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Forestry firm halts work at disputed mining site

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Forestry firm halts work at disputed mining site
14:04 CEST+02:00
Swedish forestry concern Mellanskog called a halt to tree-felling activities at a planned limestone quarry on Gotland on Saturday evening, after a week of extensive protests by environmentalists.

The decision was taken to suspend work pending a decision by the Supreme Court and was warmly welcomed by the activists from Nature and Youth Sweden/Fälbiologerna.

"A wise and brave decision by Mellanskog," said Alva Snis Sigtryggsson at Fältbiologerna in Stockholm.

Opposition has been growing to the planned limestone mine in the Ojanre forest on Gotland and police on Tuesday were obliged to provide an escort to the tree-felling machines.

Mining company 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.

Gotland's governor is among those who have lodged appeals with Mellanskog to halt the de-forestation.

The company on Saturday confirmed that the unilateral decision to suspend operations followed failed attempts to attempt to persuade Nordkalk to agree.

"With this decision we want to avoid long term divisions and bitterness in a place where we have many members," Mellanskog's CEO Sture Karlsson said in a statement.

Norkalk has meanwhile expressed regret over the decision.

"It is first and foremost regrettable that a public authority has taken a stand against a ruling which is in force, in this case the governor who has exerted pressure on Mellanskog," Eva Feldt at the firm said.

Feldt was unable to confirm how the firm planned to proceed, saying that a review would be made of the work which can be carried out at the site.

Despite Mellanskog's decision, the police presence - including a large number of officers from Stockholm - will remain in place overnight.

TT/The Local/dl

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