One mining company suggested that king was trying to avoid taking sides on the issue, which resulted in a spirited protest action as well as ongoing legal dispute.
“It is the king’s decision,” said Royal Court press spokesperson Bertil Ternert to the Helagotland.se news website.
The winner of the prize, 18-year-old Alva Snis Sigtryggsson, took home the award for her work in preventing a quarry being constructed near the Ojnare forest on northern Gotland.
The king’s decision came as Sweden’s Supreme Court (Högsta Domstolen) ruled on Wednesday that mining company Nordkalk could no longer continue its work on the island, after a reviewing the validity of a permit allowing the company to open the quarry.
The prize was given out by conservation organization the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) together with Swedish environmental group Minplanet at Thursday morning’s presentation.
“She won for her strong environmental involvement, not least for saving the Ojnare forest on Gotland,” wrote MinPlanet in a statement on their website.
However, not everyone was pleased with the choice of winner, including Nordkalk, the mining company which planned to build the quarry.
“You cannot give the prize to someone who throws themselves before a machine,” explained Jörgen Pettersson, senior safety representative of Nordkalk to Helagotland.
“They are doing something illegal and that is sending the wrong signals to those who are younger and look up to these demonstrators. Above all it’s really as if the king is taking sides with the demonstrators.”
The Royal Court press spokesperson explained that nothing prevents the king from taking sides:
“The king is allowed to take sides, but he often refuses to when it comes to controversial subjects,” Ternert told the paper.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Green Party’s youth league has lashed out at what he sees as the king’s cowardice.
“It’s really cowardly of him. And it seems absurd that the king can give out a scout prize to a king in the dictatorship of Saudi Arabia yet won’t present a prize to a young environmental activist in Sweden,” said Björn Lindgren to the Aftonbladet newspaper.
In 2011, the king was slammed for giving Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah a scouting medal during a visit to the country.