Effects of Mining on Reindeer Herding Grounds in Jokkmokk in Sweden

Prospecting for minerals and stones has exploded in Sweden. Many foreign prospecting and/or mining companies come to Sweden in search for a new Klondike – even though in a more modern “suit” than the historical one at Dawson City in Canada at the end of the 19th century. Many people and groups today get affected because of mineral search on land they own or use such as private land owners, wild life tourist centres, people with outdoor interests – and reindeer herding communities.

This blog-text contains a short overview on how the two reindeer herding communities Jåkhågaska Tjiellde and Sirges in area of the municipality of Jokkmokk in the north of Sweden are affected by such search for minerals carried out by the prospecting- and mining company Jokkmokk Iron Mines AB (JIMAB).

Since it is an overview every aspect or matter in this case cannot be mentioned – it would end up being too long. The sources referred to are official documents, more or less, because they have been used when making decisions that are now legit, or they are containing legally bounding decisions.

Problems for reindeer herding caused by the mining project

JIMAB is a wholly owned subsidiary company to British Beowulf Mining Plc. JIMAB was created in February 2012 for a future mining industry in the area of Jokkmokk. It is stated in the Swedish Minerals Act that every foreign prospecting- and/or mining company in Sweden must establish a subsidiary company in Sweden in order to get, and to have, permission to proceed their work.

But JIMAB’s prospecting activity in the area has caused trouble, foremost for the Sámi reindeer herding village Jåkhågaska Tjiellde.

The two Sámi villages in the area lodge complaints to the Mining Inspectorate of Sweden against that JIMAB had at least two times been test-drilling on a site that had not been mentioned in the company’s working plan as a site they would work upon. According to the Minerals Act must every prospecting- and/or mining company in Sweden make a so-called “working plan”. The plan shall contain a description of the work planned, a timetable and an assessment of the impact on private rights and public interests. The plan shall be communicated to all landowners and other parties affected. A working plan will enter into force if there are no objections. It will also enter into force if the applicant and the objecting party can agree on the plan. If they cannot agree, the matter can be tried by the Mining Inspectorate, who in some cases can set up conditions for the exploration work. In JIMAB’s case, the Mining Inspectorate found out that the company had been test-drilling on an outdated working plan, but the Inspectorate found out that no test-drilling had been maliciously made so the case was left without any remarks.

But JIMAB’s work came to cause other problems. The Sámi villages were not able to use the winter grazing area in November and December. Moreover are the two test-drilling sites – Parkijaure and Kallak – on a peninsula that is used almost on an annual basis, even though foremost in the winter time, by Jåkhågaska Tjiellde. The peninsula is crossed in the north and in the south by reindeer moving paths that are classified as being of “national interest”. Any future transportation road from any of the sites to the existing road in the area will cross the northern reindeer moving path. On the peninsula are there also resting areas for the reindeers.2011 because of JIMABs’ activity the Sámi villagers’ grounds of use. The Sámi were forced to take their reindeers upon a mountain they usually do not use because of the high amount of predators there, and eventually it turned out that the move to the mountain had ended up in a higher rate of predatory killed reindeers.  The new grazing ground also brought along higher for supportive foddering because the mountain is such a poor grazing ground. Also, the mountain lies further away from the homes of the Sámi villagers, so their travelling costs had increased.

According to another complaint, from a private party this time, had JIMAB been driving on thaw with heavy four-wheeled cross-country vehicles. It is prohibited in the Terrain Driving Act to drive heavy vehicles both on thaw and on bare ground due to the big damages such vehicles can cause in the terrain. The complaint was addressed to the County Administrative Board that sent it to the police which sent it to the Land- and Environmental Court, and is under investigation.

Mineral prospecting and mining in the light of land use and land owning

Another aspect to mention when it comes to what issues mineral prospecting work can cause in Sweden is that some of it takes place on Indigenous lands designated as state land – which for reindeer herding Sámi means on state land that they use for their livelihood. To keep it simple: reindeer herding Sámi in Sweden are not recognized as land owners, but as land users. Some land used for reindeer herding are privately own land, a situation more common closer to the coast of the Gulf of Botnia. Many solicitors though claim that the Sámi are the legit land owners, but the Swedish government have never accepted the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 169, or shorter the ILO-convention 169 – a paragraph that acknowledge the people who lived on the land as the true land owner before any state came and claim it, thus making the state the legal land owner. So the legal status of land in Sweden in this specific case, is land designated as state land and used by Sámi reindeer herders.

The question of the right to land for Sámi in Sweden has many other sides though, because it also includes the fact that non-reindeer herding Sámi without the right to work with that type of livelihood, got excluded from the Sámi villages in 1928. And many groups of Sámi have never been reindeer herding Sámi either; instead they have made a living by fishing and hunting, many with cultivation of for examples potatoes as a side-line.  And as ILO 169 incorporates people that lived on a land before a state came and claim it, any eventual forthcoming discussion on Sámi being the legally land owners will thus include those who are not reindeer herding Sámi.

But back to the main case …

Prior evaluation and information of effects of the mining activity in the county of Jokkmokk

JIMAB have in reports concluded that their activity will have no impact on national park, ground water or day water, flora nor fauna, and no impacts of cultural values such as archaeological sites. The responsibility to control that any existing activity in an area of planned mineral prospecting, as well as care for nature, flora and wildlife, is not endangered lies on the County Administrative Board for each county.

