Structural change as an opportunity for a post-mining region: The case of Pyhäjärvi, Finland
Many mining towns have faced or are about to face challenges regarding keeping their region economically stable and its image attractive. With mineral resources exhausted and mining activities shutting down, alternative opportunities for jobs are difficult to establish and the regional image may be unappealing and not eco-friendly. Furthermore, the closure of a mine comes with large maintenance costs. This is the case in the small town of Pyhäjärvi, where the underground operation of the Pyhäsalmi mine will shut down in 2021. The depth of the Pyhäsalmi mine, 1,445 m underground, offers a unique environment, with large-scale possibilities to utilise the infrastructure and resources, such as for the purposes of establishing a geothermal energy facility. Renewable, low-carbon energy sources are not only at the centre of the fight against climate change, but they also provide profitable and stable energy solutions. Therefore, using existing operation environments such as the Pyhäsalmi mine presents an opportunity to create and use green technology solutions, and thus transform an extractive industrial locality into a forerunner that offers new business opportunities in the clean energy sector.
Structural industrial change would require strong regional resilience. A resilient region is able to adapt its activities, markets and local political structures during the change; however, restructuring processes are challenging due to functional, cognitive and/or political lock-in when regions tend to fall into path dependency (Hasslink 2010a; Martin 2012). Recent developments in economic and social systems (caused by globalisation, decarbonisation and the rise of digital technologies) are influencing all regions that should be able create new paths (Giacometti and Teräs 2019; Hasslink 2010b). This study discusses whether the structural change of the region can be turned into an economical and environmental opportunity and what kind of social, economic and political conditions can either make this a reality or act as a hindrance.