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OSLO: Norway’s government on Thursday (Mar 2) apologised to indigenous Sami reindeer herders affected by wind farms that were declared illegal after they were built, following a week of protests by activists.

The country’s highest court unanimously ruled in October 2021 that the expropriation and operating permits issued for the construction of 151 turbines in the Fosen region of western Norway were invalid.

The court found that the project violated the rights of Sami families to practise their culture of reindeer husbandry.

However, the ruling gave no guidance on what should be done with the turbines, which are already in operation.

The Sami – an indigenous minority of around 100,000 people spread over the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia – have traditionally lived from fishing and reindeer herding.

Since last Thursday, activists have been occupying or blocking access to ministries in Oslo.

They have the support of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

“I have apologised on behalf of the government to the reindeer farms in Fosen for the fact that the permits involve a violation of human rights,” Petroleum and Energy Minister Terje Aasland said at a joint press conference on Thursday with the speaker of the Sami parliament.

Aasland said he was “not ruling out any solution in Fosen” and stressed the government’s aim was to find a way for wind turbines and reindeer herding to co-exist.

According to the six reindeer herding families concerned, the noise and shape of the turbines frighten their animals, depriving them of their best winter pastures.

The Norwegian authorities have so far held off taking action and have ordered further assessments.

The apology presented on Thursday “is crucial to move forward”, Sami Parliament Speaker Silje Karine Moutka said.

On Thursday morning, for the first time since the beginning of the protest, Norwegian police arrested 12 activists who were blocking the entrance to the finance ministry.