“The Sami have no power to stop people coming here to exploit the land without giving anything back, not just to the local community, but also to the Swedish state,” Josefina Lundgren Skerk, chairwoman of the youth council of Sametinget, the part-devolved general assembly of the local indigenous Sami population, told The Local.
The comments come after protestors ramped up a blockade of the mining site, one of 18 sites where Beowulf, the mineral exploration parent company to Jokkmokk Iron Mines, holds exploration permits in northern Sweden.
Some 30 protestors dug in, literally, this week, with two demonstrators tying themselves to pipes that they had lowered into the ground before burying themselves.
“It took several hours to dig them up,” local police inspector Fredrik Söderlind told the TT news agency.
According to Lundgren Skerk “no one stands to benefit” from the mine, adding that she felt isolated in her own Social Democrat party, which holds power in Jokkmokk municipality.
“They’ve chosen a quick fix, a short-term solution to the long-term budget problems that all inland communities face,” she said, referring to the brain drain facing many smaller rural communities across Sweden.
Lundgren Skerk said an open-cast mine at Kallak would provide 375 jobs, whereas, in comparison, a new tourism centre in the Jokkmokk’s Sarek National Park, a World Heritage site, could provide 500 jobs.
“It’s a lot more jobs, and it’s forever, compared to the mining jobs that will last as long as the open-cast mine is open for about 14 years,” she said. “Then there’s nothing left but a hole in ground.”
“For some unfathomable reason, Jokkmokk municipality is sacrificing its population’s well-being to make some rich person even richer,” she added. “It wouldn’t surprise me so much if the local politicians were conservative.”
The blockade of site has now been up running for a month prior to this week’s burial protest, which Beowulf said won’t stop work on the site.
“There are a limited number of protesters at the (Kallak) site who have sought to disrupt operations,” Beowulf said in a recent statement, but added that it was “continuing to make good progress with its fieldwork activities in full compliance with the terms and conditions of its various licences, work plans and its approved test mining permit which remains valid for two years from the date of works commencing.”
Beowulf is listed on both the AIM market in London and the AktieTorget market in Stockholm.
“Sweden’s mining law, which is among the world’s most permissible, allows companies that pay tax abroad to fly in staff that pay income tax abroad,” Lundgren Skerk said, explaining that she disliked the law both as a Swede and as a Sami. Her youth council’s appeal to Enterprise Minister Annie Lööf to come visit the site has so far fallen on deaf ears.
“It’s not just mining, of course, we also have forestry companies and energy companies that run hydroelectric dams up north where there is nothing going back to the local community.”