Arctic Abstractive Industry

Colleague Arthur Mason sent around a link to the collection of popular short essays that many anthropologists contributed to a theme around extractive industries in the Arctic, but also asking a bit more behind the scenes what are the principles behind such economies and livelihoods.

All of this should be open access.


resource development versus other community sustainability options’?

This is the general topic of the next course in our PhD programme by the Uarctic Thematic Network “Arctic Extractive Industries. It’s going to take place this time again in the wonderful town of St John’s Newfoundland, Canada.

Offshore oil (see the servicing ships docking in the background) or other development options? St John’s and Newfoundland

PhD students who have an interest in participating (this time self-funded, I hope you find funds to come!!!), can write a 200 words abstract to one of the organisers. Spaces are limited, especially because of the limited presentation slots that we have at the conference, in conjunction to which we will hold this. Preference will be given to those who

1) already participated in an earlier course in our programme and want to complete the entire Uarctic certificate;
2) PhD students willing to commit to completing the program and to presenting at Petrocultures; and
3) Master’s students interesting in participating more or less as observers.

For European students: Uarctic TN partner students can use this course for 10 credits ECTS towards their PhD studies, if approved by their supervisor and completed fully with submitted paper. The Ulapland course code is TUKO 1217.

Here is a course abstract:

An interdisciplinary exploration of resource development versus other community sustainability options’

St. John’s Newfoundland; Aug 29 to Sun Sept 04, 2016.

We will be offering an intensive one-week PhD course comingled with the Petrocultures conference in St. John’s beginning on Monday aug 29, 2016. The theme of this course is ‘An interdisciplinary exploration of resource development versus other community sustainability options’. In brief, there are many reasons why resource development in remote regions can be damaging in social, environmental and economic terms. Yet, alternatives that can lead to sustainable economic security for remote peoples are often elusive, while resource development promises opportunities for local residents.

Our group, the Uarctic Thematic Network in Extractive Industries, has offered semi-annual PhD courses of this nature since 2012. This course will differ from some of the previous one in format: the first two days will consist of three seminars of roughly 2.5 hours’ duration. Each of those six seminars will be co-presented by one faculty member and one or several PhD students. The purpose of these co-presented seminars is to maximize student involvement, and to facilitate an exploration of ideas and implications, and relevant academic readings and theories, across sessions. This will be an interactive course in which students will be expected to join in discussions within each seminar. This format will facilitate even more intensive academic interaction between PhD students and professors.

On the final three days, students in our course will attend the Petrocultures conference, and will present their research within specially designated sessions. There will also be specified conference sessions to attend as part of the course, and a final mandatory discussion session for registered students at the conclusion of the conference, late on September 03, to reflect on the overall themes emerging from the course and conference.

Enquiries: Prof Arn Keeling <akeeling(at)>, Prof Gordon Cooke <gcooke(at)> (cc to Thematic Network coordinator Florian Stammler <fstammle(at)>)

Historical Decision as to Mining in Sweden

A – what I would like to call a historical – decision was taken by the Supreme Administrative Court in Sweden at the end of February this year (source: The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC), case 2047-14). It is a decision made in a mining case concerning extraction of minerals in mid-Sweden, and since the decision was made in a Supreme Court will it have effects on the mining industry in all of Sweden.

The Norra Kärr – North Swamp – case

The case concerns the Canadian mining company Tasman Metals Ltd. that wanted to prospect for rare Regeringen öppnar gruvaminerals close to the big (inland) lake Vättern in mid-Sweden at an area called Norra Kärr. Tasman Metals is prospecting for rare earth element and zirconium mineralization, that are primarily used in mobilephones. The mining company present the area as “mixed farming and forestry land, well serviced by power, roads and water allowing all year round access, plus the benefit of a skilled and well equipped community”. The Mining Inspectorate of Sweden  – Bergsstaten – had granted Tasman Metals a concession license. That decision was appealed by different interests, and was therefore sent over to the Parliament. The (now running) Social Democratic Government decided that Tasman Metals should have the concession license that the company had been granted by The Mining Inspectorate of Sweden. A short summery of this process can be read in the  newspaper article “The Government Opens For Mine” in Jönköpingsposten 6th of March 2015 (also see picture above). A concession license gives a mining or prospecting company the right to run mine(s) or hold permission to open mine(s) according to valid license(s).

