At least six mining companies were queuing up on Thursday to strike a deal with Siv Wiik, 69, and Harriet Svensson, 64 after the two friends were awarded the region’s annual ‘Mineral Hunt’ prize.
Government surveyors believe that the women may have happened upon the largest reserves of gold and zinc ever discovered in Sweden by private individuals.
Arne Sundberg is a regional director at the Geological Survey of Sweden, a government agency responsible for the management of mineral resources.
“When I heard about the find I drove up to meet the women. They told me they wished they had a video camera to register the amazement on my face. I don’t remember ever seeing anything like it in all the long years I’ve worked in this job,” he told The Local.
The two women behind the find first became friends almost forty years ago. In 1969, Harriet Svensson moved from a nearby village to Siv’s home town of Överturingen, 480 kilometres (300 miles) north of Stockholm. Siv retired some years ago from her job as a church warden, while Harriet continues to work as a matron at the local school.
“We’ve been going out looking for minerals together for as long as we have known each other. Except this time we were actually looking for blueberries,” Siv Wiik told The Local.
As veterans of the mineral hunt circuit, the two women quickly returned to their car to collect their geological tools when they spied copper where the berries should have been.
“First we found some copper and then some zinc. But we also saw something glistening in the mud and continued scraping. Suddenly we got a very pleasant surprise as a lump of gold appeared,” said Wiik.
All mining companies were barred from making an approach until after Thursday’s prize-giving ceremony, when the woman were presented with a cheque for 80,000 kronor ($12,000) from the Norrland Fund and the Geological Survey. But as soon as the formalities were over with, Sweden’s own “golden girls” began receiving offers.
According to Arne Sundberg, it was now up to the women to secure a satisfactory deal but he added that he would not be surprised if their finder’s fee stretched into the millions.
“I saw some notes taken by a top mining company representative with years of experience in the field.
“He had written: ‘The best find I have ever seen’ followed by at least three exclamation marks,” he said.
On the evening of their autumn find, the women returned home and quickly took out a mining concession on 800 hectares of surrounding land.
As seasoned amateur prospectors, the two old friends clearly knew they had hit on something approaching the mother lode.
“The find looks very promising. The mining companies have said they want to start drilling as soon as possible,” said Wiik.
Under Swedish law, anybody has the right to take out a mining claim, regardless of who owns the land on which the find is made.
“Landowners are of course compensated for any damage caused by exploratory work, as well as receiving a small percentage of any eventual earnings from mining carried out on their property,” said Arne Sundberg.