Land Rights Indigenous Peoples

Sami Reindeer herders threatened by green energy projects

08.06.2019  |  Sweden  |  Submitted by: Society for Threatened Peoples (STP)

In the Nordic countries, the Sami people suffer from green energy projects that endanger their reindeer herding and disregard their land rights.

Svedish company Svevind and german company Enercon plan one of the biggest wind parks worldwide in Markbygden, an area in the northwest of Piteå. The project has been severely criticized by Sámi reindeer herders and environmentalists. It has been decided without the consent of the Sámi reindeer herders. Reindeer herds cannot graze in wind parks due to the noise caused by turbines, additional infrastructure for the maintenance of the wind park and a 800km access road that extends the production field. Consequently, Sami Peoples will lose mayor parts of their pastureland. Energy produced here will not serve the local market but will be sold for export to parts of Europe further south. Furthermore, Sápmi is rich in iron ore, copper, rare earths. Mining projects receive permission frequently without Sámi consent.

In Norway on the Fosen Peninsula the building of the Fosen Wind Project started in 2016. If finished it will be the biggest onshore wind park in Norway consisting of six single wind energy plants, the biggest of which will be in Ǻfjord in the area of Storheia. Storheia is the most important Reindeer winter-pasture for the Ǻerjel Njaarke Sijte – Sámi. They would lose about 44 % of the winter-pasture for their herds and eventually would be forced to give up this ancient livelihood. They did not give their consent. Storheia project is realized by the consortium Fosen Vind DA, which belongs to the state-run Norwegian company Statkraft (52,1 %), the Nordic Wind Power DA (40 %), which is a consortium of European investors founded by Credit Suisse Energy Infrastructure Partners AG, and the local power plant TrØndenenergi.


About 100.000 Sámi live in the north of Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. Good parts of them depend on Reindeer Herding as their traditional livelihood. This way of live is threatened by the energy industry, namely wind parks and waterpower, as well as extractive industries. Large infrastructure and energy projects are awarded to companies without prior and informed consent. The Scandinavian states disregard international law and thus fundamental indigenous rights.

Energy trade is a highly profitable business. Some Sámi already call it a new form of colonialism. For them the reindeer are not only the basis for their economic survival but for their cultural survival as well. Therefore, they are not interested in financial compensation for the loss of reindeer pastures but want to see the territory intact without interference from industrial engagements.

2.500 of the ca. 20.000 Sámi in Sweden still live of reindeer herding. In Sweden they have the exclusive right for this economy and are regarded as guardians of traditional Sámi culture.

In Norway, there are up to 65.000 Sámi. Norway ratified the ILO 169 convention in 1999. Thereby, Norway is obliged to respect indigenous Sámi rights fixed in this convention. About 10 % of the Sámi in Norway still live of reindeer breeding. Only they are entitled to breed Reindeer. Nevertheless, Norway does not respect the Sámi’s (customary) right to ownership of the land they use for reindeer breeding since time immemorial. There is a belief, that because of their livelihood as nomads Sámi never established a right of land ownership and therefore are not regarded owners of the land.

In Storheia, there are plans to build 80 wind power plants, more than 60 km streets and a high-voltage-line. This all threatens the migration routes of the reindeer who most of the time roam free from pasture to pasture. They are shy animals and most likely they will try to avoid power plants and the high-voltage-line and the number of casualties along the streets will most likely be high. Reindeer herders could be forced to look out for new pastures distant from their original territory and pay for transport of their herds from place to place. It could even be necessary to buy additional fodder. This might cause the Sámi reindeer breeders to reduce their herds or even to give up reindeer breeding completely.

In December 2018, the CERD requested Norway to suspend the project, which is part of Europe’s largest onshore wind power project, so it could examine a complaint that the project would be harmful for Sámi reindeer herding. The ministry has stated that they will reply to the CERD but will disregard the request for interim measures as the project has already acquired all the necessary domestic legal permits and is almost finished.


The Nordic governments together with the Sámi Parliaments in Sweden, Norway and Finland have made a common effort to develop a legal framework to protect the rights of the Sámi through negotiations on the Nordic Sámi Convention. Even though the negotiations were completed in 2017, the Convention is not approved jet but still under consideration in the relevant ministries of the Nordic states. Therefore, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) both have recommended a speedy adoption of the Convention.

CERD also made recommendations to Norway and Sweden to give legal recognition to the land and resource rights of the Sámi peoples; ensure effective consultations and FPIC and to improve the legal framework on Sámi land, fishing and reindeer rights.

On 25 August 2014, Fosen Vind DA applied at the district court for the expropriation of the regional landowners and for the expropriation of the right of use of the Sámi Reindeer herders. The Sámi community Ǻerjel Njake Sijte filed a complaint against this application and lost. The Sámi filed a second complaint at the Supreme Court and asked for a decision about the legality of the expropriation order. But the Court rejected the case. Consequently, the district court as last resort defined the condition of expropriation including a regulation of compensation. Again, the Sámi filed a complaint at the appellation court. But without waiting for the verdict the government permitted Fosen Vind the start of the project and the work began in 2018.

Important points of reference: CERD – Art. 5 lit.d Ziff. 5. i.V.m., Art. 2 Abs 1, ILO 169 (which Norway ratified in 1990) namely the violation of landrights fixed in Art. 14 and 15;

Art. 27 of the UN International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Norwegian Constitution Art. 108 guarantee the Sámi’s right to exercise their own culture and livelihood and to speak their own language.


The  Society for Threatened Peoples calls upon the Norwegian and Swedish authorities

  1. to respect the Sámi right on free prior informed consent.

  2. to respect Sámi land rights.

  3. to respect the traditional and historical land use of Sámi communities as equivalent to the right of ownership.

  4. stop wind energy projects which are realized without their consent in inherent Sámi territory.

  5. Norway should follow the recommendation made by the HRC during the UPR-process in the course of the UPR process to “ensure meaningful consultation with the Sami peoples in practice and adopt a law for consultations with a view to obtaining their free, prior and informed consent, in consultation with them”.

Read more

Saami Reindeer Herders Fight Wind Farm Project

The Sámi Parliament's 2019 Report on Natural resource extraction and Racial Discrimination

Indigenous world 2019, IWGIA, Kopenhagen 2019

Turbines need Sámi Consent, GfbV CH

Krieg der Rentierhalter. Neuer Windpark in Lappland, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 29. Dezember 2012

Rentiere gegen Windkraft, erneuerbare Energien in Skandinavien, taz, 4. August 2018

Indigene Rentierzüchter stemmen sich gegen Windkraft-Projekt, Ruedi Suter, online Reports, 17. Dezember 2018





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