But the mine prospecting site at Norra Kärr is close to the big lake Vättern that is a water supply for the inhabitants in the area, and also a place for rare birds, as well as close to a Nature 2000 area, that is a type of area that is under special laws and can be seen as one that is on the step before the level of being a national park. So another appeal was sent to the Supreme Administrative Court, by five local groups belonging to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation – Naturskyddsföreningen – and Nature and Youth Sweden – Fältbiologerna –  plus Visingsörådet and several private persons (SAC, case 2047-14, p.3, 4).

The Supreme Administrative  Court decided that Tasman Metals had not presented any plan for land use for working plants – such as stone storage, sand magasins, clearing ponds and so on. The Supreme Administrative Court supported The County Administrative Board’s in Jönköping decision that the working plants will have a big effect on the surrounding environment at least 1 kilometer around the plants. And since Tasman Metals had not presented any survey about any milieu consequences caused by working plants what so ever, the Court decided to withdraw the company’s concession license  (SAC, case 2047-14, p. 10). This mean that, at this point, Tasman Metals can for now not prospect for minerals at Norra Kärr.

Norra Kärr Case In Relation to the Kallak case

This decision taken by the Supreme Administrative Court might mean that, for instance, the mining prospect in Kallak outside of Jokkmokk in the north of Sweden, on the grounds of Sámi villages Jåhkkågaska Tjiellde and Sirges in the very north of Sweden, can be inquired against the Tasman Metals case. This means that Jokkmokk Iron Mines AB (JIMAB) – and the headquarters Beowulf Mining in England – that has prospected for ore at Kallak, must present a plan for all the activities for a mine in full-scale at Kallak. This means that not only the mine – as the pit in the ground – must be part of an activity plan, but also all of the working plants must be presented such as ponds, stone storage and so on, as well as the consequences for both the mine and the working plants in relation to the milieu in the area. For a longer survey over the Kallak case, and extractive industries in Canada and impacts on reindeer herding and hunting, see a summary here at an earlier blog post of mine.

An observant reader has already detected that I wrote “might mean” in the first sentence in the former paragraph, and that is because it says in the verdict 2047-14 that land use for working plants within extractive industries such as mining, must be part of an application for exploitation concession. This means that if a company has a plan for both mine and working plants and their consequences for the surrounding environment at the stage for a concession license, this verdict can not be used.

In the Kallak case Beowulf Mining wants to send their application for exploit concession back to the Mining Inspectorate of Sweden.

beuwolf mining kallak
“Gruvdirektör vill börja om” [“Mining Manager Wants to Start Over”], Norrbottens-Kuriren, 19th of April, 2016.
An exploitation concession is often also called concession license, and it gives the holder permission to start a mine. But the Kallak case is now handled by the Parliament after appeal. Beowulf Mining also wants to co-operate with Luleå University in order to “build a sustainable mine” as the director in Sweden for Beowulf Mining, Kurt Bugde put it when being interviewed by a local newspaper (see picture to the right).

It will be a matter for the courts how the verdict can be used in practice by the courts, but the verdict also sets pressure on the agencies involved in the mining application process, as to what type of presented plans from prospecting and mining companies that can be accepted. And the verdict is very important seen in the light of bankrupt and abandoned mines in Sweden.

Nature Devastation Caused by Abandoned Open-Cast Mines

Despite some question marks raised here against what impact the decision in the Norra Kärr case taken by The Supreme Administrative Court really will have, is it still extremely important, seen in the light of the problems with environmental pollutions and problems – from ‘small’ to catastrophic dimensioned as to nature devastations. Problems with ‘smaller’ pollution hazards and negative environmental consequences have been detected at the bankrupt Tapuli mine in Kaunisvaara in the county of Pajala owned by Northland Resources, and environmental catastrophic-like problems have been caused by abandoned mines in the county of Västerbotten because ot the Blaiken Mine and the Svärtträsk Mine.

