Cumulative impacts on Arctic environments and societies. Fall 2019

The aim of this course is for PhD students to gain comprehensive knowledge of the challenges of assessing the cumulative effects of climate change and various forms of land uses, past and present, which affect environments and communities in the Arctic. The course will explore to what extent current practices in planning and permission giving processes for extractive industries take multiple pressures into account. 


The course topic relates to a primary objective of REXSAC: to contribute to practices and processes that ensure the sustainability of Arctic communities in a rapidly changing social, political, cultural, and ecological environment. Social and environmental impact assessments (SIA and EIA) of extractive projects do typically not consider cumulative effects from climate change, multiple forms of land uses, including legacies from past activities. Instead EIAs tend to be limited to assessing one project at a time. Moreover, they often fail to include the perspectives of indigenous and other local communities. An increasing number of stakeholders in extraction-heavy regions in the Arctic therefore agree that assessment processes need to be significantly improved. This course will contribute to this goal by enabling the PhD students to a) study concrete examples of cumulative impacts and local complexities through site visits with site based lectures; and b) analyze EIA case documents from different countries for large scale extraction projects as assigned group work.

Organizers: Élise Lépy (Univ. of Oulu), Hannu I. Heikkinen (Univ. of Oulu), Dag Avango (Luleå University of Technology), Gunhild Rosqvist (Stockholm University)

Learning goals

Upon completion of this course the students should:

– Have the ability to identify cumulative impacts from various land uses, present and past, that can occur in the Arctic in the context of climate change;

– Have firm knowledge on theoretical – methodological approaches which can be used for identifying cumulative impacts;

– Have a firm knowledge on how current EIA and SIA processes for extractive industries work in the Nordic countries (actors, methods, content);

– Have the ability to critically assess contents and methods for EIA and SIA’s;

– Have the ability to identify relevant stakeholders in planned extraction projects;

– Have a firm understanding of the varying local contexts and needs to engage with local communities when assessing the possible impacts of extractive industries

The course will draw on cases in northern Finland, Sweden, Norway, Greenland and Canada, with site visits in Finland and Sweden. It will deal with pressures from a wide variety of activities and environmental pressures – climate change, mining, forestry, tourism, hydro-power, wind power and associated infrastructures. The instructors are experts across different fields of relevance for the course, including organizations involved in EIA and SIA processes, environmental licensing administrations, and also comprise people from local communities where extraction takes place.


Scope and credits 

The learning activities in the course include lectures, seminars, individual reading of course literature and other text materials (approx. 1600 pages), written assignments, group presentations and field based exercises. The total work equates to five weeks of full-time work. A significant 

portion of the work will consist of preparations the PhD students will do prior to the course. Five days (excluding travel) will be based in-class and in situ at different field locations in Northern Finland and Sweden. The course will be examined through an essay, of which a draft version will be presented during the course. The course offers 7,5 ECTS credits to successful students. 

Dates: the course will begin in the early morning of October 21 at the University of Oulu and will end in the evening of October 25. 



Sunday 20 Oct – Arrival

Arrivals at Oulu (SAS flights from Stockholm and Finnair flights from Helsinki) Scandic Hotel in Oulu

Monday 21 Oct 

Lectures: EIA processes

Visit of Outokumpu Chrome mine in Kemi

Drive to Äkäslompolo

Tuesday 22 Oct 

Lecture: Historical and regional development of Kolari area

Visit of Hannukainen mine, Ratuvaara old mine and ironworks and Kaunisvaara mine

Wednesday 23 Oct 


  • Climate change as a challenge for EIA
  • The role of Social Impact Assessment in the context of EIA
  • Multiple land use interest dilemmas

Student assignment work on EIA cases

Thursday 24 Oct 

Meeting with local reindeer herding community

Meeting at the National Park visitor centre Kellokas and at Ylläsjärvi tourism centre

Student assignment

Friday 25 Oct

Visit of Suurikuusikko gold mine in Kittilä

Visit of Levi ski resort centre

Final wrap up and drive back to Oulu


Saturday 26th October – Departure

Flights to Helsinki at 5.50, 8.35