Swedish government approves controversial iron ore mine in Swedish Lapland

The Swedish government has given the green light for British mining company Beowulf Mining to move forward with their plan to open a new iron ore mine in Kallak, northern Sweden.

Swedish government approves controversial iron ore mine in Swedish Lapland
The area where the Gallók/Kallak mine is planned. Photo: TT

Sweden’s business minister, Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, said the decision to approve the next stage of the mining company’s plans was “historic”.

The approval does not necessarily mean that a mine will be built, but that the company can move forward with their plans, and will be permitted to mine in the area.

Thorwaldsson said the biggest challenge would be the environmental assessment by Mark och miljödomstolen, the court in that rules on issues concerning land rights and the environment, but he said he was convinced a mine would eventually be built.

The mine is one of Sweden’s most controversial industrial projects, and has been an issue for the government since 2017.

The resistance comes mainly from the Sami, Sweden’s only indigenous people, and from environmental campaigners, although the UN has also been critical of the project.

“Sweden has today confirmed its shortsighted, racist, colonial and nature-hostile approach,” the Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, said on Twitter.

“Sweden pretends to be a leader for environment and human rights, but at home they violate indigenous rights and continue waging a war on nature. The world will remember this.”

Campaigner Greta Thunberg visiting the area around Jokkmokk in February. Photo: TT

In coming to its decision, the government has weighed two national interests against one another, reindeer herding and mining, but it has decided that mining should take priority. 

Thorwaldsson said that the mining industry was important for social development in Sweden, and for jobs and economic growth in particular. 

The population in Norrbotten, he noted, had decreased by 23 percent between 1991 and 2016, and that Jokkmokk municipality had said that the mine would help it create jobs and fund its welfare service. In addition, he said, the mine was not located in a national park or nature reserve.

He suggested that the Sami study the “long-term and unique” demands embodied into the planning process, with twelve considerations in place to do as little harm as possible to the local Sami reindeer herding districts or Sameby.

“We’ve done that to make certain that we keep any negative effect on reindeer herding as small as possible,” he said.

The company plans to put up fences and protective walls to prevent accidents and to build secure crossings for the reindeers.

It will also carry out an annual assessment of the consequences for reindeer herding, and will consult with Sami reindeer districts about what needs to be done. 

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Swedish grocery giants to cut prices on hundreds of items

Swedish supermarket chains Ica and Coop vowed to lower prices on a range of items, following a similar move by Lidl last week.

Swedish grocery giants to cut prices on hundreds of items

Ica on Monday morning said that it would cut prices on more than 300 items by between 5 and 25 percent, starting April 11th and lasting at least two months.

It said bread, poultry, cheese, cured meats, sauces, dry goods, baby food and hygiene products would be affected by the price cuts.

Ica is the largest supermarket chain in Sweden with around 36 percent of the market share. Ica franchisees are allowed to independently set their own prices, so the number of items affected and their actual cost will vary from store to store.

The price cuts come after Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson urged Swedish supermarkets to follow Lidl’s example, after the chain (which owns about 5-6 percent of the market) last week announced it would lower and freeze prices on more than a hundred items from March 27th.

Coop also announced on Monday that it would lower prices on all fresh fruit and vegetables by 12 percent for its members. Coop’s price cuts will start on March 30th and apply throughout April.

Household grocery bills are soaring in Sweden, as The Local has previously reported. Prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages last month rose 21 percent year-on-year, the biggest increase since the 1950s, eclipsing even the high-inflation years of the 70s.