The Tapuli Mine in Kaunisvaara outside Pajala in Sweden

In 2012-2015 has the level of the groundwater changed dramatically in the area around the Tapuli mine in Kaunisvaara outside of Pajala.

karta kaunisvaara
Map over Kaunisvaara.

Northland Resources was, after a survey made by the County Administrative Board (CAB), already in February 2015 forced to deal with the problem of decreasing water levels and the drainage of the swamp Kokkovuoma that holds highly important environmental values. CAB suggested that Northland Resources should put down screens in the ground around the mine pit in order to limit the water leakage from the pit (Source: CAB, injunction, 2015-06-30, case number 555-2932-15 2521 116, p. 1,3).

If was also detected on a photo taken from an airplane that Northland Resources had dugged a 1,5 kilometer long drain outside the very mining area – that is, on ground that the company was not allowed to use. It was also storage waste from the the 1,5 kilometer long drain packed by the clearing pond, and outside the area of the very mine (Source: CAB, injunction, 2015-06-30, case number 555-8018-15 2521 116, p. 2).

Northland Resources was charged for several crimes in connection to these issues, but the attorney Aino Alhem dismissed the cases, arguing that no one could show that Northland Resources was NOT allowed to build a clearing pond outside the mining area. Alhem also dismissed the case because the period of limitation for the 1,5 long trench had passed. Finally Alhem meant that she must proof that the increase in the level in the groundwater had occurred after Northland Resources had been notified of the lowering water level, and that she could not (NSD, “Fler åtal mot Northland konkursbo läggs ned” [“Several Charges Against Northland’s Bankruptcy Estate are Dismissed”], 16th of March 2016 (in Swedish)). Within two years – from summer of 2014 till summer of 2016 – had the water level increased 16 meters. Northland Resources had estimated a few decimeters decrease. Still Alhem dismissed the charge against Northland Resources even though the mining company was obliged by CAB in February 2015 to deal with the problems with sinking levels of the groundwater.

In this messy process did even the county governor of the county of Norrbotten, Sven-Erik Österberg, step in and decided that every decision concerning the Tapuli mine should go through him, and not the County Administrative Board as the normal way of procedure is. Österberg argued that he had taken that decision in order to make a quick handling of the case easier (NSD, “Misstänkta miljöbrott i gruvan anmäldes inte” [“Suspected Environmental Crimes in the Mine was Not Reported”], 13th of March 2015).

Besides this there are now issues with the clearing pond at the Tapuli mine. The County Administrative Board is worried that the pond is too small for the amount of water it holds, and that it might start to leak water into the Muonio river (source: Norrbottens-Kuriren, “Konkursboet vill ta av miljonerna på banken” [The Bankruptcy Estate Wants to Take From the Millions in the Bank”], 11th of April 2016, see picture below).

Kuriren om Northland Resources konkursbo
Norrbottens-Kuriren, “Konkursboet vill ta av miljonerna på banken”, 11th of April 2016.

In all such ponds heavy particles sink to the very bottom. But much of such heavy particles are heavy metals since the water that has been pumped up of the mines contains of heavy metal. Because when extracting minerals or stone from the ground, many other metals and minerals follow along. If the pond at the Tapuli mine starts to leak heavy metal, that will go directly into the Muonio River. The mine has permission to let some water – so called process, mine and drain water – from the pond seep over to the Muoino River (source: CAB, injunction 2015-06-30, case number 555-8022-15 2521 116, p. 1). But the hazard lies in, as just mentioned, that the mine starts to leak heavy metal that probably is part of the heavy sediment on the bottom of the pond – and then that leakage will most certainly go directly into the Muonio river. And the Muonio river runs into the Torne river that runs out into the Gulf of Botnia. The Kanuisvaara village has a their water catchment in Kanuisvaara.

