Swedes’ anger mounts over Beowulf mine plans

Protests at the Kallak iron mining site in northern Sweden took a new turn this week as police had to dig protesters out of the ground, the latest in a standoff with the Beowulf mining company that critics say will give nothing back to the local community.

Swedes' anger mounts over Beowulf mine plans
Anger mounts in Sweden over Beowulf mining plans

“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.”

Ann Törnkvist

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Seven events to tick off your Sweden bucket list in 2017

Which are the don't-miss events for a real Swedish experience in 2017? We've listed seven of them.

Seven events to tick off your Sweden bucket list in 2017
The reindeer race at Jokkmokk's winter market. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

1. Jokkmokk Winter Market

This small northern Swedish town has hosted the winter market of its indigenous Sami people every year since 1605. Try dog sledding, buy Sami handicrafts and check out the biggest attraction: the reindeer race. Finding accommodation is the main problem for visitors here, but its friendly residents often open their homes to strangers during the bustling market week. You may be too late to get a place to stay this year, but it is high time to start looking for one for 2018.

When: February 2nd-4th

Where: Jokkmokk

Sami representatives at Jokkmokk's winter market. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

2. Melodifestivalen

For most nations participating, the Eurovision Song Contest is something that crops up at some point in spring, but in Sweden it is pretty much a year-round event (well, almost). It takes Sweden six weeks and several competitions to select their Eurovision entry, a process known as Melodifestivalen. It is a touring event, meaning that fans from all over the country get to see the hopefuls strut their stuff, and also attracts international visitors travelling to Sweden specifically to witness the entire spectacle in the flesh. Join them at your peril.

This year it kicks off in Gothenburg and will then travel to Malmö, Växjö, Skellefteå and Linköping before the Melodifestivalen final at Friends Arena in Solna, Stockholm.

When/where: Gothenburg, February 4th; Malmö, February 11th; Växjö, February 18th; Skellefteå, February 25th; Linköping, March 4th: Solna, March 11th.

Sweden's Frans Jeppsson Wall at Eurovision Song Contest 2016. Photo: AP Photo/Martin Meissner

3. Swedish Classic Circuit

The Swedish Classic Circuit (en svensk klassiker) is a diploma awarded to those who complete a certain number of various kinds of races. To qualify you have to ski the iconic 90 kilometre Vasaloppet race (alternatively Engelbrektsloppet at 60 kilometres, but Vasaloppet is more famous), cycle the Vätternrundan bike race around Lake Vättern, swim three kilometres at the Vansbro swim, and run the 30 kilometre Lidingö cross-country race. You have to complete them within 12 months. Or you could just enjoy that cinnamon roll instead, that's fine too.

When: Vasaloppet, February 26th; Engelbrektsloppet, February 12th; Vätternrundan, June 16th-17th; Vansbro swim, July 7th/8th; Lidingö race, September 23rd.

The Vansbro swim. Photo: Ulf Palm/TT

4. Nordenskiöldsloppet

Inspired by a race organized by polar explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld in 1884, Nordenskiöldsloppet (the Nordenskiöld race) is the world's longest, and probably toughest, classic ski race: 220 kilometres of gruelling cross-country exercise in northern Sweden, starting and finishing in Jokkmokk, north of the polar circle. Last year 335 contestants from more than 17 countries competed for the top spot, but a word of warning: this is not for first-time skiiers.

When: April 15th

Where: Jokkmokk

The Nordenskiöld race. Photo: Magnus Östh/Red Bull Content Pool

5. Symposium Stockholm

Symposium Stockholm was launched by Spotify founder Daniel Ek and Avicii's manager Ash Pournouri in 2015. Now in its third year running, the creative tech festival culminates in the Brilliant Minds conference, where tech gurus, music stars and entrepreneurs get on stage to share ideas. Its CEO Natalia Brzezinski told The Local ahead of the 2016 festival that she wants it to be the startup event of the year and as much of a Swedish trademark as the Nobel Awards.

When: June 7th-16th

Where: Stockholm

6. Håkan Hellström

Sweden's indie darling is touring this summer. Hellström's out-of-tune voice may be an acquired taste for many, but ask a Swede for their opinion and you're bound to get a strong response. His fans adore the Gothenburger's lyrics and his understanding of love and, aged 42, he keeps helping them relive their heart-wrenching teenage years. The tour kicks off in Stockholm and will see him visiting Gävle, Umeå, Örebro, Karlstad, Borgholm, Malmö and Gothenburg. Find out why your Swedish friends love (or hate) him so much.

When/where: Starts on June 9th at Stockholm Stadium

7. Stockholm Pride Festival

There are plenty of Pride festivals held across Sweden every year, but the biggest one in the Nordics is the one in the capital. Almost half a million spectators turn out on the streets of Stockholm for the festival's crowning glory, the Pride Parade, every year, on top of the people actually marching in the parade (this in a country with a population just shy of ten million). It takes over the city, with Pride flags flying from every single public bus, from the City Hall and from many foreign embassies – it's pretty amazing.

When: July 31st-August 6th

Where: Stockholm

Stockholm Pride in 2016. Photo: Erik Nylander/TT



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