU protected areas.
Nordkalk initially received permission in 2009 to mine limestone in the area, but work has been delayed by a number of legal appeals focusing on potential harm the work might cause to the island's water supplies.
In July, a court of appeal ruled that Nordkalk could move ahead with the limestone quarry. However, environmental activists claim that construction of the quarry will damage both the forest as well as ground water reservoirs in the area.
As felling activity was set to get underway in late August, environmental activists flocked to the Ojanre forest in an attempt to halt the work.
The firm hired to fell trees in preparation for the creation of the quarry broke off it work in early September.