What can be the consequences of a mine leaking heavy metal can be seen in the hazardous environmental consequences of Blaiken mine and Svärtträsk mine in Sweden.

Riksrevisionen – Swedish National Audit Office (NAO) – also tried to force the Swedish gruvavfall ska granskasParliament to straighten up the legislation around mine waste as in a suggestion that mining companies from the very start should in their financial plans include costs for waste management. NAO did that with references to the Tapuli mine in Kaunisvaara outside Pajala, as well as Blaiken mine and Svärtträsk mine in the county of Västerbotten. The Parliament said no. This was revealed in the small article “Gruvavfall ska inte granskas” – “Mine Waste Shall Not be Examined” – in the newspaper Norrbottens-Kuriren on the 16th of April this year (see picture to the right). The Parliament’s reluctance to straighten up the legislation shows, according to me, that the Parliament is more prone to support the mining business in Sweden rather than thinking in long terms of the environment. The life length of a mine can be 15 years. A sustainable environment is a long term work, longer than 15 years. But the Parliament gave The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency – Naturvårdsverket – the assignment together with The Mining Inspectorate of Sweden to mold together a long term strategy for management of mine waste and to examine the Swedish State’s and the mining companies costs within mining industry and to evaluate the after-treatment of closed mines. But still no law paragraph that puts the responsibility for after-treatment of mine waste on the mining companies has been discussed. The Swedish National Audit Office, NAO, monitors the environment in Sweden.

Since NAO used Blaiken mine and Svärtträsk mine as examples in their suggestion to straighten up the legislation of responsibility for management of mine waste, let’s look what have happened in those two cases.

The Blaiken Mine and Svärtträsk Mine Cases in Sweden

A more disastrous example than Kallak – as it looks today – is the Blaiken mine, that in 2014 leaked heavy metal to a cost of 1 million SEK a month for clearing the toxic waste. See an earlier blog post by me on The Mining Situation in Sweden from an Environmental Perspective – a Few Examples. It was around that time estimated that 200 million SEK was needed to clean it up entirely – and the

The Blaiken mine today. Copyright:

Swedish tax payers are the ones that have to pay for that. ScanMining, that abandoned the Blaiken mine in 2007, had put aside only 3 million SEK for a clean-up of it. Lappland Goldminers bought Blaiken with the intention to turn it into a zinc mine, even though it was attended as a gold mine when it was started up. Lappland Goldminers’ attempt did not work out.

Last summer though, was a survey made by Environmental Sciences at University of Umeå presented – here summarized in an article from the Swedish State Television’s homepage – that estimated that Blaiken leaks led, copper and especially zinc – that is highly toxic – into the lake Storjuktan, to levels that have never been seen before in Sweden. 22 square kilometers of the bottom sediment of the lake is dead because of the heavy metal waste covering it. And now the costs for a clean-up of Blaiken has been estimated to 200 million SEK, according to The County Administrative Board in the county of Västerbotten , one of the two northernmost counties in Sweden.

Toxic leaking abandoned mines are also a known problem in North America, as the sad history of the giant mine shows, studied by our colleagues Arn Keeling and John Sandlos.


It is great that the historical decision in the Norra Kärr-case has been taken by the Supreme Administrative Court, since it will put a lot more pressure on mining companies that want to come and prospect as well as start mines in Sweden. Earlier was not full-scale milieu consequence descriptions a must for mining companies to present from the beginning. Instead such a plan could be presented much, much later in the prospecting process. But after Supreme Administrative Court’s decision in the Tasman Mental AB case such a description must be on the table from the very start.

