Erik Joa is Norge Mining’s Community Liaison Officer – with a responsibility for our relations and conversations with Norwegian communities, as our investigations into EU Critical Raw Materials continue in the southwest of the country. Here he explains about his passion for nature and the environment and gives some fascinating insights into Norway’s reliance on and reverence of the land.
Erik Joa: I grew up on a farm outside Stavanger – a city in Rogaland County in south-western Norway. This upbringing had an impact on what I did later in my career and how I view life now. When you grow up taking care of the soil, plants and animals, it forms you as a person; I’m deeply curious about nature. We had cows, pigs, chickens and grew many different crops. And it motivated me to go on to do a degree in Agricultural Sciences and Engineering.
Q. You grew up in the 1970s, when there was a lot of oil and gas exploration locally to you. Did this also influence your perspectives?
Erik Joa: Yes, in both positive and negative ways. It showed me how fast industries can evolve. But there was an environmental trade off. There were various accidents at the time and society had to learn the hard way about how to treat and respect nature. Then there was a steady and strong evolution that happened – to find and apply new, safer and more sustainable technologies.
Q: Are Norwegians particularly related to the land?
Erik Joa: Definitely, and in my view in many unique ways. Most Norwegians have strong connections to the land – with short roots to farms in rural places. Thus, they’re emotionally attached to the land they originate from. Since the 17th century, almost all farms were owned by independent farmers. Generations after generations have worked hard to cultivate and improve the landscape to make a sustainable living. They’ve used nature and different resources in all ways possible to keep their families thriving. In contrast to continental Europe, people seldom lived and operated their farms in villages, but independently, on the actual land. This due to the geography and the multiple ways of utilising the land, forest, water and sea.
Q: And what is the land like in Norway?
Erik Joa: A major part of Norway’s surface is rock with little or no photosynthesis and low biological activity. In green mining activity with a sustainable circular economy approach, the residuals from mining processes may be used in building materials, as well as repurposed in numerous purposes as a base for improving the land and greater photosynthesis by covering the rock. This would help increase biological activity, biodiversity and carbon binding in organic material.
Q: At Norge Mining, your role is Community Liaison Officer. How does the regional communities feel about potential new mining in their area?
Erik Joa: People are engaged and in general, appear positive. They have a clear view that it must be done in a responsible and sustainable way. And that there’s a fair share of responsibilities – and benefits. There are strong traditions in Norway concerning commonly owned natural resources; it’s no different for mining metallic minerals. There have been ongoing mining activities in Sokndal municipality more or less continuously for about 150 years. So, the local communities are conscious and have expectations that we apply best practices and govern our activities well. In our region, there is no history of different social classes of people. Basically, everyone has been equal for centuries. This fact, combined with the strong emotional attachment to land and nature, makes it very important to do things right – rather than just paying lip service. So, we pay great respect to that and are cautious to make sure we walk the walk; we will do what we say.
Q: Why did you decide to join Norge Mining?
Erik Joa: At first it was a coincidence, but the more I got to know, it became clear we had a lot of common ground. The engagement and professionality of the team struck me. I’m convinced that this is a very strong team with a sustainable approach. I feel I can play my part, contributing in the team’s efforts to make a difference. I’ve been in various industries working with distinct challenges, which often were a combination of biology and technical issues. I find it meaningful to learn new things and be challenged every step of the way. This project is complex. I enjoy working and collaborating to move things forward in a good manner. That’s a very strong motivation for me.