Sweden sparks ire of environmentalists with mining decision

March 22, 2022 GMT

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The Swedish government decided Tuesday to grant the exploitation of the Scandinavian country’s largest unexploited iron ore deposits to a Sweden-based company, sparking the ire of environmentalists.

“By saying yes to the mine, they say no to indigenous peoples’ rights, environment, climate and our common future,” said the Fridays for Future climate group that Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg helped create.

Thunberg herself wrote on Twitter that “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.”

Swedish Business and Industry Minister Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson said Jokkmokk Iron Mines AB was granted a processing concession for Kallak but stressed there were a series of “far-reaching and unique” conditions. The aim, among other things, is to compensate the affected villages of the Sami ethnic group in Sweden’s Arctic region.

The decision came “despite the fact that all the concerned Sami villages have clearly said no,” the environmental group said on Twitter.

Kallak is northern Sweden 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of the town of Jokkmokk, which sits just north of the Arctic Circle and houses the Sami parliament. The nomadic ethnic group live mostly modern lifestyles but still tend reindeer and some still wear their traditionally bright-colored national dress.

In a separate statement, Beowulf Mining PLC CEO Kurt Budge said its ambition “is to build the most sustainable mine possible.” Jokkmokk Iron Mines AB is the name of British company Beowulf Mining’s wholly owned Swedish subsidiary.

“The award of the concession is simply a long-awaited milestone on the development timeline and we are now looking forward to environmental permits,” he said.

For years, both the reindeer industry and the environmental movement worked to prevent Beowulf Mining’s plans to open a mine near Jokkmokk, Swedish broadcaster SVT said. The case has been tried by several different authorities and bodies — but in the end, the issue landed on the government’s plate. ___

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