The New York Times recently ran a disturbing article about how leaking oil pipes, owned by the American oil giant Chevron, have polluted large areas of land and water in Nigeria, thus destroying the health and livelihood of hundreds of people living there. These residents have now protested by squatting on the clean nearby land where Chevron’s staff enjoy home comforts at the expense of these disadvantaged people. It is a typical story of big money abusing locals who seldom have rights or money to defend themselves. The army, the police and the politicians side with Chevron, the source of their benefits.
One would think that such stories do not happen in the Nordics but your correspondent has just spent a day on the island of Jussarö, near Tammisaari, just 100 kilometres west of Helsinki.
Their website describes it as follows:
“The island offers much to see and do. On Jussarö, one can enjoy untouched nature and at the same time marvel the traces left in the terrain that tell about the remarkable history of the island. There is, among other things, a wide old-growth forest with a tall canopy, which stands out from afar as a landmark.”
The island was an important source of iron ore for some 200 years. In the 1950s mining there was exploited aggressively by Finnish industry until 1967 when the mine was closed down and the equipment, buildings and tunnels were abandoned. Deep mines cut in to hard grey granite in search of the rich ore were left to fill with water. Millions of tons of sharp stone chip and other waste materials was dumped into the sea and onto the land destroying the natural beauty of most of the East side of the island and its shores. Steel and other metal parts were left buried under these piles of stones on land and water. Buildings for the workers coated with sheets of cheap asbestos were left empty, and the old tunnels and mining turrets were left unprotected to slowly fall apart and rust in the inclement weather. The army was then invited to use the island for fire practice and other training until it reverted back to us the taxpayers to “enjoy untouched nature and at the same time marvel the traces left in the terrain that tell about the remarkable history of the island”.
A visit to this island is remarkable for two reasons:
- After 50 years nature has taken over the environmental destruction and pollution. The forest is overgrown and moss and rotting vegetation and wood covers rusty barrels, steel wires and old rusting machines. The sharp stones on the beaches have become soft round pebbles, grey soft sand is a newly discovered resting place for sun bathers. In some way it is like making a much safer visit to deserted and once dangerous places like Chernobyl where a Nuclear Power Plant exploded I 1986 because of negligent maintenance. You can see a depressing set of pictures of the island on this site, Urbannix.Ninja , which unfortunately is written in Finnish…
- The second reason for going is to see what has not been cleaned up by the Finnish stock exchange companies that once owned and worked the mine – companies like Fiskars, the iconic makers of those scissors with orange handles, and Wärtsilä, a ship power systems and generators manufacturer, plus a few others whose names are hidden in the deep bowels of the mines. It is seems that making a lot of money off a mine and then stopping mining operations does not mean that you have to clear up the devastation. There appears to be no legal obligation to clean up this type of historical pollution but since both companies now proudly announce their green credentials it would be nice if they put their money where their mouths are! It is not right that taxpayers have to foot the bill.
The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), a research institute and government agency under the Ministry of the Environment, has reported (in Finnish) that the island is one of the most polluted beach areas in Finland! So much for corporate responsibility! Although There appears to be no legal obligation to clean up this type of historical pollution. However, because both companies now proudly announce their green credentials it would be nice if they put their money where their mouths are! It is not right that taxpayers have to foot the bill to clean up such gruesome devastation.