Oulanka research station, Kuusamo, September 2016. Some of us have been here before, some of us know these landscapes as their own pockets, some of us are here for the first time.
This place seems such a paradise for wildlife lovers. Autumn colors are full on, days are still sunny and with fall of the nocturnal chill the sky is full of stars. And occasional northern lights.
A group of photographers and researchers – all sharing the passion for environmental issues – gather for a week to collaborate.
We decide to study the area by walking around, driving, drone-flying.
Touching, feeling, breathing, watching, paddling. Running to the chilly river water from the sauna.
Was there snow, we would ski.
One of us is carrying around reindeer skins and everyone thinks he’s a bit crazy. One of us is carrying geiger counters and everyone thinks he’s crazy. The rest – carrying their cameras around like everyone thinks they’re tourists.
After studying the area and actual issues in the area – Oulanka national park and the hiking tourism, the ski center Ruka, clear cuts next to the national park – we focus our attention to an open-pit study mine called Juomasuo.
An Australian mining company owns the rights to the ore – which seems to contain gold, but also uranium. During the past years, the company has conducted studies on the ore, a study on the environmental impact has been made. At times the discussion has gotten heated locally: this remote area needs all the employment it could get, but there are environmental risks.
Kuusamo town itself lives out of tourism, and local people worry about the image of the area in the eyes of tourists. If the mine is put fully in operation, it would be very visible to the eyes of the tourists – from the Ruka hill, popular for skiing, one could clearly see the mine. And not only the image – there are health and environmental risks.
There is something invisible though: the mine radiates. The geiger meter show high levels of radiation in some parts of the mine. And as the mine is an open-pit, sort of abandoned while waiting for further developments, it’s accessible by anyone. And yet, nobody knows about the radiant possibilities this area holds.
We decide we want to put the Juomasuo mine on the map.