“Romania must make the effort to ensure that it does not depend on imports, considering its potential of mineral resources”, states Seppo Maula, former Mayor of the Finish locality of Kittilla. This is where EU’s largest gold mine opened, in 2009. Seppo Maula was at that time the local leader whose vision for the sustainable development of an area without any consistent economic activity focused on the exploitation of one single mineral resource with exploitation potential at industrial scale: a gold deposit.
The continuous degradation of the living level in the area required an urgent development plan. For a preliminary research, the municipality resorted to European funds. But it was only in 2005, with the decision to open the mine taken by the new owner, the Canadian company Agnico-Eagle, that one could talk about Kittilla as Europe’s largest gold mine. Four years later, the new mine extracted the first gram of gold, safely using cyanide-based technology like gold mines worldwide.
The surveys indicate a life duration of the exploitation exceeding the year 2030, but it could also exceed 30 years. The opening of the gold mine triggered the thorough research of this region rich in copper, plate, nickel and iron and generated a mining-favorable stream.The opening of the mine in Kittilla with a new exploitation development plan was possible for two reasons.
On the one hand, the operator’s advanced technologies and financial power, and on the other hand, and this is what most mattered, the “politicians from Kittila were sufficiently open-minded to understand the advantages from an economic viewpoint in terms of the opening of the mine. We had the support of the politicians from Helsinki who understood that they have to work for the interest of the community. But the politicians also know other aspects, such as the need to reduce the EU’s dependency on the imports of raw materials”, emphasized Seppo Maula.
In 1986, unemployment in Kittila exceeded 30%, and it was extremely difficult to find a job on 50 km around town. Today, unemployment dropped under 10%, and the economic activity diversified, tourism becoming the second source of income for the inhabitants of the area. “The locals trusted the mine development plan proposed by the Canadian investor, which was agreed upon by the municipality and the authorities from Helsinki. The proof is also the fact that they built new homes, families have put down «roots» in this area.
In an average family from Kittila, the husband works for an activity directly or indirectly related to the mine, and the wife works in tourism, which is now practiced on a distance of 20 kilometers”, says the former head of the municipality of the largest gold mine in the European Union. Kittila would, however, fall second if the Rosia Montana mine opened. But for that, Romania must also establish a sustainable development strategy.