Uarctic in pure diamonds: report from PhD / Masters course “Arctic Extractive Industries”, in Mirny

The Uarctic Logo made by a local employee of the sorting centre of pure diamonds is worth 7 million USD

From 15-22 February a group of roughly 20 people spent a week in the centre for Russian Diamond extraction, the city of Mirny. Students from circumpolar countries – and not only – had different topics in their social sciences research project, but all of them united around the overarching topic of the Social Sciences related to the development of extractive industries in the Arctic. This time we had way more applicants than we could fund or even admit to the course. We ended up with an excellent group from Alaska, IMG_6045northern Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Austria. The course followed the good experience of a previous course, when half of the programme was in-class teaching, while the other half was in the form of field excursions. The two principle highlights of these excursions were the “pipe of peace”,  one of the world’s biggest man-made holes, where diamonds were extracted until 2001. That hole can also be considered the cradle of Russian Arctic Diamond extraction, and was the reason for the establishment of the single-industry town of Mirny.  (Read on for a course report) Continue reading “Uarctic in pure diamonds: report from PhD / Masters course “Arctic Extractive Industries”, in Mirny”

Arctic Voices: Expectations, Narratives and the Realities of Living with Extractive industries: new publication

Arctic Voices: Expectations, Narratives and the Realities of Living with Extractive industries in the Far North (Edited by Emma Wilson and Florian Stammler ) is the name of a new special issue.
It has been ages ago that we ran a conference session “People and the Extractive Industries” and a doctoral course in Rovaniemi in December 2013 in our Uarctic Thematic Network with some very good presentations on local perceptions and impacts of extractive EXIS_coverimageindustrial development in the Arctic. Out of this we thought we could publish a good volume as a special issue in some journal. It was mostly thanks to my colleague Emma Wilson that this actually happened, and “only” two years after the initial conference and course took place, we now have a full special section of a dedicated extractive industries journal, volume 3 issue one of “The Extractive Industries and Society”. I think that’s not too bad a turnover time for an entire publication process from scratch to published, including numerous editorial tasks, reviews, improvements, corrections, and negotiations with the journal and the authors. We ended up bringing together a whole set of really interesting papers, including on Greenland, on Norwegian extractive industrial settings, on Arctic Russia, on the Canadian Arctic, so we sort of reached the aim of “circumpolarity” at least to some extent with this collection. All of the articles in one way or the other address the relation between large scale governance and local situations on those places where big industry meets local livelihoods. That’s why we called the publication “Arctic Voices“. Many of the articles are open access, so we hope and aim for a wide distribution of the collection. If you have problems accessing papers, please let me know. And of course comments and discussions on any of the topics raised are warmly welcome!

Paper call: Engaging with treasures of the subsurface between extractivism and spiritualism, 20-23 July 2016

Dear colleagues

at this year’s European Association for Social Anthropology congress in Milano, we got a session accepted on extractive industries where we want to go beyond the usual social impacts of industry evidence – as important as this is. Acceptance of our session proposal was already a success, because there were WAY MORE session proposed than the organisers actually accepted.

You are warmly welcome to submit paper proposals to this session, from whereever field in the world you are. The conference is from 20-23 July 2016.

The deadline for submission of presentation abstracts is February 15, and for this purpose you need to go to the webpage of the panel:

Looking forward to many interesting submissions.

Short Abstract

Beyond the anthropology of oil and indigenous peoples, this session explores cultures of relating to the subsurface. Papers analyse the relation of different resource users’ engagement with resources, their worldview, their environment and how these relations influence resource extraction

Long Abstract

People’s corporeal, spiritual, and cultural engagement with subsurface resources are the subject of this session. Many indigenous people worldwide associate taboos, notions of death, darkness and dangers with the subsurface. On the other hand, human life – including indigenous life is dependent on the extraction of subsurface resources (most notably energy and mining). Underlying these processes is the worldview of extractivism (Acosta 2013), the idea that only through processes of extraction can resources become valuable and acquire meaning for humankind. The meaning of resources in extractivism is being used for the good of humans, whose goal is in turn ‘open up’ more untapped resources in a “big carbon” approach (Klein 2014). This is in stark contrast to many indigenous and local cosmologies where the underground is a sacred (albeit maybe dangerous) sphere that must be left in peace for the spirits. This session aims to overcome such a dichotomy by inviting papers on extractive industries focusing on the corporeality and spirituality of the resource(s), and on the lived experience of people living on top of subsurface resources. Rather than reifying the distinction between indigenous and incomer-people, or between traditional indigenous economies and extractive industries, we encourage papers to analyse the complex mutual influence between people’s cosmologies, their relation to the environment, their way of life and their way of relating to and extracting resources. In doing so, we hope to break new ground in the theoretical positioning of an anthropology of extractive industries and the environment.