Furthermore, one can read in JIMAB’s reports that the only direct impact JIMAB’s activity will have on reindeer herding is that it will take place on land used by Jåkhågaska Tjiellde. It is stated in the reports that the grounds for the prospecting sites are used on an annual basis by Jåkhågaska Tjiellde, but foremost in the wintertime. Sirges lies north of the now existing prospecting sites, and therefore it will not be “directly” affected according to JIMAB’s reports. The wild life tourism in the area will not be that much affected, but it is mentioned that outdoor activity in the area will be limited due to dust and noise that foremost will be produce by the process of the crushing of stones from the mountain. In reports is it stated that that problem can be diminished by keeping the time when crushing stones as short as possible.

But the two Sámi reindeer herding villages have already been affected negatively by JIMAB’s prospecting work, as mentioned, and the question is to what extent will a full-scaled mine affect the Sámi villages in the area.

But are there any positive sides to JIMAB’s activity in the area?

Positive effects generated by the prospecting and mining project?

According to JIMAB’s own statement in a county-based newspaper, and later in piece that was broadcasted on the local tv, will a mine run for 30 years and create approximate 350 jobs. The latest number is 400, a number that is mentioned on JIMAB’s webpages in the context of ore transportation; a road from and to the mine for “passenger transportation […] for about 400 full time employees”. In a tv-news piece on the effects of JIMAB’s planned mine, did the greater part of the locals in the village of Jokkmokk that got interviewed say that they welcome the mine. Many see the mine as an opportunity: it will create jobs in Jokkmokk and therefore render if not an increasing number of inhabitants at least a stable number, and will thus be a guarantee for an ongoing service within health care and different types of public services such as day-care centres and schools, banks and grocery stores and other type of shops. That can be seen as an asset in a country where the inland in the north for a long time have been severely struck by high unemployment rates and therefore also high numbers of people moving out from the area. With the increasing numbers of mines in the north of Sweden – mines that bring along job opportunities, investors and money – the area is sometimes refereed to as ‘the new Klondike’.

The County Administrative Board in the county have given JIMAB permission to a period of test-mining this summer. A private party have sent in an appeal that was overruled, but the person have said that an appeal will be sent to the Land- and Environmental Court of Appeal. A spokesperson from JIMAB still thinks the company will be able to test-mine in the summer. All according to one of the county-based newspapers.

// Ph.D., Karin Granqvist

[This piece is my part of a project titled “Effects of Mining on Reindeer/Caribou Populations and Indigenous Livelihoods: Community-based Monitoring by Sámi Reindeer Herders in Northern Sweden and First Nations in Northern Quebec” together with T. Herrmann, H. Asselin and P. Sandström]

4 thoughts on “Effects of Mining on Reindeer Herding Grounds in Jokkmokk in Sweden

  1. Hello.
    I’ve been in Jokkmokk for a painted report about their problems with mining and other changes in landscape. The most people were against it, but some also mentioned, that it could bring life into the city. And they want to have this life, but not in the exchange to a destroyed nature and herding areas, just that they have work for 30 years,…and then??? It’s a really actual theme right now for them. People realize, that there is no turning back from the modernisation, but they want to fight for their land till the last drop fellt. I mean, I have been in Kiruna. This whole story there is unbelievebal. And again, the sami reindeer herders are the victims of mining and the greed of the society. Sure I also use a computer and stuff like that, but within reason. And out there there are a lot of people, who don’t know that this problem exists!
    So if you don’t mind, I’d like to share this article in my blog! Would that be possible?
    Greetings from switzerland. Sabrina (boazovazzi)

    1. kadegran

      Dear Sabrina, yes people do follow the ride of modernisation, to different extents. But big changes in a society or a community, can sometimes cause conflict of interests because people stand for what they believe in – interests that might be in conflict with other interests. And I do know it is a theme for people in the area of Jokkmokk right now, as well as it is in process at different public authorities because JIMAB wants to start a mine.
      The situation with Kiruna is slightly different because a whole town has to move because the mining company in the town will extend their ores; ores that will run under the ground on which the southern parts of the town are built upon. The town of Kiruna was built around the mine that was established for more than 100 years ago – and without the mine Kiruna would probably never have been established. Many Sámi in the area of Kiruna that could not continue with reindeer herding moved into the town and got jobs, and settled down there. But there are Sámi villages today in the southern part of Kiruna that will be affected by the mining company’s continuous work, but I cannot say much about that in detail because I do not work with that case. Of course you can post this blog text on your blog – it is not an article yet ;-), just a blog text.

      1. You say it. Sure there is intrest against intrest. But what’s with nature. Nomebody is asking her. I mean up there, they have primeval forest left. And what ar they doing, building an industry. The people said, that even the protected wood isn’t save. Saver yes but money rules the world. I just think about, that we, south of Sweden use their ressources to live in abundance. Because we still killed it in our own land. Thanks a lot, I’ll sign it for you=)

      2. kadegran

        When it comes to nature and what damage any planned industry can cause in an area, is it the County Administrative Board that controls that. That authority can deny a planned industry to be established in an area if damages on the surrounding are estimated to be too severe, but that authority can also accept an application based on the decison that a planned industry will not cause severe damages on the surrounding milieu. But people can of course object to decisions being made by the County Administrative Board. The deforestry on a site on the Swedish island Gotland for a planned open-cast limestone mine was stopped by a decision being made by the Supreme Court because the impacts on the nature and surrounding milieu were estimated to be too severe. It was a demonstration that brought the attention to the negative environmental impacts the first preparations for the mine had: http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/hd-stoppar-nordkalks-arbeten-i-bunge_7589422.svd That mining company, Nordkalk, must have gotten their working plan accepted by County Adminstrative Board that Gotland belongs to, otherwise they would not have been allowed to start the preparation work – work that was later on stopped by the Supreme Court. Best regards, Karin

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