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.

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. 


Preliminary schedule 

Sunday 20 Oct 

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

Monday 21 Oct 

8.15 Bus pickup from hotel 

8.30-11.00 Lectures: EIA processes 

11.00-12.00 Lunch 

12.15-13.30 Drive: Oulu to Kemi 

13.30-15.30 Visit: Outokumpu Chrome mine in Kemi 

16.00 Drive: Kemi to Äkäslompolo 

18.00-19.00 Dinner: at Pello 

21.00 Arrival at Äkäslompolo, check into hotel in Ylläs for four nights 

Tuesday 22 Oct 

9.00 Drive: from hotel to Hannukainen mine 

9.30-10.30 Visit: Hannukainen open pit mine 

10.30-11.00 Drive: to historical Rautuvaara mine and ironworks 

11.00-12.00 Visit: historical Rautuvaara mine and ironworks 

12.00-12.30 Drive: to Municipal centre of Kolari 

12:30-13:30 Lunch: municipal centre of Kolari 

13:30 Drive: Kolari to Tapuli mine, Kaunisvaara, Pajala 

13:30-16:00 Visit: Tapuli mine, Kaunisvaara, Pajala 

16:00-17:30 Drive: Tapuli mine to Äkäslompolo 

19:00 Dinner at Äkäshotelli 

Wednesday 23 Oct 

9.00 -10.00 Lecture: climate Change as a Challenge for EIA 

10.00-11.00 Lecture: the role of Social Impact Assessment in the context of EIA 

11.00-12.00 Lecture: multiple land use interest dilemmas 

12.00-13.00 Lunch 

13:00-14:00 Meet with local reindeer herding community 

14:30-15:30 National Park visitor centre Kellokas 

15:30-17:30 Visits: Ylläs mountain and Ylläsjärvi tourism centre 

19.00 Dinner at Äkäslompolo 

Thursday 24 Oct 

9:00-12:00 Work on assigned environmental impact cases. Instructions for assignment and information search will be pre-delivered before the start of the course 

NB: Students’ assignment is to select an EIA case which they would like to focus on and look through documents as per availability of materials in appropriate languages. They will be given three primary research questions to consider in the context of the case: 1. What was studied by the EIA?; 2. What recommendations were made regarding the viability of the project; 3. What was the conclusion of the environmental administration? 

15.00-15.30 Coffee break 

15.30-17.00 Student preparation of EIA case presentations (in pairs) 

17.00-18.30 Student presentations of EIA cases 

Friday 25 Oct

8.30 Bus leaves to Suurikuusikko gold mine in Kittilä 

10.30-12.30 Visit of Suurikuusikko gold mine in Kittilä (guiding?) 

13.00- 14.00 Lunch at village of Sirkka/Levi ski centre 

14.30 Potential stop by Kittilä airport 

19.30 Arrival at Oulu and at 20.00 at Oulu airport 


How to apply? 

The course is given within the framework of the REXSAC PhD school but is also open to a limited number of PhD students from outside of REXSAC. If you want to apply, please fill in the application form with your name, home institution, a cv of 500 words and a motivation of 500 words. Send the application to Dag Avango: and Élise Lépy 

Deadline for applications: June 19, 2019 

PhD students within or affiliated with REXSAC: send an e-mail to Dag Avango and Élise Lépy Elise confirming your participation as soon as possible, but no later than June 19, 2019. 

Download the application form here.