Kiruna prepares to relocate

Sweden's northernmost town of Kiruna will move its centre a few kilometres away to save it from sinking into the ground due to underground cracks created by iron ore mining, officials said on Tuesday.

In order to continue to operate the lucrative mine, in the next few decades, the town centre will need to be moved, including all major buildings, the railroad, the railroad station, the terminal, the newly-built highway, homes, water and sewage systems and electrical systems.

Greater Kiruna has 23,500 inhabitants.

The town council took the first step towards creating a new centre on Monday evening when it decided to move the town about four kilometers (2.5 miles) to the northwest and set 2012 as the deadline for the new railway track to be completed, town information officer Ulrika Hannu told AFP.

“The railway is the most important thing since it is closest to the mine. It is a prerequisite for the mine to be able to continue its work, since iron ore traffic makes up 90 percent of transport on the railway,” Hannu said.

After the railway, the E10 highway will have to be rerouted. Old wooden houses, the pride of Kiruna, will be moved on big trailers, while larger buildings, like the bulky city hall, will be cut into pieces to be moved.

Hannu said there was no deadline for when the new town centre would be completed, stressing that it would be a gradual process over the coming decades.

“The Kiruna municipality has a visionary plan that runs up to 2099. But the detailed plans are being made four years at a time,” she said.

However, she said that by 2023, between 1,700 and 3,000 people will be forced to move homes.

“In general no one perceives the move as directly negative. It’s never fun to move from your home, but there is a lot of understanding for what is happening. Kiruna is a mining town. It can’t survive without the mine,” Hannu said.

LKAB, the state-owned mining company, will pay for the bulk of the move.

Kiruna’s known iron ore reserves run some 2,500 metres (8,200 feet) deep, with the latest main level at just 1,045 metres.