Florian Stammler (University of Lapland) (chair)
Dmitri Funk (Moscow State University)
Vladislava Vladimirova (Uppsala University)
Hugh Beach (Uppsala University) (discussant)

Extractive Industries – mining anthropology positions

Colleagues from Belgium advertise the following posts. The orientation is not Arctic but African – and not less fascinating for sure!

Five new positions opening at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Liège (ULg), Belgium:

2 Ph.D. fellowships in anthropology (4 years, full time) and 3 postdoctoral fellowships in social sciences (3 years, full time) to participate in a collective research project on the micropolitics of work in the mining companies of the Zambian and Congolese copperbelts (WORKINMINING).

This project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator programme.

Deadline for application: 13 March 2016

Starting date: 1 September 2016

For more information, please visit the following website:

– Vacancy 1: Two Ph.D. fellowships, 4 years, subproject on workers, Zambia or Congo

– Vacancy 2: Two postdoctoral fellowships, 3 years, subproject on trade unions, Zambia or Congo

– Vacancy 3: One postdoctoral fellowship, 3 years, subproject on the regulation of work, Zambia and Congo

The responsible professor for these posts is Benjamin Rubbers (

PhD / MA course extractive industires at the world’s biggest hole

The Uarctic Arctic Extractive Industries PhD programme organises its Trubkamira_askYakutiaspring 2016 course, this time also open for M.A. students, eligibility for participation see below.

The course is hosted by the North Eastern Federal University, Yakutia, Russia, February 16-22, 2016. Yakutia in Siberia is not a cheap, but fascinating place to go. Interested students can apply for funding. Please express your interest to one of the Thematic Network leaders if you want to participate. Continue reading “PhD / MA course extractive industires at the world’s biggest hole”

Uarctic Extractive Industries PhD programme course, Fairbanks, 24-30 September 2015

The next course in our PhD programme with a focus on the social sciences of Arctic

The Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), (Florian Stammler)
The Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), (Florian Stammler)

extractive industrial development will take place in conjunction with the Arctic Energy Summit in Alaska, Fairbanks. There seem to be some last slots for PhD students available. Students of the University of Lapland can get the course recognised for credits towards their own programme requirements (after discussing this with their supervisor). Please see more details at the Uarctic Ext Ind Fairbanks programme webpage. If you consider participating, please contact Terrence Cole and / or Florian Stammler (emails from the programme page). Please study carefully the course requirements for participation. If you are very lucky and fit all the boxes by our funders, you MAY be eligible for a travel grant that would pay tickets to Alaska, accomodation and registration fee for the Arctic Energy Summit. Tuition for this course is free.

New M.A. programme Arctic anthropology! / Магистерская программа Арктическая антропология

Svetlana Zhavoronok. Important resources for Arctic people

The European University in St Petersburg launches a new masters programme on northern Anthropology! The Programme is coordinated by Nikolay Vakhtin, with courses read by Elena Lyarskaya, Veronika Simonova, Alla Bolotova and Stephan Dudeck, all of whom are fluent in English and Russian.

Courses taught include general anthropological courses on theory, methods and ideas in contemporary northern anthropology, as well as special fields such as “oil, gas, and people” in Siberia, or “the contemporary Arctic city”, or “the state and the indigenous people”.

The next deadline for applications is August 1, 2015. More information can be found on the site of the EU SPb Arctic Research Centre.

Read on here for information in Russian

Continue reading “New M.A. programme Arctic anthropology! / Магистерская программа Арктическая антропология”