At the end of March, the government gave the green light for the British mining company Beowulf Mining to investigate the possibilities of conducting mining operations in Gállok in Jokkmokk municipality. The decision has long been debated both nationally and globally due to most conflicts of interest over a possible mine. Since the decision was announced, several nature and human rights organizations have expressed sharp criticism of the proposal.
Since 2013, there have been opportunities to conduct mining in Gállok outside Jokkmokk investigated. Bergsstaten, which is the authority responsible for permits for exploration, has given its approval, while the County Administrative Board has said no. It was therefore up to the government to decide the issue and they have now given their message. It will be green light.
The criticism of the mine is based on the environmental and human rights consequences a mine would entail. Civil Rights Defenders emphasizes that several actors point out that a possible mine would disrupt one of Europe's largest contiguous natural landscapes, Laponia. As Swedish mining already accounts for more than 10 percent of Sweden's carbon dioxide emissions and pollutants from the waste from the mine risk leaking into watercourses, irreversible damage to the natural area is to be expected, according to The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. Among others Amnesty also notes that the Sami rights as indigenous peoples risk being undermined if a mine were to be built.
Proponents of the mine, for their part, claim that the iron ore deposits that were discovered would benefit Swedish exports and "bring positive effects for the business community", states Minister of Trade and Industry Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson. Municipal councilor Robert Bernhardsson (S) in Jokkmokk is also in favor of a mine. Jobs and moving in are the biggest benefits a mine would bring according to the municipal council.
- I want to see more jobs in the municipality so we can slow down the negative population development. That is the most important question for me, says Bernhardsson to Dagens Nyheter.
Increased international interest
The conflict has over the years attracted a lot of attention in both the Swedish and international debate. Not least because UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, already in 1996 named the Laponia region a world heritage site worth preserving because of its valuable nature and cultural heritage. As late as February this year appealed José Francisco Cali Tzay, UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, and David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, to the government to say no to the mine.
The Social Democrat Minister of Trade and Industry Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson responded to the criticism from UNESCO in connection with the government's decision being presented in March.
- Unesco does not know all the tours about permits for mining operations in Sweden, so they have assessed the entire case, including roads, infrastructure and other parts that are not part of the case today. We have also set requirements for Unesco to be able to make an assessment later, Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson told DN.
Dagens Nyheter was the first to report on how researchers, lawyers and interest groups reacted to the government's decision and the lack of consideration for the Sami and their rights as indigenous peoples.
- It becomes clear that the government is making a pure balance between two national interests. He only talked about national interests, did not mention Sami rights. The government simply does as usual: neglects to have its own indigenous people who should also be given importance, says Jenny Wik Karlsson, lawyer at SSR to DN.
2011: Jokkmokk Iron Mines is starting to plan to build a mine in Gallók, just over 4 km northeast of Jokkmokk.
February 2013: The County Administrative Board says no to the British mining company Beowulf mining.
July-August 2013: A first test mining is carried out during the summer and the results show deposits of iron ore. Several local and national media report opposition from activists, indigenous peoples and locals when the mined iron ore is retrieved.
2014: The County Administrative Board maintains its position and once again says no to the proposal.
February 2015: The Bergsstaten authority does not agree with the County Administrative Board in its decision and the matter is sent to the Government.
2016-2017: The case is sent back and forth between the Government, the County Administrative Board and Bergsstaten after, among other things, shortcomings in the factual basis and the refusal of opinions.
2017: The decision is again on the Government's table after the County Administrative Board and the Bergsstaten authority have reached different conclusions.
2021: The government is accelerating the work of gathering opinions about the mine and its possible consequences from two Sami villages while waiting for them to make a decision in early 2022.
February 2022: A collection of names with over 70 signatures against the mine is submitted to Minister of Trade and Industry Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson.
Mars 2022: The government announces via a press conference that they are granting a permit for a mine in Gállok. Among other things, environmental tests are now waiting before the mine can become a reality.
Sources, timeline: Swedish Radio, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Dagens Nyheter, SVT.