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BUSINESS

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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BUSINESS

Philip Morris offers $16 bn for Swedish smokeless tobacco firm

Marlboro-maker Philip Morris International said on Wednesday that it had offered $16 billion to acquire smokeless tobacco company Swedish Match as the US group aims to move away from its traditional cigarette business.

Philip Morris offers $16 bn for Swedish smokeless tobacco firm

The board of Swedish Match recommended that its shareholders accept the bid of 106 Swedish kronor per share, nearly 40 percent above its closing share price on Monday, the companies said in separate statements.

The deal would total 161.2 billion Swedish kronor (15 billion euros).

Stockholm-based Swedish Match derives more than 65 percent of its revenue from smoke-free products, including chewing tobacco and the Zyn brand of nicotine pouches.

Philip Morris announced in 2016 a long-term goal to stop selling cigarettes and replace them with alternatives that it says are less harmful.

The US company sells cigarette brands such as Marlboro and Chesterfield in 180 markets outside the United States and has invested billions of dollars since 2008 in vapor products, oral nicotine and other “reduced-risk” products.

Last year it clinched a controversial takeover of British breathing inhaler manufacturer Vectura, despite fierce opposition from health campaigners and medical groups.

The group plans to generate at least $1 billion in annual net revenues from nicotine-free products by 2025.

Philip Morris and Swedish Match had confirmed the takeover talks on Monday following a Wall Street Journal report.

“We are pleased to announce this exciting next step in Philip Morris International’s and Swedish Match’s trajectory toward a smoke-free future,” the US company’s chief executive, Jacek Olczak, said in a statement.

“Underpinned by compelling strategic and financial rationale, this combination would create a global smoke-free champion — strengthened by complementary geographic footprints, commercial capabilities and product portfolios — and open up significant platforms for growth in the US and internationally,” he said.

Swedish Match chairman Conny Karlsson told AFP that the deal was a “good offer” for shareholders.

“It’s great to have the chance to broaden the distribution of our products, which can compete with cigarettes,” Karlsson said.

Snus scandal

Swedish Match is also known for making cigars and “snus”, a form of snuff particular to Nordic countries.

The sale of snus, a moist powder tobacco originating from dry snuff, is illegal across the European Union, but Sweden has an exemption. It contains nicotine and comes in teabag-like pouches that are placed under the lip.

In 2012, Swedish Match said an associate to the EU’s then health commissioner had sought a 60-million-euro payment from the company to push for a proposed tobacco law that would lift the snus ban.

The firm filed a complaint with the European Anti-Fraud Office and the health commissioner, John Dalli, resigned from his post.

Dalli appeared in a Maltese court this year on charges of bribery and trading in influence over the lobbying scandal.

Swedish Match shares rose by almost nine percent to 103.50 kroner following the takeover bid.

Philip Morris, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, was up 0.6 percent to $99.47 in electronic trading before the stock market opened.

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